The following is an edited excerpt from #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness by Gary Vaynerchuk. The excerpt was provided by HarperBusiness Publishing. You can buy a copy here.
Q: Where do you see the biggest untapped opportunities in the social media influence space? Where is the next big thing coming from?
A: Influencers have more power than ever because now they’re in a position not only to create content, but also to create meaningful distribution. The two biggest opportunities are product and retail. I could have sold stemware and glassware thanks to my influence in the wine industry. Think infomercials. Don’t laugh. Have you any idea how much money QVC makes in five minutes when they’ve got the right person selling the right product? It’s a $3 billion company. Make yourself the QVC 2.0, and you’ll have something tremendous.
Q: What is the role of influencers in my overall media strategy, and how do I evaluate them relative to other marketing channels?
A: The only thing that makes influencer marketing different from any other marketing channel is that you’re paying for both content and distribution on the same line item. That’s it. Otherwise, you quantify it the same way you quantify any other medium. When you buy banner ads, you quantify it against impressions or clicks. Why wouldn’t you do it the same way with an influencer spend? Speaking of impressions, a lot of digitally registered “impressions” that you pay for with display advertising don’t even correlate with an ad actually being seen.
With an influencer, you know that consumption is going to be substantially higher because his or her audience is truly engaged, not quickly scrolling through in order to get to the real content. That’s the attention that I care so much about. So for me, it’s easy to measure one platform against another because I’m almost always pointing to a page or a transaction that can be tracked. If you’re not fortunate enough to be in that position, and instead are going for broad awareness, you still need to be able to track by impressions. In my opinion (and if you’re reading this book, hopefully you care about my opinion a little bit), an impression generated by an influencer is far more valuable than an impression generated by a generic “digital media spend” that puts some image in the right-hand rail of a website.
Q: How do I evaluate the cost of an influencer on a case-by-case basis?
A: How do you judge an influencer? By a ton of things. Who is following them? If you’re going after some fifteen-year-old kid with a fan base of screaming girls, but you sell Pampers to middle-aged moms, you’re going to miss the mark. So you need to know who they’re reaching. Once you know that, you need to look past that top-line number of followers and look at the actual engagement happening on each individual post. First off, on a quantitative level, you’re looking for what that engagement is as a percentage of their overall followers. Then you need to look at each of those interactions from a qualitative standpoint to see if those interactions are superficial or if they’re actually interested and engaged. I may not have the biggest following on Instagram, but I know that my posts could do a hell of a lot more for Office Max or Staples than another user with 40 times my following because my people aren’t just following me because I’m hot (although to be fair, since I’ve started working out, I’ve gotten significantly more attractive); they’re in it for a much deeper reason.
Q: When you contract with an influencer, do you instruct them to continue to make the kind of content your brand is already making, or should you let them speak with their own voice and on their own terms?
A: This is the biggest debate that I see going on between brands, entrepreneurs, and influencers. I am a humongous believer in letting the DJ do her own thing. If you write a song, and one of the biggest DJs in the world wants to sample it in her set, get the hell out of the way and let her do it. That DJ is famous for a reason. She knows what she’s doing. No brand is going to know an influencer’s audience the way the influencer does. And to be honest, influencers have to bring that context to their audience for the sake of their own brand, not only so that they can continue to monetize, but for the sake of making your content. It is in your best interest for them to put your product in their own context. Now, you may not like that. There’s typically a huge disconnect between the talent and the decision maker on the brand side. At the end of the day, it’s your business, and you always have the option to say no. In fact, I think you should absolutely have approval. Obviously I’d never recommend anybody pay money for a product they don’t get to see in advance. But that approval really only exists for the fringe 1 percent of craziness, not for you to add your creative two cents.
Q: What is the tactical and strategic pathway to become an influencer? I am all in when it comes to all forms of marketing. How do I connect with influencers, leverage their brand equity, or grow my own?
A: Asking “how do I become an influencer?” is really no different from asking “how do I become a star?” The really funny first answer is that you have to have talent. The next funny answer is that you have to put in a ton of work. These are both very clichéd, basic answers, but they happen to be massive truths. I will say that the one new truth is speed of adoption within a new environment. If you pay close attention to the people who popped on Vine, or the people who popped in the early days of Snapchat or Instagram, they all happened to be the Christopher Columbus of their platforms. They were early. So as those platforms took off, they developed disproportionate amounts of followers as new users joined and found them. These days it’s going to be way harder to be the next The Fat Jew or Fuck Jerry (even though many have tried) because they succeeded in the landgrabs of the early days of their platform. So if you want to be a video influencer, you can go and attack YouTube, Instagram, or Snapchat, even though they’re established markets, or you can use those platforms to hone your talents. Become an expert, and then when the next big thing in video comes out, use your new skills to jump on it and become a first mover. So the biggest move here is to be a first mover on a platform I don’t even know about yet… And then have tons of talent… And then do a lot of hard work.