Demystifying the influencer skill set: why bloggers are the SME you need

Can you spare a share?

Welcome to part five of my series on Building Influencer Marketing Partnerships. So far we’ve gotten into finding the budget to work with bloggers and influencers, committing to and creating influencer marketing plans, finding the right influencer for a campaign and some other key concepts. Now we’re getting into influencer skills and understanding how to leverage them for different campaign aspects. Bloggers are Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and having that working knowledge, that influencer skill seot is more valuable than you might realize.

As we go through this segment of the course, watch for the bold blue SME notes. This is going to indicate a skill or task that your partner influencer/influencers are going to be the prime point person on. These are blogger skills that you have hired and influencer to excel at. Trust in your investment, but remember, if ever you need to clarify something or request a change throughout a campaign, communication is the key to making your influencer partnership successful.

“Can’t this be done in-house?”

I’m revisiting this because just like we talked about in the segment on committing to an influencer marketing plan, you need to feel solid on all counts to make the campaign successful. You may have a team on staff or have contracted a PR or marketing firm to help grow your reach and business, but those individuals or teams do not have the same influencer skill set that partnering with an influencer provides.

Siging on to leverage the influencer skill set is a smart move when it comes to fresh marketing. From their network of influence to SEO and photography skills, bloggers and influencers are at the top of the game when it comes to marketing to their niche.Bravo for feeling like you’ve got the skillz and diverse reach to do the job of an influencer, but let me paint a quick picture for you explaining why influencer marketing is more effective than advertising coming directly from your business. Actually, here are three pretty little pictures:

  1. Would you rather be told to do something or convinced that something is a good move?
  2. Does taking the same surface streets and hitting the same traffic lights daily sound smart when a new four lane highway has just opened?
  3. Does a person buy a plane ticket to a destination because the destination told them it’s the place to be or because the person read and saw somebody else enjoying themselves and having remarkable experiences?

These three examples of being influenced by somebody you know and trust are precisely why the influencer skill set is exceptional and valuable for a brand to leverage. Influencers, by very name, are all about convincing through authenticity. Influencers are that new highway that cuts through the surface street madness to get to someplace new. Influencers are that voice or image that inspires someone to buy that plane ticket to a new destination.

Jane from the marketing team with her sales-pitch-gaze or Jim from PR with quick-wit generic statements doesn’t break through to a new customer. Meagan from Oregon who’s a single mom sharing daily experiences is a real person others know and follow, and she has the influencer skill set to write about cars, travel and real life. Rob from Seattle (that’s me!) is a dad that actually travels with the whole family and openly talks about LGBT issues and travel tips, leveraging photography and a formal education in creative writing. Angie from Florida is unfiltered fun sharing real life moments as a woman, wife and sister, and her background in the NYC PR industry shines through as she reaches nearly every type of person with her wit and business savvy.

I could go on, but these types of voices and tribe leaders are the SMEs in their field, in their niches. The influencer skill set each possesses is why they’re successful, busy bloggers working with top brands.

Demystifying influencer skills set and content

Even those that know me in real life, both through blogging and in just being friends, often ask what all is involved in blogging and influencer marketing campaigns. I can’t tell you how often I hear “You’re so lucky. You get to travel all the time. I want to be on permanent vacation.” Yeah, it’s not quite like that. Accepting a job, an influencer campaign, is a ton of work.  My influencer skill set has taken time to hone and the hours of work I’ve put into it…

To move from a daily blogger writing about the stresses of potty training to an influencer sharing valuable products and best practices with the world, there are several skills that must be mastered to near perfection. I say near perfection because not everybody can be Michelle Obama (I think she’s an example of perfection, or as close as one can be) and technology is changing all the time.

If I asked you what you think a blogger does or what an influencer skill set includes, what would you say? Take a moment, make a few notes and then keep reading…

The ever-changing skill set of blogging

“Can’t just anybody start a blog? I feel like everybody has a blog these days.” Totally valid statement, but it’s the skills behind the creation and execution of a blog that make it a specialized career. Yes, anybody can start a blog, but the combination of technical skills and being algorithm savvy is what makes a successful blog. Take a look at the required skills that make influencers and bloggers Subject Matter Experts when it comes to creating and sharing content.

