Bill Banham: The rise of social media created a new kind of authority - influencers. Social media influencers are everywhere, and they are talking about your brand. If your sales strategy includes engagement with social media influencers, you're more likely to reach larger audiences and drive brand awareness and, ultimately, sales.
In this episode of the CPSA's Social Media & Tech podcast, host Bill Banham and guest Rob Catalano will consider how you define influencers, what you can do to find influencers, ways to engage them that can drive value for your business and even how salespeople can become seen as influencers.
Rob Catalano is a Marketing professional, entrepreneur, speaker, blogger and 'social media influencer'. Rob is passionate about helping companies succeed by leveraging technology to make employees successful. As a founding employee, Rob spent the past 10-years at Achievers, leading Marketing and the company’s global expansion in three different countries until its acquisition last year. With his unique experience in HR Technology, Rob co-founded Toronto-based WorkTango – a platform that helps managers build authentic relationships and trust with their employees and teams.
Bill Banham: Rob Catalono, thanks so much for joining us today on the Social Media and Tech podcast.
Rob Catalano: Thanks so much for having me today.
Bill Banham: I'm very excited to be chatting to you, because you are an influencer in different spaces. You're in HR technology and within marketing. You're a speaker. You create loads of awesome content. You and I have known each other for a little while now, and I think our listeners are going to love some of your insights. Let's jump straight in with the first question. In your opinion, what is a social media influencer?
Rob Catalano: I think this term gets thrown out a lot in terms of I think influencer is the new buzz word for 2016. The way I look at social media influencers are it's basically someone that has social clout. Someone that has a level of credibility out there, the ability to sway and influence other people. Really, things, as a brand, that you want to tie your brand or product and service to. When you think about the actual individual, that person, I think it's someone whose opinion is actually well respected in whatever domain or expertise that they have influence in. It's not just a social media influencer across the board, it's usually something that again they have domain expertise or a passion or something that they've been involved in in the past and some level of experience.
Also, I think there's a bit of a persona to a social media influencer. I think they have a unique view and are a bit polarizing as well. I think that's why they have such a following, because they're are pretty direct in their belief and obviously not scared to share it in public forums.
Bill Banham: In the context of developing a social selling strategy, Rob, why do you influencers matter?
Rob Catalano: I think it matters more than every before, and I think it's continuing to become more important. I think there's two major reasons that come from some pretty interesting research. It matters because right now 74% of consumers rely on social media to inform their purchasing decisions. When they access or interact certain information, it's making a big influence on what they buy versus not buy. Not having a social selling strategy kind of removes yourself from having a leg up on your competition.
The second part of that, a second interesting bit of research around this whole idea about why it matters, is only 33% of consumers actually trust ads. The actual act of putting your ad out there and pounding your chest and saying you're great isn't working like it used to. Having other people support that opinion will obviously influence those type of opinions are important. Think about it. Influencers are often trusted more than brands themselves. You're going to buy that product or act on that service based on a referral versus an ad that says that that organization's product or service is great.
Bill Banham: Word of mouth, the opinion of respected influencers out there, is key. What tactics would you suggest to help sales professionals go out there and identify and follow influencers and connect with them?
Rob Catalano: Actually, the one other point I'll make on why influencers matter, just as we're talking about it, is that if you think about the whole art of marketing and sales, you don't really do business with people unless they like you, know you, and trust you. An influencer helps you get known, helps you get liked, helps you get trusted, and associates your brand or your product with someone that your customer likes and trusts. People follow those influences because they like what they say and they listen to them, so if you're in that same breath as an influence you can really leverage their voice. It's becoming more and more important to tie into those individuals or those influencers similar to how an employee ties to an organization when they're looking for a purpose or something that's bigger than just the company or just the job. I do think it's becoming more and more important especially as new generations come in.
In terms of your other question about what tactics should sales pros identify and follow influencers, a couple of simple things. When you're in a sales meeting and you're having that initial conversation, just ask them. It's simple. We used to do this all the time at a couple last sales teams that I had was, "Who are the top three influencers that you follow?" A simple request and question like that, you could start building a list and identifying and knowing who those people are. You'll be surprised, you're going to hear a lot of names that you've never heard of, but it also gives you that leg up.
