Episode 199

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Influencer marketing isn’t new. Remember Joe Namath in pantyhose? (If you don’t Google it)

But what is new is that anyone can harness the power of the internet and attract and monetize an audience. The value to our clients in that new twist is that there is an influencer for any subject, budget, or audience.

This is an area where many agencies are crushing their financial goals. But if done wrong – you can lose your shirt. That’s why I knew we needed to talk to Shane Barker.

Getting to the tactical heart of effective and profitable influencer marketing is what episode #199 is all about. My guest is Shane Barker, who has been doing influencer marketing since before the term was even coined. We talk about finding the right person, the proverbial needle in the influencer haystack, and how to determine the real reach of that individual who calls him/herself an influencer.

Maybe you or your clients are still questioning the ROI of influencer marketing. Shane and I discuss how to do it right from start to finish, so you and your clients get the most bang for your influencer buck.

From working with agencies and brands on influencer strategy and with celebrities on digital reputation management, to obtaining a #1 national ranking with PROskore as a social media consultant, Shane has built an impressive list of accomplishments. As a regular contributor to publications like Salesforce, Yahoo Small Business, Marketing Profs and others, he continues to grow and share his knowledge.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to vet influencers so you and clients get what you pay for
  • Why you should interview influencers to find the right fit beyond the metrics
  • How to A/B test in influencer marketing
  • What goes into developing a solid influencer marketing strategy
  • How to be the best choice for the influencers you want to work with
  • Developing Scope of Work terms with an influencer
  • The best tools to use to start your influencer search
  • How to fine-tune your influencer search with the “eyeball test”
“One of the biggest problems with influencer marketing is when agencies and brands look only at follower count.” – @shane_barker Share on X “It's nice to have that belly-to-belly conversation with an influencer. Because most brands don't do that. They don't develop that deeper relationship.” – @shane_barker Share on X “When hiring an influencer, most brands follow this path: look at follower count, send them some free product, and then hope that magic happens. There are about 500 steps in between.” – @shane_barker Share on X “When I start working with a brand on an influencer campaign, I ask qualifying questions. What are their expectations? And are they realistic? As always, communication is key.” – @shane_barker Share on X “The information-gathering tools available are phenomenal. They curate information and you can filter down to find exactly the kind of influencer you are looking for.” – @shane_barker Share on X

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Speaker 1:

Are you tired of feeling like the lonely light housekeeper as you run your agency, welcome to the Agency Management Institute Community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talents, make more money and keep more of what you make. The Build a Better Agency podcast is now in our third year of sharing insights and how small to midsize agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody Drew McLellan, here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Thanks for coming back if you are a regular listener and welcome if this is your first foray into the podcast. I’m glad to have you. Before I tell you a little bit about this week’s guest and the topic, which I think you’re going to find fascinating. I want to just give you a big heads up. So, hopefully, a lot of you are on our weekly newsletter list, or we are connected on social somewhere, whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, wherever it may be. And so, hopefully in some venue where we communicate, you have seen that we have announced AMI is going to start an annual conference for small to mid-sized agencies. There is no conference out there really for true small to mid-sized agency. I’m talking agencies that have 4 people or 8 people or 10 people or 50 people, or even 100 people.

That’s a big agency at least in the U.S., and the U.S. the average agency has 8 people. And so, there’s really no conference for us, and there’s no conference about how we run our business better. And so, AMI, after several years of thinking about it and planning for it, we are stepping out into the conference space and we are launching our inaugural conference. The inaugural Build a Better Agency summit will be in May 19th and 20th in Chicago… 19th and 20th, 2020. So, depending on when you’re listening to this, I don’t want you to get confused. Anyway, it’s going to be a great two days, and we have some amazing speakers who are going to talk to you about how they built their agency, how they sold their agency, all the different revenue streams that they get from their agency.

We’re going to talk about exit strategies. We’re going to talk about valuations for your agency. We’re going to talk about finding a buyer or being a buyer of an agency, if that’s part of your growth strategy, all kinds of topics. If you want to know more about the conference, head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com and up in the main nav, you’re going to see BABA or Build a Better Agency Summit. Click on that link and you can start looking at who the keynote speakers are. And you’re going to recognize all the names. There are amazing speakers who are talking about things that they have never publicly talked about before. That is, money and selling their business and revenue streams and all kinds of other things. So, head over there and check it out. A couple things to note, if you’re listening to this in real time, so if it’s July or August of 2019, you are in a great spot because we are still in launch price mode.