Modern Photography

Photography has been around for nearly two hundred years now, and my has it changed. Photography has changed from when I was a kid in the 80s. It’s changed since I started blogging four years ago. As tools continue to advance and software offerings grow, the basic elements of photography remain the same: Line. Shape. Form. Texture. Pattern. Color. Space. Understanding these is the first of the basic influencer skill set.

How this is executed is where an influencer must be at the top of their game. From iPhone photography to manual use of the latest mirror-less camera, the tools we use are becoming more advanced and able to create more compelling images. Photo editing tools also change frequently. While anybody can do a quick swipe within social media software and instantly add a filter to their pics, a skilled influencer is crafting and sharing images that exemplify the elements of photography… and this is to the benefit of elevating the view and impression of a product, brand or destination.

Compelling written work

Not every person engaged for an influencer marketing campaign writes a blog full time, in fact more and more influencers are running solely on social media. Even in social media though, there is a strong written element. If you’re setting up an activation for an influencer to do a series of Instagram posts showcasing your destination or product, they’ll need more than a artful pic in a flowy dress.

Written content, whether in short form as a social post or long form as a blog article, must be compelling. A reader needs to be compelled, either in 10 seconds of reading a caption or in two minutes of reading a review, to take action (CTR). Understanding and valuing an influencer’s voice and writing skills is integral to the passion they put into a project, which makes for the authentic connection you’re aiming for in an influencer marketing campaign.

Note: when you’ve brought on an influencer for a campaign, their voice is one of the top three things you’ve hired them for (reach/visuals are the other two). Allow them to shine by supporting their authentic voice.

Being Social Media savvy

Social media. It’s the thorn in everybody’s side, including influencers. I can remember a day when I’d share a link to Facebook and it would be seen by 50% of my followers… and now it’s seen by 5%. I can remember sharing a photo to Instagram and getting 2,500 likes and 80 comments… and now 600 people engage with a new post. As social media companies update and alter their algorithms, influencers pay attention to trends in what performs well, what time of day new content thrives and who’s actually engaging these days.

It’s this obsessive social media research that makes partnering with influencers beneficial. Even with daily changes to algorithms and what types of content platforms favor, influencers stay up to date through tracking their own performance as well as reading updates from the platforms themselves. Also, there are some highly trusted and respected gurus out there that share theories and action plans quite frequently, and we influencers love to test them out!

Note: a huge following on social media doesn’t mean social media savvy or genuine engagement. There are enough fake accounts and sketchy actions some influencers take that surface numbers don’t always mean what you think.

Understanding and executing SEO concepts

If you say “SEO” and somebody doesn’t know what you’re talking about, chances are that they don’t have a solid grip on blogging or don’t work much with actual web content. SEO is the life blood of creating successful online content. As influencers who are creating fresh articles daily and weekly, understanding keyword research, link building and writing for the crawlers is a skill that cannot be undervalued.

Yes, there are also firms that do SEO work, and by all means engage them to support your projects as well, but when you’re working with a blogger/influencer, they also have the skills and understanding of how to create content with strong SEO.

“The SEO is strong with this one…” – Yoda.

Influencer Marketing Campaign workflow: blogger view

Since we’re now clear on the specific influencer skill sets that make them (us) valuable, here’s how that all plays in to the actual execution of an influencer marketing campaign. The skills aren’t just talk; this is how they fit into the content planning and creation that makes a campaign successful.

Here are two examples of the work that goes into a campaign, one is a travel experience for a destination/brand and the other is for a product. They are very similar in tasks, but the travel experience campaign includes additional travel time, full days’ schedules (typically 12+ hours on) and being away from home. The product campaign calls out skills of not being awkward… because that’s more important than you realize.

Example 1: travel experience campaign

This is the workflow that happens with each travel brand campaign we do. Our influencer skill sets come into play from the very first step and keep working beyond the completion of the campaign. The example below applies to working with a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), a Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), hotel brand, tour company, cruise line… Anything where travel is a part of either the experience required for creating content or the travel and live content IS the complete campaign plan, these are the steps from start to finish.

