All Things Influencers, Ep. 4 with Influencer Jeff Mindell

In this episode of the All Things Influencers podcast presented by Cohley we interview Jeff Mindell, who's an LA-based influencer with all the charisma in the world. Jeff creates a ton of content alongside his wife Kelly, who's a prominent blogger and social personality herself (studiodiy.com).

His one year old son Arlo gets in the mix, too. We talked to Jeff about setting personal boundaries with his audience, how his content has morphed as his life and the priorities within have changed and Jeff also identifies some commonalities between what's gone particularly well in his most successful relationships with brands. We hope you enjoy!

All Things Influencers Podcast, Ep. 3 feat. Nau Clothing's Vicki Vassil

Hi All! This episode was a fun one to record, mostly because Vicki is super entertaining to listen to and has a really great perspective on the influencer marketing space. On the one hand, she talked about how valuable repurposing the content that influencers create is for Nau. On the flip side, she also talked about how influencers don't have to perfectly match the brand's aesthetic; If there's a piece of them that's consistent with Nau and they think they can create great content that fits their personal brand, she really lets influencers run with it. 

We hope you enjoy the episode, thanks for listening! 

All Things Influencers Podcast, Ep. 2 feat. Melissa Teng

In episode 2 of the All Things Influencers podcast Tom interviews Melissa Teng, who's a phenomenal influencer based in Minneapolis, MN. The full interview is definitely worth a listen, but a few of the highlights are below; 

  1. As Melissa's social presence has grown, she puts a lot more thought into which brands she decides to work with. She asks herself whether or not she’d a) buy the product herself and b) that their brand values line up with her own.  
  2. Managing her timing is a major struggle and she emphasizes quality over quantity.
  3. Open mindedness and flexibility around her content is super important component for her, doesn’t like to feel stifled by strict brand guidelines and putting trust in her to create great content is a perfect start to a long-term relationship. 

All Things Influencers Podcast, Ep. 1 feat. UNTUCKit's Oriana Sengos

 

In episode one of the All Things Influencers Podcast our cofounder Tom Logan interviewed Oriana Sengos, who's the Social Media Manager at UNTUCKit. UNTUCKit is a rapidly growing clothing company that started with men's shirts and has since expanded into more men's clothing, women's and even a freshly minted kids line. 

Tom asked Oriana why influencers play an important role in UNTUCKit's aggressive growth strategies, what makes a great collaborations (and what doesn't) along with how she sees the space evolving.

A few of her key takeaways are below...

FOR BRANDS

  • She sees influencers adding legitimacy and validation to the UNTUCKit brand
  • Influencers help UNTUCKit reach audiences through highly trusted sources
  • They rely heavily on influencers to help them fulfill their constant need for fresh content

FOR INFLUENCERS

  • For influencers, a positive attitude goes a really long way
  • Clear communication can make or break the relationship

Decentralization as the New Norm

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Throughout the course of history, entire industries and segments of the US economy have consistently proven that drastic change can occur swiftly and definitively.

Take the shift that’s occurred in the news industry. The explosion of the Internet has given a prominent share of voice to bloggers, online-only publications and normal people capable of making coherent arguments. The 24-hour news cycle and the rise of alternate platforms like Twitter have decentralized the way people receive their news.

Now take mega companies like Uber, Airbnb and Alibaba, who have played massively disruptive roles in their respective industries. Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Airbnb, the world’s largest hospitality provider, owns no real estate. Alibaba, the world’s most valuable retailer, possesses no inventory.

You see where I’m going with this. There’s an undeniable shift towards decentralization across industries that have remained static for decades. Bitcoin falls into this category too, as it’s functioning as the world’s largest bank with no actual cash.

So how can marketers adapt their marketing efforts to align with this global shift?

Instead of fighting the concept of decentralization, you can embrace it. Content generation is an ideal place to start. The rise of user generated content (UGC) and influencer created content (IGC) have begun to replace larger and larger percentages of brands’ content, and that trend is projected to gain traction.

The International Data Corporation predicts that by 2020, 50% of content will be created outside of in-house marketing teams. That’s a staggering statistic but it makes sense, 2018 is the year that Millennials will grab the baton as the generation with the most spending power.