So, this is as inexpensive as the conference is going to get. So, grab a ticket now, while you can and that way you’re all locked in. The other thing you need to know is we have a finite number of seats. So, we are going to be capped at a few hundred attendees. And once we get to that cap, I can’t sell any more tickets. We don’t have room in the venue. So, grab them early, bring your leadership team. There’s discounts for multiple people coming. And again, I’m super excited about the content. I think we are just going to be learning. And as always at AMI, we’re going to be learning. We’re going to be laughing. It’s going to be a little bit of therapy.

It’s going to be some support. It’s going to be exploration and innovation. All of those things, all wrapped in two days. Oh, and we’re going to be drinking and throwing darts. So, really what more could we pack into the two days? I hope you can join us in Chicago. I know it seems super far away, but actually it’s not. So, grab your ticket, lock yourself in and plan on being in Chicago in May of 2020. A couple of other housekeeping notes. We have some amazing workshops coming up in the fall and winter. So, you’re going to want to check those out on the website as well. I’ll tell you more about those in the episodes to come, but you might want to check those out before they sell out. And as always, if you are going to leave a rating and review for the podcast, please make sure you take a screenshot and you send it to me at [email protected] so that we can put you in a drawing for either a seat in one of our live workshops or in our on-demand courses.

So, those all retail out at around 1800 bucks. So, we’re happy to give that away. We give one away every month and I would love for you to be a winner. So, remember, we can’t enter you in the drawing if we don’t have the screenshot, because in many cases, your screen name doesn’t tell me really who you are. And it certainly doesn’t give me your email address. So, if you would do that, that would be lovely. All right, enough announcements. Let me get to the episode. So, in today’s world, there is not an agency on the planet that is not thinking about, talking about delivering… Considering delivering influencer marketing. And we know that it is not only a trend in our industry, but a really effective marketing strategy. And it’s not new. We’re just calling it something new but it’s been around forever, but some statistics have just come out that I think are really interesting.

So, Edelman, the global agency Edelman for, I don’t know, over 20 years, I think, has put out an annual report that they call the Trust Barometer. And what it does is it gathers data about… Influencers is a new category, but it asks the participants in the research who they trust, what they trust and where they place their trust. And in this year, in the 2019 report, they also added some really interesting questions about influencer marketing and how trustworthy that is and the details and the results are fascinating. So, I’m going to suggest that you download it. And if you actually go to the Agency Management Institute website, and if you search in the search bar for Edelman Trust Barometer, you’re going to find a blog post where I posted all of those reports because they’re free downloads. So, they had executive summary, the whole data, and then also, a look at some very drilled down specifics in the US.

But they’ve talked to over 33,000 people. And so, certainly a huge set. 27 countries participated. And some of the things that I think are most interesting around what they learned from that study is all related to influencer marketing, for example, the people that we as consumers trust the most are people like us. So, we are more and more skeptical of paid advertising, even though we know influencers are paid, for some reason, because they look like us and they are interested in the same things that we are. We feel a kinship with them, and we trust them more than any other category. We find a person who is like me to be either credible or very credible. And we see that in ratings and reviews and other places as well, but it’s also in influencer marketing.

The other thing that I thought was really interesting about this specific influencer data is that people are getting smarter about influencers. And so, it’s not about how many people you have following you. It’s not about how big of a celebrity you are. It’s really about how relatable are you. So, if I feel like you’re more of a real person and I can relate to you, my trust is higher in you than it is with somebody with 50 million followers who I see as a popular influencer, but I have no connection to. And the other part that I thought was really interesting because I’m nagging at you all the time to niche, niche, niche, and narrow down and be a subject matter expert. One of the things that I found heartening was even more than how much the respondents trusted people like them are the trust that they put in subject matter experts.

