Respecting Influencers to Maximize Engagement

By Joey Jaraczewski (LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter)

“There is great content on the Internet. But holy mother of cheeses, the Internet is not made out of content… the Net offers us a common place where we can be who we are, with others wh
o delight in our differences.”
www.newclues.cluetrain.com

As 2017 warms up on the West Coast (and finishes off another record-setting winter of storms on the East Coast), I am flying back to Eugene from LAX. This past weekend, I made the acquaintance of many socially-active and food-informed young people at Natural Products Expo West, the largest gathering of natural foods brands in the world. In marketing terms, these individuals are called “social influencers.” Folks like @diningwithdevyn and @alessandrataryn speak to audiences of 10,000 to 20,000 about how they incorporate branded products into their plant-based lifestyle.

My prediction is that 2017 is going to be the Year of the Influencer for startup brand marketing. In the food and beverage space, startup brands are building influencer and ambassador programs by the truckload. The savvy among us use a targeted, personal approach to engage with influencers. The rabid among us leave the door to ambassadorship wide open through online forms and general invitations. Regardless of approach, the mindset of marketers is universal: leverage exist social networks to enhance your brand.

This understanding is a bit one-sided in benefit. I ask myself, what is the mindset of the influencer? As Sean Thornberry pointed out a few days ago, there is a lot of money and status to be made by blowing up a personal brand through influencer programs. There is also a lot of adventure to be had as well. Still, this piece by seasoned brand ambassador Tara Folk indicates that the ambassador just wants to represent the brand and themselves professionally and honestly. This brings us to a fundamental truth that marketers must remember:

Celebrate your ambassadors.

The socially influential people that your brand engages with for ambassadorship are just that: socially influential people who want to engage with your brand. They have influence over their community because they do their thing and follow what they believe in. Because of this, they have found freedom.

The best brands among us will respect and cherish independence. The best brands build relationships of solidarity with ambassadors whose actions, activities, and dreams naturally resonate with what the brand stands for. My shining example is Lululemon, who catapulted to stardom by supporting the efforts of 1600 select yogis. Lululemon knew these influencers as people, and gave them the resources to enhance their own personal brands. As Lulu ambassador and community organizer Tyrone Beverly puts it, “[Lululemon]’s agenda is to support your agenda.” I think that is a pretty radical idea, and one with a ROI that can go bananas.

Be you, and be you forever. Everything else is just noise. Stay up and stay with it!

Joey J | CEO | Sohr Performance + Nutrition

This Article Has 5 Comments
  1. Lauren Sokol says:

    Joey J. Engaging and fun post to read – not surprised, but thank you! I think your message about allowing influencers to be themselves and have freedom to share the brand’s story with their community THEIR way is a really important one. The whole reason that a brand is attracted to an influencer in the first place is the reach and unique presence they have with in their world. Brands like Lulu are definitely in the right by providing proper tools to their ambassadors, but not dictating how those tools should be used. That’s the only way to be truly authentic with an influencer’s audience and as a result, show up in the most authentic way possible as a brand.

  2. Mark Kellman says:

    This was a fascinating post. Influencers are going to be key to a successful brand marketing campaign. It’s the same idea as a company paying a famous celebrity to endorse a product and shoot a commercial to promote it. Influencers are used the same way, just on a more personal level, I think.

  3. Brooke Halvorsen says:

    Joey J – Loved it!

    Oh what I would give to be a healthy, yummy, food influencer… did you learn how to be that at your conference? Can you give this girl some tips? Green juice is NOT cheap.

    But for serious, there is something to be said about leveraging an already functioning network of likeminded people. I was just speaking with a marketing professional that put it quite simply: the value is not in the influencer, the value is in their audience. You have to be sure that the audience that follows the particular individual is a demographic that cares about what your brand cares about. Sure you want an influencer that is engaging and connected to their trusty fans, but even more so, those fans need to have a shared connection with the brand/ item/ acai bowl that you are trying to build brand affinity for and sell… because everything is about $$$ in the end right? Is that what we learn in B school?

    Cheers

  4. Katy Edgington says:

    You are totally right about the upcoming year of the influencer. Brands are clearly already trending that way and it seems like a natural direction given the past success of celebrity advertisements and endorsements. The use of influencers as a roundabout way to target a public does raise the need for thorough research though, just like you said. Does that influencer have a genuine connection to your brand or just a monetary one? Does that person’s audience believe in what you’re trying to do? Influencers have such an expansive reach, you’re right that ROI could go bananas.

  5. Nick Hudson says:

    Always love your work Joey J.

    Can’t wait to see Sohr continue to develop and grow over the coming months and I have no doubt that’s going to include a pretty kick-ass influencer program by the sounds of things.

    I have tried a couple of times to think of examples of when my purchasing behavior has been influenced by social media ambassadors and I really have a hard time coming up with anything. I honestly don’t know if it’s because this strategy doesn’t fit with the way I seek out new items or if I am being influenced all the time without realizing it. Either way, I agree that these programs, especially “micro-influencer” type programs are going to play an important role in low-budget marketing strategies in the near future.

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