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Millennials crave authenticity, and even the most traditional of brands can come to grips with giving up some creative control and empower influencers and everyday people, who have become modern day visual storytellers, to help tell their brand story via both photos and videos.

In the coming decade the best brand stories won’t be created in corporate boardrooms. They will be created by real people, in the real world, who tell a real story. 

The Real Value Of Influencer Collaborations? Think Long Term.

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This article first appeared in Forbes. To read the Forbes version, click here

Collaborating with influencers on sponsored content has made its way from a sub-strategy to a standalone entity for brands. The stats back it up: Forbes reported at the beginning of 2017 that 84% of marketers planned on working with influencers in the next 12 months. While that’s a staggering number, the way that marketers measure the success of these collaborations remains inconsistent.

What is it that constitutes a successful collaboration? Is it a boost in followers? A fleeting spike in traffic to the website? Is assigning a CPM or a “media value” the best way to measure it? Is it bottom-line sales? Some brands are just happy to know that their brand is being showcased in front of a targeted audience.

All of these components are important, and I don’t mean to trivialize them, but if they’re the only things you're focused on you’re being shortsighted. The value of the influencer-generated content (IGC) and the reactivation of it across marketing channels is criminally underrated and should be a central component of brands’ influencer strategies.

It’s not uncommon for brands to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on professional photo and video shoots. Somehow, they still find themselves starving for content. On top of that, many see their stock creative growing stale and underperforming. Turning to lower-priced influencer content and empowering highly creative influencers to be visual storytellers on behalf of the brand can not only fill the content gap but also boost content performance.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2020, 50% of brand content will be created outside of in-house marketing teams. This isn’t a coincidence.

Instagram powerhouse Triangl Swim is an example of a brand effectively reactivating influencer content. They've consistently leaned on a trusted group of influencers that they refer to as "Triangl Girls,” and their Instagram feed is jam-packed with aspirational photos from influencers wearing their swimsuits on exotic beaches around the globe. They also have a section of their website that highlights a sampling of photos from the Triangl Girls, giving their site a much more authentic, millennial-friendly feel.

Bohemian lifestyle brand Free People recently executed a campaign called #LoveYourParks in which they had influencers like@chelseakauai document their visits to national parks. They then took that content that originated on the influencers' Instagram accounts and reactivated it on their own Instagram profile, encouraging their followers to contribute their own content for a chance to win free stuff.

The most common pushbacks from marketers on the subject of reactivating influencer-generated content are the following:

1. "We lack creative control of influencer content"

2. "The content quality isn’t up to par, and we don’t trust influencers do to a good job”

3. "The influencers we work with are too expensive"

First, consider that having “creative control” may not be necessary. Start by building trusted relationships with influencers who are thoughtful, creative, and have taken the time to understand your brand’s aesthetic. If you’re looking for specific things in the content, lay them out in a brief for the influencer to review prior to creating it.

Avoid the urge to be a complete control freak, but don’t shy away from providing them with feedback on how you’d like them to alter or refine their work in an ongoing relationship. They appreciate the feedback.

In regards to the video or photo quality being lower quality in comparison to professional content, consider the success of user generated content (UGC). Studies have shown that ads featuring UGC have up to 4X higher click-through-rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click than average ads. Those are powerful figures. AdWeek recently reported that 85% of users surveyed find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos.

The power of UGC, which is by definition not professionally produced, is well documented and understood. So why not just use UGC and skip the influencer content? Here are few reasons:

• With UGC, you can’t control the inbound flow of content and which products are being featured

• Small brands don’t typically garner enough UGC, while big brands have too much to sort through

• On average, only 1 in 10 UGC photos is considered “usable”

Influencer-generated content perfectly bridges the gap between UGC and professionally produced content.

On the influencer pricing front, you can shift the perceived value of influencer collaborations by thinking about both the long-term benefits of collaborations (content acquisition) as well as the short term (follower growth, web traffic, etc). It should be considered “working spend” because the content is being pushed out to each influencer’s audiences. When influencers speak to their audiences, they tend to listen.

