Getting Your Influencers to Help Build Your Brand

Editor’s note: If the following article reads like it was written for e-commerce marketers, it was. Recruiting, though, has much in common with e-commerce. Both work hard to attract customers / candidates. Reviews play a large role in the customer / candidate’s decision-making. As you read this, think of the “influencers” as your more socially active talent and you’ll find how they can help build your employer brand.

You know they don’t really trust you, don’t you? You’re a marketer. (Shudder.)

You’re trying to “sell” them something, interrupt their day, their programming, and otherwise get what you want — and you will track them, profile them, bother them and do anything it takes because you’re a marketer. Including finding out who they WILL listen to and incentivize those poor souls in some way to take your message to your audience, hoping for that magic kitten-like feeling of trust.

This latest sharp and shiny steel arrow in the marketing quiver is known as “influencer marketing” and while it can be used for good to supplement a program and build the right relationships, companies like Amazon are seeing it used in some less-than-honest ways.

Last week the aforementioned supply chain god announced it is banning “incentivized” customer reviews on the site where the reviewer gets free stuff in exchange for posting a review.  Here’s what they said:

Today, we updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program. We launched Vine several years ago to carefully facilitate these kinds of reviews and have been happy with feedback from customers and vendors.

Here’s how Vine works: Amazon – not the vendor or seller – identifies and invites trusted and helpful reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release products; we do not incentivize positive star ratings, attempt to influence the content of reviews, or even require a review to be written; and we limit the total number of Vine reviews that we display for each product. Vine has important controls in place and has proven to be especially valuable for getting early reviews on new products that have not yet been able to generate enough sales to have significant numbers of organic reviews.

So Amazon wants to be in greater control of which reviews are posted and who influences the sales of which products, etc. Watch for other e-commerce sites to join these efforts, too. They want influence too — and they want to keep it.

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For your reference, here are some “dos” for your very own influencer marketing program:

  1. Do identity influencers out there as PR agencies have done for the past 25 years or so. (at least). Yep, not a new idea.
  2. Do approach them early (pre-launch) and get their feedback, possible support, etc.
  3. Do clearly disclose any payments of any kind pursuant to the FTC blogger guidelines or really just common sense.
  4. If you’re winning people over with your product/service, do promote/merchandise that coverage as much as possible within your own comms channels.
  5. Do treat your influencers like you treat the press and industry analysts — extremely well. Remove any obstacles for them, help them do their job and be real in your communications with them in good times and bad.

It continues to be tough sledding for marketers out there, but I would submit that you might want to change your mindset from interruption to one of attraction and work to create the most useful, best content out there, work closely with your press, analysts and even influencers from a position of cooperation and not “What’s it going to take to get you to do it.” Do all of these things and your marketing will be real — and it will be powerful. Real powerful.

About the Author

Scott Robertson is the founder and CEO of RobertsonComm, a strategic branding, public relations and marketing firm based in Orange County, California. Scott has more than 20 years public relations and marketing communications experience with a wide range of consumer and business-to-business organizations including: the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the NAMM Foundation, Hewlett Packard, Global Village Communications, Nextel Communications, Warner Music Group and the WG4 DVD-Audio Working Group.
 
Prior to founding Robertson Communications, he most recently held the position of director of marketing & communications/PR for NAMM.