Within the title of this post is one of my favorite quotes. Or a paraphrase of one. I thought it was by Vince Lombardi, as that’s what was on the poster that hung in the office I worked in where I saw it for the first time. But as I sat down to write I figured I should probably look it up before I suffered the hate of internet trolls. But instead, I found lots of versions of the same idea quoted from Rockefeller to the Dali Lama. So let’s not worry about where it came from for the sake of the post and instead focus on the sentiment.
About nine months ago, I started a company that focuses on connecting social media influencers with brands. I love telling people what my company does, because when you say “Influencer Marketing” one of two things happens. The person takes a deep breath and politely rolls their eyes in their head or they groan audibly and tell you what a bunch of spoiled brats influencers are. You might think I’m complaining about the reaction. But I’m not. I couldn’t be more excited about it. Because changing that feeling and thought process is exactly why I started this business.
You see, I’m numb to people thinking an entire industry of professionals thinks and acts sleazy. I’ve been in some form of sales my entire career and frankly a lot of parts of my childhood. And you get a similar reaction from people when you tell them you are in sales. They get quiet and nod a lot, or they say something snarky about how they would hate to have to push people into buying stuff. And just like now, I love that reaction. Because it was honest, direct and gave me a chance to explain the difference between a professional sales person (like myself) and a con-man who pretends to be a sales-person at every job they get, that is just long enough, to give us all a bad name.
I can’t blame the average person for not being able to tell the difference between someone who is a professional influencer or salesperson vs someone who joins those industries because of the low barrier of entry. It's hard to distinguish by just looking at them. Neither industry requires specific training or licensing. Neither requires a degree of any sort. As matter of fact, there are no requirements to become an influencer or a salesperson. Anyone can do it. However, to become a professional at either role takes effort, time, training, and everything else a con-man won’t bother with completing.
About ten years ago the mortgage industry underwent a major overhaul when requirements around licensing went into effect. Within the first twelve months, half of the folks who had been selling loans left the industry. And while it was tough in the beginning, as change always is, the mortgage industry has been better for it. The riff-raff left because the effort and requirements to pass the licensing were too much for them. They moved on to some other scam that let them phone it in, take advantage of people and are probably giving some other industry a bad name now.
I think that is where we are now with Influencer Marketing and it excites me. Because I talk to an insane amount of influencers. And I can tell you, just like in salespeople, there is a big difference between a professional influencer and someone who is here to make as much money as they can “before the jig is up.”
Professional influencers care about authenticity. They care about what’s best for their audience and they care about the results they will bring the clients they represent.
Many people take issue with influencers being paid if it's truly “Authentic.” That’s just silly. It can often take ten hours to edit one minute of video. I recently had a CEO of a mission-based organization tell me he didn’t necessarily want to pay the influencers he was looking for. He thought since they too would be passionate about the mission they would likely write blogs, do Youtube videos and podcast commercials for free. I asked him if he was passionate about the mission of his organization. Of course, he said, “Yes.” I then asked him if he was working for free. I didn’t get a response but I did get an agreement to pay the influencers.
I strongly believe what is needed in the Influencer Marketing industry is transparency. It’s not a sticky business, its an opaque business. And frankly, it’s been good to everyone so far. Some brands report making 6.50 ROI for every dollar they spend. And influencers are clearly cashing in. But if we want to get to the next level, the level where influence marketing becomes a predictable and reliable channel that businesses can count on, we need to drive transparency. Let’s clean house of those con-men who give our industry a bad name by buying followers, comments or even prebuilt accounts. Let’s start talking more about authenticity, organic growth, and results and less about impressions. Let’s be willing to give up the good to get to the great.
*This post originally appeared on Medium on the Kyndoo blog.