Lead Generation with Social Influencers

This is an interview with Rachel Miller, Senior Social Strategist at Thulium.co on lead generation with social influencers.

Hi Rachel! What can you tell us about your new role at Thulium as the Senior Social Strategist?

Thulium is a global digital marketing agency specializing in B2B technology companies.

My primarily role is to create social and influencer marketing strategies for all Thulium clients and work with the teams to keep campaigns performing optimily to maximum results and ultimately achieve business goals.

I’d like to start out today with some ways to get influencers in your social strategy to start producing leads for you?

First and foremost, it's really important to play to their strengths. If you onboard an influencer and they have a fantastic YouTube channel and they're producing shows weekly, it makes sense to include them in some sort of video marketing rather than force them into a whitepaper or a medium that might not be their strength.

It’s important to pick people who are going to match up with the client strategy. Then continuously keep your eyes and ears open for additional people to complement the strategy and activated influencers. I'm always on social platforms and a variety of tools, looking for new people. It’s great to have a stable of reliable influencers, but it's always important to bring in new faces who have new voices and stories to tell.

"Micro-influencers with smaller networks have more focused audiences and are proving to be much more likely to convert."

With influencers posting your content, you don't have the level of control as some other mediums when it comes to who is seeing your message. How do you make sure that the right people are seeing the right message at the right time?

It comes down to correctly identifying influencers. I think that's why we're seeing a huge increase in campaigns involving micro-influencers. Because their audience is much more specific and likely to drive higher conversions. They’re going to deliver that right message because that’s what they and their audience is passionate about. People who have smaller networks are much more focused and are proving to be much more likely to convert.

There are definitely use cases for collaborating with influencers who fall into the generalist category and can talk about a wide variety of topics. They often have a much larger following so the flipside is it can be harder to define who's actually receiving the message and whether the desired target audience is taking action. But, for creating general awareness and buzz it is smart to include generalists.

For companies that want to run an influencer marketing strategy, should their sales team be involved with any of the strategy behind setting those up?

I would vote yes, they should be involved. No one should know your target customer better than your sales reps, because they're on the front line.

I'm a huge advocate for personas. Not just the persona for the best-fit influencer, but also the personas of your target customers. Having that insight from a sales rep can help you flush out the needs and wants and the particular pain points of each target customer.

"Leads generated from influencer marketing move down the funnel quicker than others because they've been educated about who you are from someone they know and trust."

Should inbound leads from influencer marketing strategies be treated differently than leads that come through more traditional mediums?

It may vary depending on your particular line of business and the length of the sales cycle or what the particular touch points are, but generally leads from influencer marketing can be moved down funnel quicker as they are already aware of who you are as a company. They've heard about you, they've been educated about you from someone they know and trust. They have rapport, and that's the beauty of influencer marketing.

The rapport that influencers have with their audience can speed up the sales process and get them to convert quicker than your typical lead-gen. It's kind of like hearing from a buddy, "Hey, I really liked my experience with XYZ." You're more likely to act on that referral versus hearing a commercial on the radio, or a Facebook ad.

When it comes to goals that should be set for an influencers' strategy, what are the some common goals you see being set and how do those compare to the goals that would be set 5-10 years ago?

Today, a lot of clients are choosing more conversion-oriented goals. When I started a few years ago in influencer marketing, most of the campaigns I was doing was about awareness. How can we grow our Twitter following? How can we get more people to like us on Facebook?

Now, clients want them to download a white paper, sign up for a trial, or participate in a survey. A lot more things that are tangible. For influencer marketing, this is great because there are more metrics that we can get behind and show business value.

Are there metrics that you would point to as ones that should be tracked more closely with an influencer strategy?

It's important to track the success of each influencer. We know that through a link shortener, that it was clicked 5,000 times. It’s also important to get a little more granular, and be like, "We had 10 influencers contributing to this campaign, what did they each do?" I recommend using a specific link for each influencer, so then you can say, "Well, Paul, he shared it 50 times and we got 2,000 clicks. But then Rachel shared it 50 times and she got two."

You can then determine who you want to continue to collaborate with, because on paper all influencers look compelling. You want to work with people who matter to your target audience and are moving the needle for you, business-wise.