The second thing is ask your marketing team. They know who the influencers are. They're trying to get on their map. If you're a sales person, just ask the team. There's a list there that they're really trying to target. Another part is follow all of them. If you read their writings, you understand what their message is, first off you'll know who the players are, but you'll know what their unique thoughts are. If your sales pitch or your unique differentiator ties into what those influencers are saying, then obviously there's an opportunity for you to reach out to them.
I think the other thing too is the tactics that I would suggest is just make sure that someone from an influencer standpoint has relevancy. What I mean on that is let's say you're in HR technology, something I've done for a long time. What channels really matter and what channel does our buyer interact with? What I mean by that is if our professionals are more on LinkedIn than they were on YouTube or on Instagram, so when you're thinking about who you follow and what authors and hashtags, just go to the right channels. Channels that are relevant to your buyer as opposed to ones that may not be as much.
The other one too is: Do they have a large social voice? I think a lot of sales people will start looking at "Who are great influencers in the space?". They may be great speakers but they may have not tapped into that social media world yet, so their reach may not be large or may be in a different way than the public social media forum. That's just a number of things I think sales people could do to help their cause in terms of defining the relevancy, defining the reach, and then doing some small things from a tactical standpoint to get them more involved and understanding who those people and those influencers are.
Bill Banham: Is it possible, too, that influencers are not necessarily who you think they are? You mentioned reach there, but what about frequency? Perhaps somebody who's got a smaller following, but they're super active around a particular topic related to your product? Is there a more of a micro-segmentation strategy going after certain types of influencers?
Rob Catalano: Yeah. I think that's a really good point just on the relevancy item I was mentioning. That if they are very niche in something that's specific, that could be a cool sales opportunity or messaging opportunity if that niche aligns with whatever differentiator or a messaging in your sales pitch aligns to. I do think that it's not always about reach, but the relevancy. Actually I mentioned that first, because I think it's actually more important to have something that's going to resonate with the people that you're going after. It's one of those things where you could say, "We want to follow Kim Kardashian because she has 8 million people following her and we could, you know, get in front of that many people." Well, that's not very relevant in terms of the people that follow that. It's not just about reach.
Bill Banham: Thank you. As a speaker, author, and influencer yourself, how do you think people should go about approaching influencers on social media? What are the right things to do if I want to reach out to you for the first time and start building a relationship with you? Do I do that through Twitter? Do I do it through LinkedIn? Does it depend? What's the best type of message that I can share with you to get that relationship going?
Rob Catalano: I guess it depends on the type of relationship. If it's simply just connecting and interested in, connecting with them on LinkedIn for example or being their friend, obviously following's a little easier. Use the channel that they're used to. That's really more of a basic connection standpoint. If you're reaching out to do something bigger, to get them more involved potentially in being an advocate for your brand, first thing, no matter what channel you do, just [inaudible 00:09:07] in pitch mode. You're going to have to perfect a pitch of where you see value in possibly working with them. Where they will see value [inaudible 00:09:14] with you as well. Remember that these influencers have thousands, hundreds of thousands of people that are online attached to them, so they're barraged with messaging all the time. I think the message and the pitch mode and just understanding the value is going to be important.
These are just regular people, right? Whether it's you can connect through them through someone that you know in terms of a referral, you can get their personal information like an e-mail address and send it directly to them getting out of that social media space because that can get pretty cluttered. I would just reach out. The worst case scenario, and there's a lot of people and sales professionals that say, "No. Why would I reach out? They're a lot bigger than our brand. Why would they even care?" Think about it like a sales call. If they didn't know you yet, and even if they ignored your message, now they know your brand. They know who you are. Hopefully after a couple times of seeing either yourself pitching them or the organization grow, they'll continue to know your band. If they're generally interested, they'll look into it.
I guess the quick thoughts are just do it, understand what value you're providing them or they can provide you and just be clear about it because they're pretty cluttered, and they're real people. Reach out to them on e-mail if you can, if you can get those details, or in the social channel that's more relevant to them.
Bill Banham: You mentioned a moment ago the concept of a brand advocate. That leads on quite nicely to the next question which is, where does the sales opportunity fit in a relationship with an influencer? There's a whole process of building up that relationship of course and connecting with them for all of the right reasons, but our listeners, our sales professionals out there, will be thinking, "How can then I leverage my relationship with that influencer to help them to help me push my product? To get my product out there? Maybe even in some sort of referral or re-seller relationship?"
