Jennifer Tribe and Influencer Marketing

This is the part of a series of interviews with B2B marketers. In this post we're talking with Jennifer Tribe from Auvik Networks about influencer marketing.

Tell us a bit about what you do.
My name is Jennifer Tribe, and I’m the director of content marketing over at Auvik Networks. I’m responsible for all of our content programs and all of the content development that we do.

Auvik is cloud-based software that makes it very fast and very easy to manage an IT network. If you don’t work in IT, you might not know that network administrators today are likely using the same tools that they used 20 or 25 years ago to manage their network. It’s painful, it’s time consuming, it’s manual – so Auvik’s software changes all of that by simplifying and automating a lot of the work involved.

Jennifer Tribe in Auvik Networks' Waterloo office

Jennifer Tribe in Auvik Networks' Waterloo office

How did you get into marketing?
I have a degree in journalism, so right out of school I started in multimedia and sort-of shifted sideways into corporate communications. In my first corporate communications role I was exposed to a lot of different communications realms – marketing, PR,  all those things. I really enjoyed marketing, and in particular really enjoyed working on, what at the time were called information products, but now have morphed into content marketing.

One of the things we wanted to talk about today is influencer marketing. How would you define influencer marketing?
It’s marketing that targets people who can influence the beliefs or the behaviours of your target buyers, and I’d add that it’s on a peer-to-peer level. So media, journalists, industry analysts, they are definitely influencers in an industry but I don’t consider them to be part of influencer marketing. I definitely keep track of them and want to reach out to them, but I do that separately as part of PR and AR.

Influencer marketing for me is definitely about that peer-to-peer influence in the industry.

"It’s actually a very manual process."

How do you identify who those peers are?
For me it’s actually a very manual process. When I started at Auvik Networks I really knew nothing about the network management industry, but luckily for me my predecessor in my role had pulled together a list of ten or twelve influencer blogs that he was following.

The first thing I did was pull all of those blogs into an RSS reader and I started reading them every day. Then I pulled those same bloggers into a Twitter list and I started following them on Twitter, and I started tracking their conversations every day. And the third, I started looking at major industry publications, those went into the RSS feed as well, and in the same way I’m tracking those.

So as I was reading these things day to day, it soon became very clear who the influencers were. As I’m watching these bloggers – who are they talking to, who are they talking about, what were the important industry events, who was speaking at those events, who were the bylined columnists in the industry publications – that gave me a very organic sense of who was important in the space. Then as new names came up in the space I’d add them into the RSS feed and it just kind of snowballed into the list that it is today.

Are you using any apps to help with this, or is it a completely manual process?
I know there are a lot of tools that you can use, there’s Keyhole and Traackr and a bunch of others. Really, for me it’s manual. So I use Digg Reader for my RSS feed, I use Oktopost, which is kind of like Hootsuite Pro, so I use that for tracking Twitter lists and conversations. And then I use a tool called BuzzStream for building profiles on influencers and managing my outreach to them.

How do you start getting on the radar of an influencer – how do you interact with them?
I think it’s a very slow process, though there are a lot of things you can do. You can reach out to ask for some input on a roundup blog post or an infographic, for example, but the way I’ve been working over the past year is very ad hoc.

Really starting slow – retweeting their blog posts, talking to them on Twitter, referencing their blog posts in our blog posts and linking back to them, pulling them into the curated section of our newsletter – just things where I’m not asking them for anything, I’m interacting with them and getting our name on their radar.

The Auvik office is casual, colourful, and has a great selection of local beer on tap.

The Auvik office is casual, colourful, and has a great selection of local beer on tap.


Are there different types of influencers?
As we touched on there’s media and analysts vs peer-to-peer, but within the peer-to-peer, at least in my own mind I distinguish between what I call “capital I” Influencers and “small I” influencers.

Capital I Influencers would be someone who has a very broad reach: maybe they have a huge Twitter following and maybe they speak at a lot of conferences, and they have a podcast, a blog, or whatever.