Consider working with micro-influencers who have smaller social followings, but are still quite capable of creating high quality content. While sponsoring an Instagram post with Gigi Hadid has obvious appeal, consider opting for 40 to 50 collaborations with micro-influencers for the same cost.

It’s time to move away from the myopic emphasis on the upfront benefits of influencer collaborations. Make it clear in your negotiations with influencers that you'd like extend the content, and be prepared to pay more for it. It’s well worth it, and you’ll be spending a fraction of the cost of professionally produced photo and video content. From there, reactivate it across all of your marketing channels. Stop being shortsighted and open your eyes to the momentous long-term value of influencer-created content.

Introducing Pre-Influencers, from Cohley

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As influencers start to demand more and more for collaborations, now’s a great time to take a step back and think about what you’re really looking to achieve with your influencer marketing strategy. If influencer content is of any interest to you, keep reading!

As we’ve continued to see the space change we’ve been thinking of an innovative approaches and products to set our clients up for success. Our Pre-Influencer product, called Neemo, helps brands find influencers before the rest of the world becomes aware of their existence. The tool streamlines the entire process of discovery and content creation so you can fill the void between user generated content (UGC) and expensive professionally produced content.

The combination of our unique algorithm that analyzes pivotal data points and vetting each Pre-Influencer, we’ve compiled a wide range of people more driven by a desire to build their personal brand than by monetary compensation. This provides an inexpensive opportunity to control the inbound flow of content and the chance to build long-term relationships with future influencers.

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Our expectation is that Cost Per Engagement (CPE) will continue to rise, and consumers will continue to trust influencer recommendations. We think that brands will utilize the Pre-Influencer tool to create content for every marketing channel. This will include putting influencer generated content on websites, digital and banner ads, marketing emails and print ads.

Simply put, influencers generated content can be a perfect bridge between user generated content and professionally produced content. Let us show you how.  

Leandra Medine: "On being an influencer and the responsibility that comes with it"

Leandra Medine doesn't write about things I'm particularly interested as a 30-year-old guy. But that hasn't stopped me from admiring her work and being a big fan of hers. 

The NYC-based blogger turned author turned entrepreneur is the founder of Man Repeller, a popular women's blog that features content written by her, her staff of writers and contributors. I love her explanation of the blog's name,

"Good fashion is about pleasing women, not men, so as it happens, the trends that we love, men hate. And that is fantastic."

As she has continued to build Man Repeller, her own rep has grown congruently. She wrote a piece this week titled about "being an influencer," and I thought it was really well done. Here's the link. Her thoughts on being an influencer contain a ton of potential learnings for influencers or being aspiring to have more influence. Here's the quote, 

"To be an ‘influencer’ means you’re a sell-out. That you take money to exist and sell an unrealistic life. And it can feel that way, but I also think the conversation around being a sell-out, or being inauthentic for making money from a sponsored post, is dated. You’re not a sell-out for taking money, you’re a sell-out if you sacrifice your point of view for the money."

In other words, it largely boils down to authenticity. Sponsored posts don't have to feel inauthentic and forced. I feel quite confident saying that what will eventually separate influencers who make a great living doing this and the ones who tail off is authenticity and maintaining a consistent, real voice. 

Fyre Festival Fiasco: The three mistakes Influencers made (and how they can avoid them in the future)

This past weekend’s Fyre “Festival” flamed out in a failure of epic proportion. Initially hyped as the “Cultural Experience of the Decade”, the festival’s organizers are now facing a $1oo million dollar lawsuit and a frenzy of social media backlash.

Speaking of the festival’s organizers, they leaned more heavily on social media influencers than any event in history. Referring to the 400+ influencers that they paid to be “Fyre Starters,” they spent millions (including a reported $250k to Kendall Jenner alone) and tallied a jaw-dropping 300 million impressions in the first 48 hours. They had influencers post this cryptic orange image to their respective Instagram accounts…

Now that the Fyre Festival has been reduced to embers (pardon the pun) it’s time to play the blame game. I’d argue that 99% of the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the event’s organizers.

The other 1%, however, lies on the shoulders of the Fyre Starters.

When an individual has the ability to influence large groups of people, she or he has a responsibility to think about the message that they’re portraying and the products that they’re endorsing. Like it or not, influencers are role models and there’s a certain amount of accountability that comes with that.

