Have we reached peak influencer? People are now quitting their jobs to become full-time Instagram influencers, and self-made YouTube stars are the new Hollywood A-list.

All entertainment aside, these influencers present an incredible business opportunity for brands to connect with their audiences through trusted community leaders. So wouldn't it be nice to hear from people on both sides — both the influencer and the marketer — on how to make this relationship more profitable?

In this week's episode of the Marketing Cloudcast, the award-winning marketing podcast from Salesforce, we talk to both a real-life influencer and a marketing expert to help you decide if you want to tackle this tactic in 2017.

Take a listen here. For the full conversation that's filled with many more insights, subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play MusicStitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Here's who we're talking to:

  • Jackie Sobon: food blogger, photographer, cookbook author, and social media influencer
  • Lee Odden: CEO of TopRank Marketing and expert in influencer marketing strategy

Now a few takeaways about the state of influencer marketing, from both Jackie and Lee's perspectives.


From the influencer: Capturing the perfect Instagram photo is more work than you think.


According to Jackie, a lot of brands don't realize how much effort goes into that seemingly effortless Instagram capture.

Between creating an original recipe for her blog, taking photos, testing the recipe, editing the photos, writing the post, and queueing up all the social media and email promotions, this is many hours of detail-oriented labor — and if a company is only offering an inexpensive, free product in return, it's not worth Jackie's time.

As a marketer, remember that influencers earned that status through being a professional photographer, writer, performer, or other expert. So expect to pay accordingly — not only in free product. Jackie says a more respectful relationship results in a much better finished product.


From the influencer: The smart brands research, then engage.


Jackie says the easiest businesses to work with are those that understand her blog, audience, and approach to content before ever reaching out. Even though her recipes and photos are all plant-based, she still gets requests from companies to review meat-based items — which is not only off-brand for Jackie but also off-brand for her thousands of followers. Jackie says it's always best if brands familiarize themselves with her style first and foremost.

She explains, “One company that I'm working with right now is Powell & Mahoney. They do drink mixers. I saw first that they were liking some of my stuff on social media, before they even emailed me. Then I got an email from them, saying: 'Hey, we saw some of your stuff on Instagram. ... And we would love to work with you on some drink recipes. Can you let us know if you have a media kit or if you're interested at all?'"


Jackie says this approach set the stage for a mutually beneficial relationship. Not, "We're trying to sell you two bottles of margarita mix for an entire recipe development and blog."


From the marketer: To get an influencer's attention, surprise and delight them.


Lee shared an amusing story about how he got the attention of Ann Handley, Cloudcast favorite and an influencer working with TopRank Marketing, when she was busy: “I was trying to get her to reply, she's a very busy person. I knew that she likes King Charles Cocker Spaniels, and it was also winter. So I just went to Google images and searched for King Charles Cocker Spaniel, and I saw this image of these mittens. ... [I said] 'Hey, if you respond by 4:00 p.m. today, these might be in the cards for you.' And she said, 'I'll take them.'"

So Lee ended up snagging this unique pair of mittens for Ann — and getting her attention (and a reply!) in the process. According to Lee, it's important to create a positive experience for an influencer that goes beyond the transaction. "If you have no relationship, if it's purely transactional, you're just gonna get what is in the contract and probably no more. But if you are successful at listening and empathizing, and creating successive, really positive experiences, you're gonna be able to evolve the relationship... And everybody wins so much more when you do that.”


From the marketer: influencers can help multiple departments in marketing.


Lee says, "I think [this tactic] is relevant for marketing, it's relevant for public relations, it's even relevant for customer service — and it's relevant for talent acquisition. Because, with any kind of public-facing content, there's individuals that are influential about those topics. Why not co-create with them? Why not win mutually with them? Help them in a way that helps the brand and your community at the same time.”


From the marketer: Avoid the bait and switch.


As a marketer, one thing to avoid with influencers is the bait and switch. Lee recommends always setting expectations up front with influencers so there are no unpleasant surprises. He says, "Lots of situations have fallen into what feels like, to the influencer, the bait and switch. So, 'Hey, come work with us. We have a conference, and we'd really like to invite you to be a moderator on a panel. And it'll be pretty straightforward for you, we'll connect you with the people, and you'll moderate the panel, and so on and so forth.' And then a week before, they're like, 'Look, it would really be great if you could moderate the day.'"

Always communicate with your influencers exactly what you'd like in return. And like any business transaction, get the agreement in writing.

From more influencer best practices to actually measuring influencer KPIs, there's much more to learn from Jackie and Lee in the full episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.


PS: This podcast has a new format.


Four weeks ago, we shifted the Marketing Cloudcast to an entirely new format and style (think narrative with multiple guests — more Freakonomics, less live interview), and I'd love to know what you think!

Join the thousands of smart marketers who are Cloducast subscribers on Apple PodcastsOvercastGoogle Play Music, and Stitcher.

Tweet @youngheike with feedback on this episode — or ideas for future guests and topics.