"Influencer marketing is about peer-to-peer influence in your industry."

A small I influencer might be someone who has none of those things, but who has a strong following in a very particular niche community that we want to be known in.

Both of them are important, and there’s also maybe a distinction between current heavyweight influencers and up-and-coming influencers. It’s easier to build relationships with people who are up-and-coming in the industry as opposed to the massive heavy weights. I pay attention to a broad scope of people and I don’t dismiss someone who is just getting started or just has a little piece of influence.

As you’re sharing content with them, how often do you do that?
We have a biweekly newsletter, so every two weeks we’re pulling in curated content into the newsletter. I also populate our Twitter feed with curated content and that’s going out every single day. So every day I’m trying to share stuff that’s not ours to get the conversation going and to be a contributor to the community and the industry.

I think it’s important for companies to not talk about themselves all the time, to push forward the conversation, and to always share great content no matter where it comes from.

"It’s important for companies to not talk about themselves all the time"

What would you say are the biggest challenges with influencers?
Probably the biggest challenge is reaching them in a way that lets them know you want to genuinely interact with them – they’re very busy people. For us they’re network architects or network engineers, that’s their full-time day job, and then they’re also blogging or speaking or writing and that takes up a tremendous amount of time.

Beyond that if Auvik has identified them as an industry influencer then we’re not the only ones. So you have likely a whole bunch of companies that are trying to get their attention and ask things of them. How do you break through that noise and not look like you want to take up all of their time?

Do you have any tips for how to do outreach in a non-spammy way?
Part of that is the whole relationship building. You’re just commenting on their tweets or commenting on their blog posts in a way that just says “Hey, this great.” “Thanks for this.” Or “I had a question about something.” Not in a “Hey can you do something for us?”

I think there’s groundwork that needs to be laid.

Auvik has a strict "No Assholes" policy.

Auvik has a strict "No Assholes" policy.

How do you measure success of that?
That’s an interesting question. The ultimate success measure of any marketing program is winning new customers. Obviously there are other metrics but that’s the final goal. But it can be very hard to draw the direct line between a particular influencer marketing effort and a sale. Certainly we have pieces of it – we tag and track things in Google Analytics, we’re looking at referral traffic, we’re looking at social metrics, all the usual suspects.

Certainly some of the stuff we’ve seen out of FunnelCake is really promising, and we’re looking forward to connecting a lot of the dots.

Where do you see influencer marketing fitting into the buyer journey – is it at the front of the funnel, bottom, or hitting all throughout?
It hits all throughout, right from first awareness all through sale and even to loyalty. In the IT industry, like in many industries, our target buyers are very sceptical of marketing. They want to hear from their peers about what works, what’s good, what’s not. So hearing their peers talk about us and thinking “Oh, I’ve never heard of this Auvik company, I might want to check them out” all the way through to “So-and-so said they were an awesome product, I’m going to feel more confident making that purchase.”

If a marketer is just getting started with influencer marketing, or they’re trying to convince their VP that they should try this strategy, where do they get started? Blogs, books, podcasts?
One of my favourite sources of marketing information is the Content Marketing Institute, and they run an annual conference called Content Marketing World. They’re not specifically influencer marketing but they have a lot of resources around it.

Lee Odden at Top Rank is also a good source. He spoke last year at Content Marketing World about influencer marketing, it was a good session.

There’s a company called Groove that makes help desk software and they blog about their journey. Their CEO wrote a really great detailed blog post about some influencer outreach that he did. And it was great. It was a very detailed, step-by-step process, and there’s even a freely downloadable spreadsheet that lets you track all the different steps that he did.

As a final one I’d mention Derek Halpern at Social Triggers. Again, not specifically on influencer marketing but he talks about outreach and how to reach other people in your industry.

Last question – what’s your favourite 90’s dance song?
[Sighs] Oh lord. You know, favourite I don’t know, but the first one that comes to mind is What Is Love by Haddaway. A Night at the Roxbury. I have to go with that.