In the first episode of the brand new Julius Profiles podcast, we spoke to the wonderful Christie Childers and Andy Kraut from Social Chain about The Art of Personalization in influencer marketing. Christie is Social Chain’s USA Influencer Relationship Manager and Andy Kraut is their Head of Partnerships.
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Key takeaways from this podcast include:
- Why it’s vital to put people first in the influencer marketing industry
- How a personal touch goes a long way in building long-term relationships
- Balancing client demands and constraints with an influencer’s persona and creative integrity
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Putting people first
Danny Palestine, our Head of Customer Success delved into the insights our guests have gleaned from their ground-level work with influencers. To Christie and Andy, personalization plays a huge role in managing the complex web of relationships between clients, influencers, and consumers.
Putting people first, Christie says, “really allows you to create those long-term consumer relationships versus just short-term purchase intent.”
And managing those long-term relationships, whether it’s with an influencer or a consumer, means adding a personal touch. Christie explains, “For me, it’s super important that my influencers are my partners, they’re my content creators. They are human beings first and foremost and I will never treat any influencer that I’m working with just like they’re a part of my media plan.”
The human touch
Taking the time to make correspondence with an influencer personal, Andy says, is key to achieving success. “Having a handwritten component or things that take more time, isn’t always needed but I do think... knowing who you’re talking to in your correspondence is [important], instead of just... a templated outreach.”
As for agents, however, personalization takes on a different form.
Christie revealed, “It’s important to make the subject tailored to who you’re talking to... If I see that I’m reaching out to Alex the influencer but I’m having an agent email for Mike, I’m not going to reach out and say ‘Hey Alex, I want you to do this project.’ I’m going to say ‘Hello Mike, I know you represent Alex and I’d like her to do this project.’ I think that is a small detail that actually goes a really long way.”
She went on further, suggesting that face time, wherever possible, is just as important to building relationships as tailoring your communications. “Authentic, face-to-face time for me with influencers is super important and that’s how I’ve created some of my best, most beneficial deals on both sides.”
After a discussion about fun activities to do with clients, including rooting for the blue knight at Medieval Times and learning about your coworkers at “Escape the Room” events, the conversation transitioned into putting in extra effort with a customer to let them know their business matters.
“What we do is we have on-staff design teams to make sure that everything we send through is, tethered back to that cohesive strategy we originally presented, and then we also kind of try to show a little bit of love in each pitch,” said Andy.
He followed up with an insightful quote regarding how personalization can separate you from the pack: “Here’s the thing, in a world where there’s a million influencer tools and a million agencies, you can’t always be the biggest but you can care the most.“ And caring, according to Andy, is the best way to manage your relationships.
Finding the right influencer
From there, the conversation shifted towards finding the right influencer for a client. Danny asked Andy and Christie how they can be sure an influencer not only meets requirements like reach and engagement rates, but also fits a brand’s tone of voice and audience.
Christie described her process: “Obviously first up is really understanding exactly what the client wants... understanding who the target audience is, what the client’s brand voice is, what exactly they’re looking for. Going from there, I do a lot of search on the search tools, I do a lot of hand selecting, via Instagram, YouTube, everything and I would say, I’m a little bit of a lurker.”
“Professional stalkers, I get it,” said Danny. “I am a professional lurker,” Christie replied. “I go really deep back and see what they’ve been up to, what brands they’ve been partnering with, what sort of evolution their content has had, whether they’re using different filters, new color schemes, to see if that’s something that’s going to fit in with our clients.”
Getting to know an influencer, according to Christie, takes doing your due diligence, like diving deep into their content. And when you get to know an influencer, it’s important you don’t compromise their voice or personality. When sending briefs to influencers, Christie does her best to respect their creativity while giving her client what they want.
“I like to think about it like apartment hunting. What are your negotiables, what are your non-negotiables? It is important to understand that we obviously are going to do everything we can to get you everything that you want out of the influencers, but at some point, people have to exist.”
Production, creativity, and getting results
She continued: “Personally, I try to leave creative direction open to the influencers. They are content creators and that’s what they do and they know what is going to resonate with their audience the best. So unless we have an extremely specific aesthetic from the brand, I try to leave that piece of it open.”
