We’re gearing up for the Social Media Strategies Summit in Anaheim next month! In this interview with opening keynote speaker Melinda Byerleyserial entrepreneur and the founder of Timeshare CMO, she shares insight on how 20 years in tech has shaped her marketing philosophy, her work on #DVDNation, and some common misconceptions on influencer marketing strategy.

Breanna: I’m really looking forward to your keynote at the upcoming SMSS Anaheim, where you’ll be sharing how you collaborated with DVD Netflix’s Vanessa Fiske to build their influencer marketing program. How do you define influencer marketing?

Melinda: Thank you for the opportunity. I’m delighted to talk about the #DVDNation we built with Vanessa Fiske for DVD Netflix.

First, though, I’d like to differentiate between influencer marketing as a whole vs. micro-influencer marketing. When we as marketers think of influencer programs, we are often thinking of what I call macro-influencers, which are accounts with 1M + followers, like the Kardashians and millennial superstars like Lele Pons. Macro influencers are about 15% of the influencer population and drive about 30% of the buzz on social media overall.

The other 85% of the influencer population on the internet drives 75% of the buzz, and they’re called micro-influencers. With follower counts around 1000-10,000, micro influencers are highly focused on passionate niches. As a result, they’re perceived as being more trustworthy. The numbers bear that out. Consumer trust is nearly 5 times greater with these individuals than with macro-influencers (92% vs. 18%). When you talk about macro influencers, you’re almost always talking about reach. But with micro influencers, it’s all about engagement. Engagement rates (likes, comments) are appreciably higher (nearly 4X that of the macro influencers).

Building on Vanessa’s deep understanding of her target market and our research, we determined that building a community of micro-influencers was the right approach for DVD Netflix.

You can buy followers but you can’t buy authentic engagement, especially about a business with a long tail such as a catalog of over 80,000 titles.

Where do you think it has the potential to have the biggest business impact in the next few years?

So, any time your business can connect with an engaged group of passionate advocates, your company will reap the benefits. We’ve heard from #DVDNation community members that their participation in the program was at once “life-changing” and unlike any other brand’s influencer program. That’s not something built on a one-time pay-for-play blog post, but rather on years of interaction with the DVD Netflix brand, as well as a shared, deep love for the movies and television.

If you don’t have ready access to a group of advocates, look for an adjacent audience you can connect with. For example, If you sell a brand new kind of ink, look for the thriving and passionate community of writing pen, bullet journaling, and hand lettering fans on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and Pinterest.

What do you think are some of the common misconceptions marketers have about building and launching a successful influencer marketing program?

Misconception #1: Influencer programs rip people off.
It’s tempting to look at influencer marketing as an easy way to engage with like-minded consumers, but the truth is, word-of-mouth marketing is based on trust. If the product can’t live up to the hype, influencers risk losing their legitimacy and advertisers their brand value. Both influencers and the brand have a responsibility to stand behind their social media support.

Misconception #2: Influencer programs are hard to measure.
It’s actually not hard to measure these programs’ success, you just need to decide what type of outcome you’re looking for before the campaign begins. It can be anything from impressions to follower growth to web traffic driven to consumer engagement, etc. The key is to pick your desired KPI and focus on growing those. In 90 days we created a platform that helps DVD Netflix measure value-added activities and influencer engagement while ensuring FTC Compliance.

Misconception #3: It’s difficult to find legit influencers.
Fake accounts, padded follower accounts, bots, and outright fraud are a fact of life on social media platforms. But there are ways to ensure your influencers don’t use fake followers or bot-driven engagement. For the DVD Netflix program, we looked at our influencers’ followers and checked their profiles for content that conflicted with the brand. We also looked at follower engagement rates. There are a variety of automated tools available to test the legitimacy of an influencer’s followers. No matter what tool you use, there’s no substitute for a final human gut check—especially on Twitter and Instagram, where the incentives to cheat are higher.

Misconception #4: Influencer marketing only works for B2C.
Any company, whether B2C or B2B, cannot go wrong cultivating a group of authentically passionate advocates. While B2C influencers are frequently your most dedicated consumers, B2B influencers are generally recognized as experts and opinion leaders in their field and, as such, the ways of finding, engaging with, and compensating them will be different.

You advise CEOs and strategic marketers on how to get the most out of their digital marketing —and you’ll be diving a bit into how you did this at DVD Netflix during your keynote next month. Are there any “quick wins” you can share for teams working with low budget and low resources?

Great question!

