5 Digital Strategy Tips for Influencers [Video Podcast]

We recently asked Shawn Herring, Co-Founder and CMO of Torchlite, a successful digital marketing firm based in Indianapolis, about his best digital strategy advice on influencer marketing. In this video, he shares the importance of making senior leadership in your company into influencers—and why giving away your secrets is one of the best ways to get customers coming back for more. 

Shawn Herring’s top five digital strategy tips for influencer marketing:

1. The best digital marketing campaigns put key people out front

There is a lot of great technology out there designed to help marketing specialists do their job better and more efficiently, but we’ve found that too few people know how to use it properly. Worse, companies are trying to use that software to replace actual people. The reality is that your people are still your most important asset in marketing. Think about it: Would you invest in a product or solution from a company whose CEO has a blank space on their LinkedIn Profile where their picture is supposed to be? Company leaders should be front and center representing the brand and becoming influencers who inspire confidence in your company. For us, we started by focusing on a couple of the co-founders to become industry influencers—myself and the CEO. We wanted to start at the top, making just two people very visible but for different reasons. Our CEO, Susan Marshall, is very strong in tech, has a great background with very big companies and big brands, and she can bring a lot of expertise to marketing in general. We’ve tried to position her to have a voice in the market about what companies should be doing regardless of the size. By contrast we’ve positioned me more as an expert on how exactly you use digital marketing to be effective—so we’re trying to cover both depth and breadth. But the key is to position your leaders at the front, so people will say, hey, I’ve seen Susan, or I’ve seen Shawn. Tell me more about your company.

2. Be selective in who you tap as an influencer in your company

I don’t want to make someone else an influencer who might leave my company—because then essentially I’m building up their brand. If you’re the head of the company, you can build your brand in a way that’s symbiotic with your company. The problem with building up anyone else’s brand is they can take that with them and leave—and they take the audience you’ve given them as well. So we advise companies to be selective. Not everybody should be an influencer.

3. Build your profile by communicating online with industry leaders

The first digital strategy I would recommend to someone starting out or trying to get to the next level is to Google the specialty you want to be known for. For us, it would be digital marketing, so I would see who’s ranking high for digital marketing, not only on Google but also Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Once you’ve found the biggest influencers for what you want to be known for, you can start talking to them. You don’t have to say, “Buy my product” or “We’re a competitor” or “We could be a partner.” All you have to do is start a conversation and say that you admire what they’re doing. One benefit is you’ll probably find information you could learn from. But more importantly, by simply congratulating them on doing such a great job, they will reciprocate. And if they say “Hey, thanks Torchlite—I really appreciate that,” you’ve tapped into their entire audience. Now the person who’s best known for digital marketing is communicating with you, and the millions of people who follow them on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn are seeing the acknowledgement and the conversation back and forth.

4. Don’t be afraid to give away free advice

The companies that are very confident in what they do are willing to tell you, “Here are the 10 things we did this week to achieve x, y, z.” Their confidence in sharing that instills confidence in their audience. And when customers want a solution for achieving those goals for themselves, where’s the first place they’re going to look? The place where they first heard it, so that can get even more tips. And that customer is going to become a much more qualified lead because he keeps coming back to the site. Here’s an example of this digital strategy. Say a famous chef gives away their favorite recipe. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a recipe in front of me, and what came out was burned or undercooked, or didn’t taste right, even though I thought I followed the recipe to a T. So what do I do? I end up going to the restaurant to find out, what does this really taste like? Oh, I was really off. So having the recipe will not guarantee you’re going to be Wolfgang Puck. It just shows you that Wolfgang Puck really knows what he’s doing. So I’d rather go to the people who have the best recipes and will also prepare them for me. That’s what our society is starting to get to—“Show me that you know what you’re doing, and then I’ll trust you to do it for me.”

5. Authenticity builds trust

The more real you are, the more likely you are to become the kind of person others want to follow and see. There are always going to be mistakes. Influencers who are willing to show a little bit of what happens behind the scenes, even when there are mistakes, always benefit. People expect that everyone has a flaw of some sort, so if everything seems to be perfect, then they wonder what you’re hiding. I’ve often found more times than not, if I tell people that we make mistakes, we will be a much better partner to that customer than if I say “No, you’re never going to have to worry about anything.” So a favorite digital strategy of mine is to show behind the scenes, especially if something goes wrong. Some of our best clients are people where we admitted we had a problem—even before they knew about it—and told them what we’re going to do to fix it. They’re our biggest advocates now. So being open and showing your mistakes is actually a sign of confidence, and that creates trust.