Rob Catalano: I think that it can happen a couple of ways. I think if you really define what your goal is in terms of interacting with an influencer, that'll define how you work with that individual. There's different goals. One of them might be sales. How do you get that person to get your brand out there and sell something? Traditionally, especially for more consumer type brands, you can have that opportunity. If you think of something like a B to B marketer, where you're selling B to B software for example, that's a little more challenging. It takes a bit of a sales process, and there's a lot more involved in making that happen. If your goal is sales, influencers, they do it. They need to make a living as well, and they're open to having those conversations about how they can, whether it's from a referral standpoint or you're paying for their share of voice.
Sometimes it's paying for share of voice versus paying for them to be an actual advocate. I think a lot of influencers are very careful around those [inaudible 00:12:24]. An advocate or a sales person all the time, because they'll lose their following. You can approach them in terms of figuring out how it can impact you from a sales standpoint.
What I mentioned earlier is your goal might be sales, but there's other goals that you should think about that lead to sales. Is it brand awareness? Can they do brand mentions and have positive impact on your brand so there's a positive sentiment to your brand? Is it engagement? Do you just want people to engage with your brand or your content or your product? Whether that's social shares or blog comments, is that one of the goals that again leads people to eventually get down the funnel in terms of signing a deal and being a customer? Or is it lead generation? Is your goal just to get people that are influencers out there to download your content or they can actually offer content or insight on a blog of yours or a webinar or something that they're actually helping you generate leads?
I would just look at is as answer the question of what does sale opportunity actually mean? Does it mean a signed contract, or does it mean all the steps that require to happen before a signed contract, like brand awareness and engagement and lead generation? I think understanding that and approaching them in how they can help you hit which goal is the right way to do. I've seen it work in so many different ways by leveraging people's relationships, leveraging their reach, paying influencers, and defining those goals.
The only word of caution is that make sure that, when you're going to get married so to speak to an influencer, make sure they genuinely care about your brand or your message or what you're offering. I think that'll be important for their people that they influence to see come through. People know when someone's not really genuine about something they love or something that they're promoting.
Bill Banham: We're coming towards the end of this particular episode. Before we wrap up, just one last question. So far we've been focusing on ideas and strategies around connecting with influencers, but for our listeners out there who are thinking, "I'm super passionate about what I do. I create loads of great content already. I'm trying to get my name out there," how can a sales person become a social media influencer? How can this then help their personal brand and efforts to grow their sales?
Rob Catalano: I think this is super important. The first thing that comes to mind and other tactics we've used in the past is one is change your title. If you are "Sales Executive" or something around that approach, it's hard to be a respected influencer in a space that you're selling into. If, for example, many years selling software at Achievers, having someone as a "Sales Executive" versus an "Employee Engagement Expert" is very different when you think about the titles in your organization. The second thing is it's exactly that. It's be an influencer and don't sell. Too often I see sales people promoting the new product and the latest release and the things that they're trying to push onto people. Don't be a sales person if you want to be ab influencer. Be an educator.
If you think about most buyers do their research online or influence before they actually make a purchasing decision, so help educate people on "What problem are you solving?" Is there other content that's being shared out there that doesn't have to be your company's content that helps build a relationship and educate those people. As I mentioned earlier, people do business with people that they know, like, and trust. They'll know you if your names out there, but they're going to like you and trust you if you're offering them value. Usually that comes in a sense of education.
I think those are the two major things that people do. The other main point on that is it doesn't happen over night. It's not something that you'll do for three, four weeks and suddenly become an influencer. It's something that's consistent. Set aside ten, fifteen minutes a day to really do those type of things, and you'll start seeing things happen. Another bit of a tactic on helping sales people do that is talk to your marketing organization. There's tools out there for marketing to have all of their content that's valuable, whether it's theirs or whether it's other influencers out there, to set up a technology where you can just push out as an individual sales person so it's coming from you. See if you can get tools to make those fifteen minutes that you put aside each day super productive as well.
Bill Banham: Rob Catalano, thank you so much for being our guest today.
Rob Catalano: Thanks so much for having me. I look forward to hearing it and the next one.
Bill Banham: Until next time, this has been the Social Media and Tech podcast brought to you by the CPSA. I'm your host Bill Banham with Rob Catalano, and we'll chat to you soon.
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