So, tracking influencer performance as well as which platforms are performing better will help hone your future campaigns. If you know for a particular client that Instagram is the best platform, based on the current campaign, then it’s easy to recommend that we don't touch Google Plus or Facebook right now. You can get a lot more specific.

Influencer marketing has evolved from awareness to conversion as the preferred outcome. How far down the funnel would you track the effectiveness of your influencer marketing strategy? Does it make sense to track it right down to revenue?

It depends on what you're selling or what your service is. It could make sense to track all the way to purchase in some scenarios. For example, we work with a lot of enterprise brands, where they have a longer sales cycle and high dollar buys. It’s important to know that from this influencer campaign, we generated 15 purchases. But those were potentially million dollar purchases.

For other things, our goal is 500 downloads of this ebook, and we track it there. Once the emails go into your CRM, then it’s up to sales to convert.

It depends on the project and the end business goals.

"Numbers aren't everything."

You’re someone that is always staying on top of trends in this space. What are some of the hottest trends that you’re seeing today?

Definitely micro-influencers. Numbers aren't everything. Even from a brand account perspective, I don't think people are chasing after those high follower accounts like they were before. Micro-influencers and their ability to convert is a great trend.

I'm also pleased to see that campaigns are a lot more omni-channel. Before, we were seeing very platform-specific influencer campaigns that played to an influencers' audience. Like, somebody may have 100,000 followers on Twitter, but then they only have 1,000 followers on LinkedIn. I think as part of the micro-influencer, we're looking for a well rounded influencer, who has a good audience on all of the key channels. Then we can create content for them to share. It doesn't matter where their audience happens to be, they're still seeing the content and reacting to it.

There's more influencer marketing tools. Especially in the last couple of years, we've seen a lot of new ones pop up to take away some of the manual effort. Correctly identifying was a challenge for a while, but now they're also building in CRM functionality, where you can monitor your campaigns at a very granular level.

Another one is the quality of the content. It's not just a brand expose, it's actually useful, actionable content for the audience. It's not just a guy coming and saying, "This company is fantastic." It's more just, "Hey, you know, you should really read more about this, because it's going to help make you better at your job or a happier person." Taking that holistic approach is really resonating.

Definitely. You mentioned tools there. Are there any tools that you would recommend?

I'm kind of a tool junkie. I'm a big fan of BuzzSumo, Onalytica, and Tracker. Zoomph is great for campaign monitoring. Click to Tweet is a good one. Spredfast, Meltwater. I like to keep my tabs on all of them because they're all evolving and they're focusing on different things.

There isn't one perfect tool yet. If I could merge two or three of them, it would be the powerhouse tool, but right now, you do need to have a pretty diverse toolkit.

Favorite resources:

Who should everyone should go out and follow right now on social media?

I follow a very eclectic group of people. So some of them are in the social selling space, because I have a CRM background. Jack Kosakowski and Sarah Goodall are great for social selling ideas.

I also watch up-and-comers, because I love seeing how they're using platforms. In that arena, Tristan Griffiths would be my recommendations. He’s got a really cool omni-channel marketing approach and does a good job at bringing that human element in.

Favorite blog or a favorite podcast:

I'm a big fan of RazorSocial, Ian Cleary's blog. I love tools and analytics, so I'm always reading his to stay up to date, and he has some great articles that are always about new tools.

Along those same lines, I really like Christopher Penn's blog. He's a data analytics guy who’s doing some really cool stuff with Google. I'm always scribbling down notes after reading his articles.

As far as podcasts, I do love podcasts. The one that I've been hooked on at the gym lately is Mixergy. The host interviews start-up founders. It's really cool to hear their story, the ups and downs, the failures and the wins.

Favorite book:

One of them is from Bryan Kramer, who was my CEO at PureMatter. He has several books, but my favorite of his is H2H: Human to Human. It's a great read for anybody in marketing or sales.

Then my next one, I'm a big Chris Brogan fan. So The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth is a good one, for anyone with a little bit of entrepreneurial spirit. It's a nice reminder to be bold and be yourself and just go for it.

Now for our famous closing question: what is your favorite 90's dance song?

Hmm, that’s tough. I can’t think of any one specifically so just anything by Britney Spears.