Wednesday, April 13

Targeting Influencers: Dear PR Pro, There Is No Spoon

no spoon, naddaOne of the hardest lessons for many public relations professionals to grasp comes right out of the Matrix. There is no spoon. There is no campaign.

"It is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself." — Potential

It took reading Kary Delaria's PR’s Biggest Mistake When Working With Influencers to fully appreciate it. She rightly suggests too many public relations practitioners approach influencer outreach like media relations instead of community relations.

She's moving in the right direction. And yet, I cannot apply it to anything I've ever worked on in social media, even if they are clearly better than what most public relations professionals want to do in social media. Let's step back.

Specifically, some public relations professionals want people, especially influencers, to push their content to a mass of people who will hopefully visit the destination and perform an action — like a page, subscribe to a reader, purchase a product, or whatever. Most public relations professionals think that by reaching out to influencers, they can increase the mass.

But social media doesn't really work that way, which is the gist of what Delaria was trying to point out. However, overlaying a community relations approach might be scoffed at too, even if it is only because the public relations practitioner abuses it.

"It is not the influencer that bends, it is only yourself."

1. Define goal, content and context. Not exactly. A worthwhile social media approach does consider goals, content, and context as Delaria suggests. But the goals, content, and context should never be bent to the influencers.

It needs to stay true to the community or audience you want to reach. If you can prove yourself worthwhile to a community or attract your own, influencers will be attracted to what you are doing anyway. In fact, they are just as interested in your community as you are (if you have one) — because if they ignore things within their sphere, they won't be influencers for long.

2. Test the theory and the outcome. According to Delaria, panelist David Binkowski suggested that if you had a running influencer campaign, you might run a test on the pool of influencers and then thin the list. But I might suggest that if you are running an influencer test, you're already losing mutual leverage.

As soon as you start testing them, then you've already put yourself outside the sphere where the so-called influencers are and outside any community filled with the people you want to reach. That doesn't make sense at all. You might as well brand "agenda" on your forehead.

3. Manage the community? I'm all for online community managers managing a community from a functional perspective. Someone has to run the advertisements, remove the spam, and provide very loose guidelines for the community to follow (very loose).

But I've grown very weary of community managers who try to manage the people who visit. For very much the same reason above, anytime you take planned actions to "influence" people within a sphere, you've cast yourself as someone outside it.

"It is not people who bend, it is only yourself."

Think of it this way instead. Hopefully if you are representing a company online, you have more than a passing interest or paycheck in the balance. It's probably best for you to like, even better if you love, whatever you are representing online.

If you are passionate about the subject, you already have a common interest with the people you might connect with online, whether or not they are influencers. Thus, they are not people to "target" as much as they are people you get to know.

As for campaigns in general, don't think of them in the traditional sense. They are simply part of whatever you bring to the table. If you have the insider information, unique perspective on a topic, clever idea for entertainment, or some other worthwhile contribution, you are just as much of an influencer as anybody.

The only difference between you and them is that they've probably been at it longer, got lucky one day, or never bothered to implement tactics that position you outside the community that interests you. In other words, there is no spoon.
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