There were three primary mistakes that influencers made in promoting the festival…

  1. They didn’t understand the product they were endorsing. The most effective brand <> influencer collaborations are the result of an influencer understanding the product well enough to personally endorse it. Similar to the influencers who endorse teas promising to help people lose 20 pounds overnight, there’s a big difference between an authentic endorsement and a forced one. The former is a much more sustainable way to ensure that they maintain long-term relevance and sustain a relationship rooted in trust with their audience.
  2.  They didn’t collaborate directly with the organizers. Vanity Fair reported that the festival’s organizers worked with both a P.R. agency and a creative agency to set up their 400+ influencer posts. What almost certainly happened was that influencers’ reps presented the opportunity to post a photo representing the festival for a hefty pay-day and they couldn’t resist the easy money . At Cohley, we always encourage brands to get to know the individual influencers that they’re working with (and vice versa) and, if possible, to form long-term relationships that consistently benefit both sides.
  3. They didn’t own up to their mistake. It’s not enough for supermodel Bella Hadid, who has 12.6 million Instagram followers, to claim after the fact that she was misled by the organizers in a half-hearted apology. Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski are among the more prominent Fyre Starters who have simply deleted their related posts and pretended that it never happened.

    The Fyre Festival is a cautionary tale for both the people who paid thousands of dollars for tickets and for the influencers who helped convince them to do so. In the ever-expanding realm of brand <> influencer collaborations, it will be the influencers who maintain a high level of authenticity and foundational trust that will sustain relevance.

 

 

For Brands: The Four Levels of Influencer Marketing

Adweek recently published a very well-written article by Kerry Perse titled It’s Time for Marketers to Change How They Select and Reward Influencers that makes the case for building long-term, mutually prosperous relationships with influencers.

One of Perse's primary points is that when brands can develop a core group of influencers into real advocates (or brand ambassadors), it’s a much more effective long term strategy than executing a full calendar’s worth of one-off sponsored posts.

She divided brands’ influencer programs into three different levels, which are laid out verbatim below:

Level 1 uses PR to send free brand product and information to target influencers, hoping for earned media (or at least a response).

Level 2 allocates media spend to pay relevant influencers with desirable audiences to create “cool” content that showcases the brand in a positive light.

Level 3 builds meaningful, advocate-level relationships with influencers who authentically love and embrace the brand in a way that spans beyond a video, campaign or launch.

Perse argues that brands will eventually need to move on to Level 4, which would require them to listen to influencers’ drive to evolve and be viewed as a business. In Level 4, “marketers treat content creators as businesses, help them add value to their brands while bringing value to their audiences—and both sides see greater benefits.”

This diagram provides a great visual to represent her view of Level 4.

Here at Cohley HQ, we have countless conversations every week with brands and influencers who are both looking to get the most out of this ever-changing space. The conclusion that Perse draws is in line with data that we’ve aggregated: When brands and influencers take the time to get to know one another and build trustworthy relationships, the results are stronger by every possible measurement for both sides.

However, we think Level 4 can be given a more robust definition. In a typical influencer collaboration today, brands are hyper-focused on the immediate results that an influencer’s posted content (be it a post or a video) brings. How many new followers did we get? How many new impressions did the collaboration yield? What were the traffic metrics, and how much money did it make us?

These are all important stats, but they’re short-sighted.

To us, a “Level 4” influencer strategy involves the regular acquisition and reactivation of influencer-produced content across social channels, email marketing campaigns and even ad spends.

Brands spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on professional video shoots but often find that that content, stretched thin, only populates their marketing channels for a fraction of the calendar year. If they’ve advanced to Level 3 of Perse’s scale, brands are already working with influencers who they have relationships with.

If you’re a brand marketer, why not look beyond the initial benefits of influencer collaborations, pay a bit more for full ownership of the great content influencers are producing on your behalf and reactivate it? You could reap both the short term benefits (follower bumps, drive traffic and revenue etc.) and build an Asset Library full of great content.

Cohley. Level 4. Activated.

Note: The article referenced was written by Adweek guest contributor Kerry Perse of Horizon Media, based in New York, New York.