So, again, if you can take that authority position of the category or the audience or the problem you solve, whatever that is, go back and listen to my solo cast about positioning and niching, but understand that, that, by its very default, makes you trustworthy and more trustworthy means easier to sell, quicker to sell and all of those things. So, influencer marketing’s not going away. If anything, its power and its influence is growing as the marketplace gets more skeptical and more crowded. And so, that’s why I wanted to have this week’s guest on the show.

So, Shane Barker has been a digital marketer for a long time, but he has been dabbling in and then really perfecting the art of influencer marketing for much longer than the term has actually even been coined. He teaches courses about it at the college level, he’s putting together some online courses. And so, what I really want to do in this episode is I really want to pick his brain about how we as agencies are doing influencer marketing well and where we need to improve to really be able to deliver the results that our clients are looking for. So, with that, let’s just jump into the conversation and go. Shane, welcome to the podcast. So, without further ado, let’s jump into the conversation. Shane, welcome to the podcast.

Shane Barker:

Hey drew, thanks for having me, man. I’m excited about the interview today.

Drew McLellan:

Why don’t you tell the listeners how you came to have an expertise in influencer marketing, and then we’re going to spend some time… I know that a lot of times you either get clients or talk to clients who have had less than stellar results when they’ve worked with agencies. So, I want to talk about some of the mistakes agencies make and how they can fix those mistakes, but first give us a little bit of background.

Shane Barker:

Yeah. So, I’ve been in the digital space… I don’t want to say the true number because it’s been a crazy amount of time. It’s been almost 25 years at this point that I’ve been in the digital space. And then influencer marketing kind of found me, probably about seven or eight years ago. I had a client [inaudible 00:10:58] at client that time but they reached out to me and said, “Hey, we need some social media marketing.” And she was a fitness influencer on Instagram. And then I said, “Okay.” So, I was kind of looking at her stuff and she was selling fitness programs and I really couldn’t imagine myself doing anything that had to do with fitness because it was a pretty saturated industry, you know, push up was a push-up. At that point, I wasn’t too interested in it.

But I said, “Well, let’s just do a call and see what you’ve got going on.” And so, I jumped on a call with her. She had three programs, one of them was called Get a Better Booty. So, I think we understand the premise of what that program was. I don’t need give heavy detail into that one. And her thing was that she used to be a runner, so she really didn’t have any crazy body. And then she quit running and she started doing the squats and all this other fun stuff. And everybody saw that transition from no booty to big booty. And so, all the girls love those before and after pictures, “Hey, that’s me today. This is me potentially if I do Zoe’s program.” And so, I just was this call with her and she said, “My best program is Build a Better Booty and I’ve sold like… She goes, “Maybe 10,000 copies.” And she really wasn’t that impressed with that.

It’s just maybe like 10,000. And I’m like, “10,000 times $20.” I’m like, “That’s $200,000.” And I’m like, “Well, what about your sexy legs?” And she goes, “Yeah, that one’s even worse, it’s only 5,000.” And I’m like, “Times $20. That’s another a hundred thousand.” And then I go, “What about your sexy arms?” And she goes, “Yeah, that one’s like maybe 5,000 as well.” So, I’m like, “This girl is 22 years old making $400,000 a year and she’s blowing it off like I’m doing okay. Like I can afford to pay rent this month.” And I’m like, “She’s like making 30 plus thousand dollars a month by herself.” She was producing all of her own content. She had a few people helping with the website and stuff. And I just said… Honestly, I didn’t believe it at first.

I was like, “Okay, I need to look into this a little bit because this feels like a little fishy.” Like I had lead magnets on my website. I couldn’t even get a free email address or a name for that sake. Because, yes, she can’t keep these things off the shelves, they’re like selling out. I mean, they are [inaudible 00:12:50], so they’re not really selling out, but the idea is that she [crosstalk 00:12:52]. So, to me, it blew me away. So, I just said, “Okay, I’ve got to look into this thing.” And it was all influencer marketing. We had started selling [inaudible 00:12:59] before as even [inaudible 00:13:00] influencer marketing, we were just finding fitness influencers that would be willing to either take her program or talk about Zoe’s success before with her before and after pictures.

