Why Neal Schaffer Believes “Anybody Can Be an Influencer!”

Has influence been democratized?
TJ Kiely
TJ Kiely
August 30, 2018 - 5 min. read

You may not have 141 million followers on Instagram like Selena Gomez, but that doesn’t mean you’re not an influencer.

Influencers come in all shapes and sizes (ex. Mr.Pokee the Hedgehog), and aren’t always celebrities according to Neal Schaffer, Global Social Media Speaker and Educator. Before his keynote presentation at Spark on influencer marketing, we caught up with Neal to get some tips that every marketer could use to improve their influencer marketing programs.

So let’s stop checking out Kylie’s latest selfie (product placement included), and dive in….

Influencer marketing
Q: You’ve described influencer marketing as one of the ‘least understood’ forms of marketing. How would you define what it is – and perhaps what it isn’t?

Neal: Well, influencer marketing is tapping into those people who yield some sort of influence on social media. And what I mean by influence is that the people in the community that you want to influence trust these people, listen to these people and have a rapport with these people. So when I think of influencer marketing, I think about those people that have made a name for themselves as content creators – not as models or actors or actresses!

And if you think about what defines social media, it’s the notion that you have a user profile and there is content that you are uploading to your profile that’s being displayed online. So therefore, anybody can be an influencer!

We’ve seen the democratization of content publication and content distribution, now we’re seeing the democratization of influence. And some people will have more influence than others, but that doesn’t mean there are only five influencers out there for any given industry.

Influencer marketing is very broad, but it all comes down to the people behind the posts. Therefore, it does not matter what industry you’re in; influencers can be leveraged. And oftentimes those influencers are customers or partners. Sometimes they’re even your employees.

Influencer marketing

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So I think we really need to redefine influencer marketing. That’s what I’m trying to do with my own book as well as when I speak in Copenhagen at Spark. I’m hoping it will be a great reset for attendees, because influencer marketing, the way that I look at it, is a very creative area that allows marketers to do a lot of cool things with a lot of cool people. Isn’t that awesome? I think it is!

Q: What are the core ingredients that go into a successful influencer marketing strategy?

Neal: Strategy whether it is influencer marketing or any marketing or any business strategy begins with objectives. This could be website traffic, brand awareness or sales. So figuring out what you’re trying to accomplish with influencers first is key, because that’s not only going to define the KPIs you’ll use to measure your success but it’s also going to set up the guidelines as to how tactically you’re going to work with an influencer.

From there, it’s about: understanding your customer, identifying who influences your customer, figuring out how you’re going to engage those influencers, and deciding how you’re going to create a long-term program out of this. I think those are the core ingredients.

Q: As an influencer yourself, what do you think is the best way to approach an influencer?

Neal: I was on a webinar talking about this recently, and Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media Studios was saying the best way to approach an influencer, and I completely agree with him on this, is that you get to know them before stating your ask.

In my book, I’ll be talking about the importance of sending social signals. If someone is actually influential on social media, they’re responding to people, they’re looking at comments, they’re looking at who is following them. So if you’re sending any of these social signals, what you’re saying is something like, “You’re on our radar and we really enjoy your content.”

I think that commenting on their content, regardless if it is a blog post or a YouTube video, is the beginning of a relationship. And that is by far the best way to approach a relationship by far.

Another thing to think about when engaging influencers is the fact that a lot of different brands are probably engaging the same influencer you are, so you gotta stick out!

And so, what are things that you can do to be different? Well, you could use snail mail, send people different things (not only products), and try reaching out to people at events. There are a lot of different things that you can do, but you need to be able to stick out.

You want to build rapport with an influencer before you approach them, which is really the best advice I can give.

Q: What is the advantage of influencer marketing over more “conventional” paid social?

Neal: Well people trust people more than they trust ads. And more and more people really dislike ads. So when you work with influencers, you’re tapping into the community that trusts that influencer. And that trusted community is going to act very, very differently than if you’re just going to try targeting an ad. That is the most important thing to realize here.

And when we are talking about visual social networks, influencers are probably better at advertising your brand visually than you are. And we’ve seen amazing creative, whether it’s photos or stories or videos or even live streams, influencers are content creators. They do it really well, and you might just find yourself saying something like, “I want to use the content that this influencer created in this campaign in my paid social or in my organic social.” And that’s actually becoming very mainstream, so I think that is the other main advantage over conventional paid social.

Finally, the third thing is that when the campaign ends on paid social, it ends. But with influencer marketing, that content lives on forever on an influencer’s profile, blog or YouTube. So long-term ROI is going to be great.

Key Takeaways:

When it comes to influencer marketing there’s a lot of questions that come to mind, but here are the main points from our interview that you’ll want to remember before – and after – you approach an influencer:

  • Influencers aren’t only celebrities. Today, anybody can be an influencer!
  • Define your KPIs or objectives before you launch any sort of influencer program
  • Make an effort to get to know the influencers you want to work with – before you approach them
  • Influencers are busy people, so make sure your offer stands out
  • And finally, remember these people are expert content creators, so let them do their thing.