1. Measure from the beginning and get buy-in from all the stakeholders upfront about what you’ll be measuring.  It’s critically important to make sure everyone is on the same page at the beginning of the project so you’re not trying to defend yourself 6 months down the line. In Anaheim, Vanessa and I will be talking specifically about how we measured ROI during our keynote.

2. Customize your program to your customer. DVD Netflix’s research on their customers drove the design of the program to specifically meet their target audience’s needs and wants, and, as a result, our audience embraced the program.

3. Make sure your campaign is mobile-enabled. People are more likely to participate if it’s mobile.

4. Make sure your content is authentic- and let go of total control. By all means, give your influencers guidelines, but don’t try to control their words. Otherwise, it’ll sound like an ad. Make your influencers a part of your company by inviting them to special insider opportunities, and train them on how to expand their own brands effectively.

What are the top 3 considerations marketers should take into account when selecting and implementing new marketing technology tools?

I love this question. My first company was all about helping marketers choose software. I’ve been doing it for almost twenty years, and I do it today for Timeshare CMO as well as on behalf of our clients.
Whenever I or someone on my team is tasked with looking for new tools, we consider the following:

1. Do we actually need a new tool? Are we trying to use a tool to solve a problem that’s about process or people? I’m a firm believer that tech doesn’t solve problems, it assists and aids humans in solving problems.

2. If we determine we do need a new tool, we must invest in the time upfront to determine why and what we need the tool to do for us, including prioritizing into must-have and nice-to-have functionality. I always look for tools that work with human nature and enhances the way we work vs. fighting it.

3. Finally, it’s imperative to communicate the value of the tool to the team. Accept that it’s going to be painful (all change is!). The desire for more efficient outcomes has to be greater than the cost of change. People need to see and buy into the light at the end of the tunnel.

Are there any colleagues and/or leaders in the space that really influenced your approach to marketing? Has your approach to marketing changed over the course of your career? (If so, how?)

The core of the DVD Netflix program was heavily influenced by my earliest experiences in tech. I started my career at eBay where community had its own team that reported to leadership. Every 6 weeks, eBay brings community members in to review product changes and no product is shipped without community input. As a result, the community members bonded with each other and helped each other out with customer support. It made the platform stronger and more diverse and that authentic engagement with each other contributed to their engagement with the eBay brand. And as a happy side result, our customer support costs went down. I’m a firm believer that when you enable a flourishing community, good things happen.

What’s changed since eBay was founded? Our ability to measure engagement. Today we have the opportunity to fuse the concept of community and engagement with social media in a way we didn’t have to in the late ’90s, and with constraints—FTC Guidelines, fake accounts, questions of content—we didn’t have then.

Can you tell us a little bit about the philosophy behind your work at TimeShare CMO?

Every pitch I give to potential clients starts with TCMO’s Mission Statement:

We drive growth, for clients we love, with honest, data-driven digital marketing.

The operative words are: growth, love, and honest.

We’re located in Silicon Valley and work primarily with tech companies, and everyone is interested in growth. For us, it’s more fun to do the job when you love the product and the people you’re working with. We don’t take on clients that don’t inspire or motivate us.

As for honesty? We absolutely must be honest about what the data is telling us or not telling us, even though sometimes it’s not what the client wants to hear.

Most importantly, your marketing team can only be as good as the people and the processes they make. Technology is but a tool, and thus only intensifies what’s already there, be it good or problematic.

Thinking about the next 5 years ahead in marketing, what growth area are you most excited about?

I believe we’re in a lull regarding hardware innovation, which has been the primary driver of software innovation in the last 30 years. Chips brought us the internet, fiber brought us the cloud, and mobile phones are bringing us ubiquity and a greater connection to each other. All of these technologies have forever changed how we interact and do marketing today, but I don’t see anything dramatically new for marketing and marketing tech on the near-term (3-5 year) horizon.

As a result, I think this is a great opportunity for companies to step back, catch their breath, and re-evaluate their digital marketing programs. Identify what’s working, and what hasn’t, and double down on the things that do work. Level up your team and your process. If you’ve felt behind, you can take advantage of this less frenetic environment and take the next few years to catch up.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned in my near 20 years in tech, it’s that the future is incredibly hard to predict. So don’t interpret anything I just said as a statement that we’re done inventing things. It’s not too early to be anticipating new technologies on the horizon: voice recognition, automation, machine learning, and blockchain will have an impact on your sector or profession specifically. Every single facet of human life will continue to be changed by technology, and that means marketing, too.

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