And we just did tons of different stuff. We spent probably $400,000 not even do an ad platform, I was paying everybody through PayPal. There was negotiations. We didn’t have a software to go look people up. We were using this thing called an Excel spreadsheet in case your audience knows what that is. It’s really old school, but we used it. So, there was all this stuff that we did just, once again, to negotiate with influencers and build this thing out. We tried to do SEO. We tried to do PPC. We tried all these different things and 99% of our business was sold through Instagram. And so, we redid our website. We redid her lead magnets, we redid her programs or logo like we redid everything.

Revamped, and we got her to about 1.4 million in less than a year. So, she was clearing… No, 1.6 million, excuse me. She was clearing a million dollars herself in a year’s time selling fitness influencer eBooks on Instagram. So, that’s how I jumped into space. And ever since then, it just has taken off. I teach at UCLA. I have a personal brand in How to Be an Influencer course that I teach there, every quarter. And it’s just kind of catapulted itself to where we’re at today.

Drew McLellan:

So, for you, for the most part is your work working with the actual influencer on how to be a good partner to a brand or to an agency and their client, the brand, you come at it from that perspective, right?

Shane Barker:

Actually, I come from both perspectives. So, the class that UCLA is actually a two part course, one is for influencers, how to work with brands. And the other one is for brands, how to work with influencers. So, these days, I spend a lot of time on education. Like, I just did a workshop at the Influencer Marketing Conference & Expo in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. It’s about a three hour workshop. And what I did is that was mainly for brands, how to work with influencers. And so, I do personal training for brands.

So, brands can either bring me into their office or I can [inaudible 00:14:59] agencies as well. So, “Hey, listen, these are the campaigns that we’ve done. What are we doing wrong? How can we improve these things?” And then I have a course that’s coming out on howtobeaninfluencer.com that actually we teach influencers, once again, how to get a website set up, how to get their media kit set up, how to get all this stuff together so that when you go to pitch Nike, you’re not hotgirl25@gmail because they’re probably not going to respond to that. It’s like just your own personal brand. So, I do both sides of it. So, it’s kind of interesting.

Drew McLellan:

So, one of the things that’s interesting to me about influencer marketing, which of course has been around forever. It just has a new label to it and now it’s got new technology around it. So, it’s used in a lot of ways. I remember Joe Namath pushing legs, pantyhose early, early influencer marketing. So, one of the things I worry about on behalf of my own agency and all the agencies out there is there are so many people claiming to be an influencer, how do I vet influencers properly? And how do I know that they are what they say they are and that they can deliver what they’re promising for the partnership [inaudible 00:16:15]

Shane Barker:

Yeah. The biggest thing is that really influencers it’s kind of funny. So, like the actual word influencer and influencer marketing is actually now in the dictionary. So, I don’t know if that makes it official.

Drew McLellan:

It’s official.

Shane Barker:

Yeah. I mean, I’m assuming at that point, then somebody believes it. Some of the higher ups when it comes to the dictionaries, believe it. So, the thing is influence is different for different people. What I mean by that is that originally it was, what is your follower count? So, if you had 50,000 or 100,000 people on Instagram, then you’re an influencer. It was a number thing. And for me, one of the biggest problems with agencies and with brands as well it’s they look at those numbers. That’s one of the variables that you look at is like their follower count.

It shouldn’t be the number one thing that you look at. And they were also paying based on the follower count, which is another issue. Because then you jump into influencers getting fake followers because they want to make it to the next tier pricing. You’re saying, “Hey, if get to this, I’ll give you 5,000. But if you get up to this, I’ll give you 15.” What are you going to do? You’ll be like, “Well, how do I get to 50,000? Well, I’ve got to accelerate this thing.” It took me a year to get to this point and it can take me three months to get to the next level and then there we go. So, if brands and agencies will look at numbers as just a variable, what you really need to look at is like the overall engagement and the sediment of the influencer’s profile. So, what it comes down to the other big question that we always get is like, what do I pay an influencer?

So, what you have to think about is, you look at the influencer’s profile, it looks like there’s some good engagement. I’ll give you the example, I always use like a yoga mat, let say. And so, you’re a brand, you sell this yoga mat and you want to work with a yoga influencer. You go to their profile, you see all kinds of yoga stuff. He or she does every morning. They