Jeff Barrett knows a lot of people and works with a lot of brands. By virtue of his large following on Twitter and Snapchat, he's known as an influencer in the marketing space, but "influencer" isn't his job. Rather, Jeff uses his influence to build his public relations and social media consultancy, Barrett PR.
His experience straddles the influencer side and the brand side, which makes his perspective uniquely valuable for marketers trying to use influencer marketing to achieve the best possible return for their company.
Companies are enthusiastically embracing influencer marketing, but their attempts at outreach are sometimes scattershot. Jeff recommends a more thoughtful approach to recruiting influencers—more akin to hiring employees.
"You wouldn't hire a bunch of contract people every week," he observes. "That would seem nonsensical and insane. What you want is a consistent team, because, over time, the efforts of those influencers will feel more consistent and you'll get more brand equity out of the[ir] consistently being involved with your brand."
I invited Jeff to Marketing Smarts to share his expertise on influencer marketing and to offer insight, both for influencers hoping to build brand relationships and for brands seeking to use influencer marketing to achieve measurable business goals.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Building a good reputation in social doesn't have to take years. You just have to network (04:30): "When I first started my career, I was in nonprofit and experiential. I thought, 'This is pretty difficult, I should probably find a way to differentiate myself and make myself valuable.' I was looking at a career path where you hang in there for about 10 years and you'll get to where you wanted, and I was like, 'Yeah, or I could just make some connections and meet the right people."
Hustle gets you only so far (05:00): "That whole 'hustle harder' movement in entrepreneurship and marketing only gets you so far. You have to be likable. Be self-deprecating. I'm going to shamelessly self promote once in a while, but I'm also going to make you laugh in the process and maybe point out some of the absurdity that is influence and expertise and everybody trying to carve out their own space."
Recruit a group of influencers and cultivate an ongoing relationship that benefits both your brand and them (07:30): "The vast majority of people who would be defined as influencers, unless you're a big YouTuber or Instagrammer or Snapchatter, you're most likely not making money directly off your influence. You might make a little bit here and there, but you're mostly creating influence so that you can indirectly use it. It helps me get in the door, but I'm selling people on my PR ability and content and strategy. Trying to make it so that an influencer can clearly have a defined path with the company is important.
"On the brand side, if you're a brand marketer, it's really easy to throw out some swag to an influencer, but you kind of have to get in the head of an influencer and ask, 'Is that person really going to get excited about a T-shirt?' Probably not. There's these things that influencers won't get excited about, but as a marketer, you go, 'Well that's cool, I've checked off some boxes, I've got them engaged,' and you might get a tweet, but that's a transactional relationship.
"The better relationship, if you're a brand with a little bit of clout, is that influencer looking to get paid somehow. While you might not have it in the budget to kick them 10, 20, or 50 (thousand) for a project, you probably have the ability to connect them in some way to that. As an influencer, I don't care how I get there as long as I get to the number. So it's less about hiring some influencer firm to go find you a bunch of influencers and more creating a solid influencer group you can have. Just like if you were hiring for a company."
When building your network, don't ask people if you can "pick their brain"—request an interview (17:00): "I started writing for a couple different outlets, Mashable, Washington Times, and other places. I always tried to bring value with that, so if I was going to interview Gary Vaynerchuk or Amy Jo Martin or Charlene Li in the beginning, I wanted to pick their brain, obviously, but I didn't ask it.
"I didn't say, 'Hey, I'm this kid out of Michigan that you don't know and definitely don't care about, but I want to get information from you...' I made sure I wrote articles about people. In that context, I'm getting to ask them the question I wanted to ask them anyway, but they're getting a benefit out of it. They're getting exposure in an outlet that they want to get exposure in. That's just a more reciprocal and better conversation."
Jeff and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.