Oh hey marketers, you’re doing influencer marketing wrong… Here’s why.

Intro Fuel Marketing
Marketing is about storytelling.
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Screw data — consumer attention is the most valuable commodity. Without attention and action, there would be no data. To gain the attention of the consumer requires the marketer to truly understand their target audience, and have the ability to put content in front of them that they actually want to consume.

Can you remember the last time you scrolled through your Instagram feed with your phone in one hand and your credit card in the other? Yeah, me neither.

This isn’t how consumers buy. Yet, if you check out any of the 13 million+ Instagram posts that include #ad, #sponsored, or #brandambassador in the caption, chances are you’ll find the intention of the post is to get you to make an immediate purchase.

Why do marketers assume this is how the consumer of 2019 prefers to buy? Does the consumer on these social channels enjoy being sold to by Insta-famous celebrities and self-proclaimed influencers? Remember, these channels are dominated by 13–18 year olds who would prove unsuccessful walking into a bank to sign up for a credit card.

This isn’t the content that consumers want to consume. Americans are exposed to an average of 4,000–10,000 advertisements per day, so the chances of remembering that detox-tea-sponsored reality TV star past our eight-second attention span is next to nil. Sorry Flat Tummy Tea.

Seth Godin said it well: “Our job is to make change. Our job is to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go.” Ultimately, our goal should be to create content that brings value to our customers’ lives first.

Now, before I dive into where I believe our attention should be, I want to first take you back in time.

When I originally started in influencer marketing, it was as simple as shipping your product to someone with a few thousand followers, then having them tag the brand in the image and explain to their followers in the caption why the product was worth purchasing. This was long before #ad and FTC crackdowns. Social media users assumed that because a popular personality they followed on social media was posting about a product, it must have been good. Why would anyone promote a product they didn’t actually love and use?

Return on investment was high, engagement was almost exclusively positive, and no party involved appeared to know where the value line actually was. It was like a group of children rolling into pre-school the first day — a brand new experience and everyone is excited to be there, but nobody really knows what the hell is going on.

As the industry matured, marketers began incorporating influencer spend into their annual budgets. With such a rapidly growing industry, there were (and still are) misconceptions about how to best leverage this new marketing vertical. The media certainly didn’t help either — often taking wild, uneducated guesses on what these influencers were getting paid for social posts.

Initially dominated by macro-influencers and celebrities with millions of followers, marketers soon realized that the future was in micro-influencers. These micro-influencers significantly higher engagement rates and have closer relationships with their audiences. They have the ability to create content equally as good as larger influencers, but come at a fraction of the cost — often simply in exchange for product.

It took consumers a couple years to catch on, but eventually they realized many influencers only endorsed products because they were paid to, not because they actually loved the product. Engagement from followers on sponsored posts dropped because they felt the influencer was “selling out.” You see, when the brand to influencer profile fits like a glove on a foot, people see right through it.

Okay, now it’s confession time. I’ve been holding onto this knowledge for awhile because I saw it as a competitive advantage — something our agency knows but almost everyone else hasn’t figured out yet. But honestly, I’m so tired of seeing people fail in this industry while blaming the content creators that I felt compelled to share this.

Here we go.

Fast-forward to 2019, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any sponsored content created by influencers that isn’t trying to encourage you to make an immediate purchase. Typically, they’re given direction by the sponsor and may even need to have their content approved prior to upload. The trouble is, consumers just aren’t that eager to buy stuff. They’re not excited to see yet another makeup brand on their newsfeed. They don’t want to hear about what new white-labeled supplement brand their old high-school-friend-turned-social-media-influencer is now sponsored by. They don’t care to read about all your product features and benefits, and to get them to click on your website link in a social post won’t happen literally 99.99 percent of the time.

Screw data — consumer attention is the most valuable commodity. Without attention and action, there would be no data. To gain the attention of the consumer requires the marketer to truly understand their target audience, and have the ability to put content in front of them that they actually want to consume.

Rarely will a message coming straight from a brand have a large enough impact to cause substantial action. Influencers are today’s catalyst to getting a message in front of consumers. They break the ice and introduce brands to the people that ultimately make shareholders happy.

One of the major reasons that cause things to fall apart is when the influencer’s content reads like a sales pitch. They hold up the product in the photo and proceed to tell their followers what the product is, why they use it, what it does, and why people should check it out. Awesome, but who cares? Who wants to consume this content? Certainly not me, which is why I’m here.

The cold and bitter truth is that nobody will love your product more than you do. But there is some good news — you have knowledge, experience, and opinions that can provide value to someone’s life. Your brand needs to channel this into content in the form of blog posts, videos, and emails. Rather than having influencers send top of funnel traffic to your sales page, have them direct your customers to the valuable content you have waiting for them.

It’s important to understand what your customers want to know. By using social listening tools, you can uncover what it is that would interest your customers enough to spend 10 or 15 minutes consuming your content. Learn the questions they have and the problems they seek solutions to — that doesn’t require they purchase anything. By doing this, you will earn the permission in the mind of your customers to further engage with them. After all, consumer attention is the most valuable online commodity.

When this attention is not only warranted but also desired, you will have a much easier time building a tribe of raving fans. Expect that nobody will make a purchase the first time they stumble across your brand. They want you to earn their attention, and the price can be paid in content you create for free.

Are you following so far? I’ll paint the picture for you. Let’s suppose you offer an acne treatment cream that sells for $49 on a monthly subscription. Rather than having influencers tell their followers what your product is, how it works, why they use it, and why everyone should check out your brand — direct them to content that they’d find valuable.

Your customers are on social media to consume content. So, create a blog post on your website about the top seven foods that cause acne and embed related videos from your YouTube channel within the page. Also include an irresistible lead magnet that’s available by leaving a name and email address. Your lead magnet could be something like “137 recipes for healthy skin.”

On your YouTube channel, link to other videos you have, as well as strong call-to-actions that encourages channel subscriptions in order to receive more valuable content. Of course, you should be gathering pixel data and retargeting on Facebook, Instagram, and Google as well.

Your customer will decide to buy when they’re ready. Sales, promotions, discount codes, and urgency may lead to sales, but they won’t lead to lifelong customers or raving fans who would miss you if you were gone. If your brand relies too heavily on impulsive purchases, then it’s not here to stay on social media.

Have influencers help you earn real estate inside the minds of the consumers you seek to serve.

Don’t believe me? I’ll put it this way. Suppose you manage the marketing team at an eCommerce brand and I was to cold email you offering my services. I outline what Intro Fuel does, why it’s relevant to you, and encourage you to jump on a call with me. It’s unlikely you’d respond — it could be that you get emails like this every day, or maybe you handle things in-house. If I sent 100 emails like this, I’d expect three or four to raise their hand and show moderate interest.

In contrast, suppose you’re struggling a bit with your influencer marketing campaigns and you’re actively searching for help. I spot this and send you a link to an article like this and ask for nothing in return but the opportunity to send you more free, valuable information. We build a relationship that has you asking me for help within a few months.

Which approach would you prefer? I bet you’d be more receptive to the latter. I provided value first and invested upfront in our relationship. I didn’t immediately put a boat load of information in your face about all the benefits of working with me and I didn’t assume you were in the market to buy.

If you’re a marketer that’s active in this space, take my approach. What 95 percent of you are doing will only continue to decrease in effectiveness as the platforms become even more commercialized and consumers further despise seeing #ad . As popular as these platforms get, people will never open a social app ready and excited to buy.

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