There are two kinds of inbound marketers out there today.
Those that are getting traction with their content and getting leads, and those working their butts off and wondering why the hell they aren’t getting results.
I’ve been in the latter category. It’s not a fun place to be.
I used to stay up late at night, scrolling through the posts I’d written on my blog and LinkedIn, fighting the frustration building inside me. I was attracting a bunch of leads for my clients, but my own content never seemed to get noticed.
Then I learned a valuable lesson. I learned how a little tug from someone higher up can change things.
Photo courtesy of YouTube.
A while ago, I started spending a lot of time writing and networking on LinkedIn.
It didn’t take long to identify the cool kids on the block - you know, the ones who can post about what they had for breakfast and it will get hundreds of likes and comments.
I’m exaggerating a bit there, but only a little. These people have built a tribe of followers who love their content and feel a personal connection to it. This does not come easy. It takes intense focus, a keen awareness of what people want, and years of hard work.
String Nguyen is a great example.
String is a visionary who captured LinkedIn by storm with her tutorials on video marketing and personal branding. She got in at just the right time and out-hustled everyone, and today, she travels all over the world, teaching people everything she knows.
When I was just getting my feet under me on the platform, I saw a lot of String’s content, but I didn’t try to connect with her. I wasn’t even close to operating on the same level (honestly, I’m not sure I ever will be), and I would’ve felt silly. So I watched from afar, commented on her posts, and focused on creating my own stuff.
One day I noticed that she liked one of my posts. Then another.
So, I carefully wrote a personal note and send a connection request, which she accepted. She thanked me for personalizing the introduction and asked me about my goals. I told her what I was up to, then she asked my favorite question of all:
“Why is this important to you? Why do you need to hit these goals?”
I explained that as a budding entrepreneur, I was sacrificing a lot of time with my family. I want to be successful, so I can hire more help and spend more time with my wife and daughter.
We talked for a little while longer about marketing and finished the chat. It’s was just a simple and pleasant conversation with no one expecting anything from the other person.
The next day she wrote a post about personalized connection requests and mentioned me, adding “Connect with Patrick, message him and say 'String said to connect with you.' ”
I saw this and raced to my computer to sharpen up my profile description. I made it just in time. My account exploded with connection requests for a full week. Ironically, not everyone personalized them with a note. Many of the people who did added a note that said “String said to connect with you.”
I won’t say I’ve built my success on LinkedIn on the back of that one little comment – you still have to put in endless hours and effort, and nothing will change that – but I can tell you a saw a big bump in engagement shortly afterword.
This little story was my baptism into the power influencer marketing.
Social media is tough for brands these days. Really tough.
If you’re super diligent and focused, you can build a modest to decent following on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others – but it’s fair to say that getting consistent engagement and conversions is harder than it used to be, even if you do everything right.
Even Mitch Joel, one of the most respected authorities in marketing today, has faced this challenge. He admitted to struggling to reach new audiences until he figured out that content distribution is the key for success.
This is reality. There are thousands of brands creating amazing content today, and getting your stuff noticed is difficult. Without a good distribution strategy, your content is like a seed that never stops floating in the wind.
So, what does it take to get that seed to land and start a tree?
Influencer Marketing is somewhat similar to celebrity endorsements of products. Think LeBron James and Nike, and Ellen DeGreneres and Cover Girl. It’s the same idea. Lee Oden explains the concept perfectly in a recent article by Top Rank:
“Influencer marketing develops relationships with internal and industry experts with active networks to co-create content that helps drive mutual value and measurable business goals.”
Despite the similarities, there are big differences between simple endorsements and influencer marketing:
There’s a reason why influencers are so important in marketing today. Businesses desperately need them.
Trust in brands is at an all time low. People trust other people.
If you are looking for recommendations on almost anything – from the best pizza joint in town to the type of bookkeeping software your company should use – you are much more likely to take the word of a trusted friend.
This is why the personal brands of influencers like Zoella have become so powerful. Purely driven by her passion for fashion, she has made herself into a global authority by creating high quality content about it.
People trust her. And that trust is sacred.
Does that mean an apparel company should reach out to her and ask for an endorsement of their new summer swimsuit line? Not necessarily. Here's why:
If you are now convinced that your company could benefit from collaborating with an influencer, you might be wondering how to go about it.
When I connected with String, I had no strategy or agenda. I just wanted to make a good introduction. She inspired me to start using more video in my marketing. Someday, I hope to share a little inspiration with her, or pay it forward to someone else.
So, here's the lesson: When you find someone who shares your interests and has a big following, there are two things you can do.
You can build a relationship with that person by working hard and being authentic, personable, and generous. Or you can miss a great opportunity to connect and accomplish amazing things together.
I know which one I would choose.
This post has been updated in 2019.
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