Danny then asked the other side of his original question: What happens when you realize you lack total control over the production of influencer content? The implication being, that giving an influencer, who is a person before anything else, room to create means you don’t necessarily know what outcome will be.
Christie admitted, “I can’t say that I’ve worked with a lot of influencers in my career that I’ve had genuine problems getting the content from them... For me most of the time it’s situations where I just laugh it off.”
She followed up, saying, “Something that I do notice, it happens a lot less when they have a manager. The manager has the accountability aspect, a lot more on lock. But... I work with a lot of influencers who manage themselves and they are just on it.”
Danny shifted gears, inquiring about influencers and their relationships with consumers. He shared a quote by Obele Brown-West, Executive Vice President at Weber Shandwick, which discussed the unique opportunity that social media gives marketers to have authentic, one-to-one conversations with their consumers. On this notion, Danny asked, how are brands using social media and technology to have these conversations with their consumers, especially direct-to-consumer brands?
Andy answered frankly: “Oftentimes with the direct-to-consumer [model] being such a popular way of leveraging social, people think that all it takes is one good paid social ad and I’m going to have people going to this movie at 7:30. I am going to have people buying my outfits online.”
To Andy, however, the reality of social advertising is different. “You have to justify why you’re in people’s social feed and then the people who really understand that and do the hard work it takes to think about what their consumer wants… they’re the ones who benefit from this direct-to-consumer strategy because they’ve thought about all the steps it takes to get that consumer to convert.”
Influencer posts and market intelligence
This led to a conversation about consumer targeting and retargeting, which both Danny and Andy regarded as a strategy many marketers struggle to execute properly. When Danny mentioned that influencers earn their right to be on a consumer's feed, while a paid social ad might not, Andy agreed, saying, “It’s like knowing the doorman at a club you want to get into… If you want to get into the club and the doorman says in order to get in you have to know X, Y, and Z and you don’t do X, Y, and Z, you can’t be surprised if you don’t get into the club.”
Christie took the conversation in a different direction, intimating that she uses sponsored posts for market research: “Something I really enjoy doing is going back to your sponsored posts and really looking through the comments... seeing what people are saying about your products, how they are responding to them.” She suggested that community managers can even use this information to connect with people who didn’t like an ad or a product.
Using influencers for more than just amplification
Piggybacking off this insight, Danny asked what Andy and Christie thought about developing long-term relationships with influencers so they can be seen as more than just amplification and targeting tools.
Christie answered, “[When] kicking off with an influencer for your brand, you never know if it will become a long-term partnership. I don’t know if I would ever plan for a long-term partnership without testing in my opinion. I am all about taking risks but I think that you can take them in doses... Starting those partnerships in the beginning, it is so nice to see what can come out of them and then creating the long-term partnerships with the audiences and the influencers who really do resonate with your brand.”
Keeping with the theme of deepening relationships, Danny followed up with a question about staying in touch with influencers even when they’re not actively working for your brand. Christie replied, “I ask every influencer that I sit down with, get coffee with, if we’re catching up via email... I love to ask what have they been working on lately, what is their focus right now, what are they looking to focus their content on in the next three, six, nine months to a year.”
Catching up, Christie suggests, is key to making long-term partnerships successful. And, according to her, it’s a two-way street: “I have a lot of influencers who slide into my DMs and my inbox being like, ‘Hey, you know I am going to the Bahamas and I know you work with this brand, I’d love to get some clothes into a look book.’”
She concluded the thought, adding, “I think that the more and more you build relationships with the influencer, you build it with their agent, I’ve seen so much amazing organic content come out of relationships with influencers.”
Wrapping it all up
After a brief conversation on picking the right influencer from a batch or roster, Danny wrapped up the conversation by asking Andy and Christie about their professional “New Year’s Resolutions” to help improve their relationships with their clients. Christie remarked that she’d like to send more personal gifts and letters, while Andy said he’ll continue to engage in active listening with both his influencers and his clients so he can continue to deliver great work.
All in all, Christie and Andy offered some unparalleled insights into their unique roles in the world of influencer marketing. Behind every influencer post, vlog, or experience, is a team of people like Christie and Andy who work tirelessly to deliver high-quality content that captures an influencer’s creative energy while meeting a brand’s needs. Ultimately, the lynchpin in a successful influencer marketing campaign is the positive respectful relationship between brand, influencer, and consumer.
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