How firms are building influencer marketing skills internally

How firms are building influencer marketing skills internally

Increasingly firms are building influencer management skills internally with a view to creating a strategic competence. The first step is a knowledge audit.

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The relationship between brand and agency is evolving in terms of their treatment of influencer marketing. Increasingly firms are bringing influencer management expertise in-house building a strategic competence from the discipline within their organisation.

There are three main reasons for this:

  1. help themselves optimize investments
  2. improve efficiencies and
  3. comply with regulations and contracts

These inhouse teams create corporate memory around influencer marketing and, in doing so the enterprise benefits from:

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    Avoiding costly mistakes
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     Sharing best practices
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    Solving problems faster
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    Generating better customer solutions
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    Gaining new business

Towards an influencer marketing framework

A structured approach towards influencer marketing leads to consistent practice. This in turn leads to rapid familiarity with the system allowing for repetition of activities & achieving consistent results at scale.

Firms build influencer competencies by developing and delivering tools & methodologies that are:

  1. Research-based
  2. Relevant
  3. Really easy to use

But where to start? The first step is to stick an elbow into the bathwater of the firm’s memory and take its temperature.

You need to start with an audit to understand better what you know, who knows what and where it’s stored. For example is influence knowledge located centrally within a team or by geography? Is the knowledge dispersed throughout the firm in and in stored only in the heads of team members from different departments, be it PR or marketing, or legal etc.?

Auditing influencer marketing internal knowledge

A knowledge audit will help in three areas:

  1. Practice - How influencer marketing is currently being performed across an organisation’s brands and territories. Capture best practice and learning points from after campaign reviews and share ‘takeaways’ within the enterprise
  2. Tools - Determine what third-party vendor tools are being used for social listening and influencer identification. Ascertain the criteria on which tools are measured
  3. Workflow - Map workflow and determine how technology can be used to improve the workflow from influencer identification to management to evaluation

Just as business-growth partnerships between brand and influencer are dynamic, so too is any influencer marketing framework. The framework can’t afford to be preserved in aspect. Rather it must continuously be reviewed and evaluated, refined and enhanced.

How do you know what you know?

How can an enterprise co-ordinate its activities or learn from the experiences of its employees if it has no idea of what it already knows? What’s the model of understanding the process to recognise what influencer marketing knowledge resides within the organisation?

Do you remember Donald Rumsfeld? Specifically do you remember his known-known speech?

The now (in)famous "There are known knowns" phrase came from a response United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave to a question at a U.S. Department of Defense news briefing on February 12, 2002 about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups.

“Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

Far from attempting to tie up the room with linguistic linguine Rumsfeld was echoing work undertaken several years before by academics.

Jordan, B., Goldman, R. and Eichler, A. (1998) ‘A technology for supporting knowledge work: the reptool’, in Borghoff, U.M. and Pareschi, R. (eds) Information Technology for Knowledge Management, Berlin, Springer-Verlag, pp. 79-97.

Jordan et alia were building on Johari window: a technique that helps people better understand their relationship with themselves and others and which dates back to the mid 1950s.

Rumsfeld omitted a fourth dimension from his known knowns speech. These are the unquestioned answers. In other words the understanding that often organisations don’t always know that they know. It’s a great place to start when looking inwards at your enterprise to determine the base level of influencer marketing knowledge. I’ve recreated a two-by-two matrix below.

firms are building influencer marketing skills internally

The left side of this two-by-two matrix highlights the distinction between:

  • knowledge that’s written down in reports, and on intranets; captured in team discussions, information that’s easily articulated and 
  • knowledge which is found in skills, ideas and experiences that people have but aren’t written down anywhere, and perhaps can’t articulate these skills - they just intuitively do them.

The right side of the matrix points to actions need to be taken to fill in the blanks.

Unquestioned answers - We don’t know that we know

Acknowledging the firm’s unquestioned answers and admitting ‘we don’t know that we know’ is a starting point. Ground zero. At this point you are aware that some people within the organisation understand elements of influencer marketing. However, nothing is written down. There is no centralised repository of influencer marketing information. Instead best practice knowledge is localised and stuck in the heads of those who practice it.

Answered questions - We know that we know

At the end of influencer marketing knowledge gathering process you will have captured centrally all relevant influencer marketing knowledge swilling around the organisation. This knowledge will be stored on intranets and shared drives and within Facebook secret groups and written in documents.

Capturing existing knowledge should also highlight the missing bits of the firm’s influencer knowledge. This leads on to the next category.

Unanswered questions -  We know that we don’t know

Are your teams well versed in some areas of influencer workflow? Are they adept at identifying new influencers who have an affinity with your brand, perhaps? Maybe you don’t know how much to pay them, or how to negotiate their contract? At the unanswered questions stage you now have the wherewithal to map out what you don’t know. And you have ways of acquiring this knowledge.

Unquestioned questions - We don’t know that we don’t know

To remove this barrier of not knowing that it doesn’t know the firm needs to test assumptions.

This prompts the idea of scenario planning. Of asking yourself WIBAI & WIBWI  (wouldn’t it be awful if) and (wouldn’t it be wonderful if).

For example, if influencers priced themselves out of the market how would you adapt your influencer marketing? At what point does arbitrage vanish? What is your fallback position? Would you revert to digital advertising or would you develop an army of grass-root advocates?

What happens if Instagram its owners Facebook and YouTube ban creators from their platforms? These are the black swan events that brands should prepare for. Unlikely to happen but highly impactful should they occur.

Capturing and mapping who knows what

The ‘do you know what you know?’ matrix poses another couple of questions: within the firm, who knows what? And, what kinds of knowledge do we value?

One of the most common ways for firms to represent what they know about influencer marketing is to represent who knows what. Who are the people within the firm that know about influencer marketing? Where do they sit both geographically and  in terms of department (i.e. in marketing, or public relations or digital or seo or customer service or product development, legal)?

What is their speciality knowledge - identifying influencers, nurturing long-term relationships, negotiating contracts, complying with disclosure regulations?

What is the base knowledge needed? By whom? What additional specialised knowledge needs to be acquired and nurtured?Anho needs that base knowledge?

Knowledge sharing requires more than simply writing up best-practice reports and sticking them on the intranet or on a Facebook secret group. But before you can start thinking about building influencer marketing as a core competency you first need to identify what you already know.

About the Author Scott Guthrie

Scott Guthrie works with companies to drive business growth in the social age through strategic insight and technical know-how. That's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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