  • Influencer gets email inviting them to experience and share a destination/brand
    • Influencer responds to email inquiring about the full scope of work and deliverables, including campaign budget and compensation
    • Subsequent email chain hammering out full project and content plan, including itinerary research, as well as detailed budget for the influencer to work with relating to the overall ask and out-of-pocket costs.
  • Influencer attends travel experience
    • Travel time/days to get to destination
    • Time participating in coordinated activities
    • Real-time content creation and promotion (live social media, daily blogging)
    • Content capturing – photography, videography, and modeling *yes, modeling is what influencers are doing even if they aren’t hired with that title
    • Sleeping and having downtime in destination
  • Influencer completes content plan
    • Photo and video editing
    • Writing contracted content
    • Crafting social media posts for pre-approval
    • Build content packet for licensing rights selection
  • Influencer promotes travel/brand experience to their following
    • Website content goes live with amplification
    • Schedule pre-crafted social posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest
    • Includes destination related content in newsletter or applicable press release
    • Rolling promotion continues over specified campaign period
  • Influencer continues to promote the destination through future link building, social sharing, freshly crafted written content for their own channels and other publications. Influencer continues to share their experience with the people they meet, the public talks they give, memoirs they write down the road…

When it comes to an influencer campaign and travel, there are many moving parts, including real life at home being placed on hold. Depending on a blogger/influencers niche and lifestyle, coordinated travel campaigns are a good deal more work than you might expect, including taking children into consideration, both on site and at home.

Incorporating family/humans in the work

This may sound like something that a sponsor/client shouldn’t have to worry about, especially considering that in the standard workplace childcare and addressing home situations is not the responsibility of the employer. In a contracted influencer situation many bloggers work for themselves and from home, so if they’re being asked to leave their family to work on a campaign a wide berth may be needed. When engaging an influencer, particularly in the family/parent blogger space, it should be expected that they will have some requirements to make sure the campaign deliverables happen without issue. There’s great benefit to working with a strong family blogger/influencer brand, so being accommodating to worth it.

You’d think it would go without saying that an influencer in the family travel or family blogging space would need to have their family involved in the campaign, but many brands don’t consider this. More often than not, we have to clarify with clients that creating content about family brands or traveling as a family requires that we actually incorporate the kids. Yes, this is extra work when you compare it to a solo blogger jumping on a plane for the weekend, and yes, it’s something that the client needs to consider from start to finish within a campaign. I’m not saying that you as a sponsor or client needs to allow somebody to do shoddy work or miss deadlines, but when agreeing on a complete campaign plan and timeline, you should understand the nature of family content creation.

Example 2: authentic product promotion

The following steps are where our influencer skill sets really come into play, as creating compelling, authentic content around a product is more difficult than selling somebody on a travel experience. Often when we’re approached about a product campaign, it’s for something we haven’t used before. Typically, a campaign like this will come with a creative brief including talking points and features the brand wants highlighted in content. Some creative briefs get really specific, calling out the obvious or requiring very specific messaging that’s NOT inline with the influencer’s voice.

Here’s the problem with such a directive creative brief:

if you have to tell an influencer what’s good about your product or brand, there’s probably room for improvement in the product or the collateral around the product, or brand needs to be improved before launching an influencer marketing campaign.

Example: a clothing line is offering a new winter series that’s lightweight and extra warm. If you have to tell an influencer that the product is designed to be warm and to be sure to call that out in their content, either you don’t think the influencer is worth their reputation or you’re concerned that the product will not do the job. Now, if you want to call out some new features of an established product or highlight what sets a particular brand or program apart from its competitors, by all means note that. Just be cautious when you start to tell somebody how to do the job you’ve hired them to do.

Now, here’s the workflow for a product or brand oriented influencer campaign:

  • Influencer gets email inviting them to experience and promote a product/brand
    • Influencer responds to email inquiring about the full scope of work and deliverables, including campaign budget and compensation
    • Subsequent email chain hammering out full project and content plan, as well as detailed budget for the influencer to work with relating to the overall ask and out-of-pocket costs.
  • Influencer obtains product or attends brand event
    • Time for travel and product/brand experience
    • Content capturing: live with event or planned shoot
    • Influencer skillfully models and demonstrates authentic use/enjoyment of product/brand
  • Influencer completes content plan
    • Photo and video editing
    • Writing contracted content
    • Crafting social media posts for pre-approval
    • Build content packet for licensing rights selection
  • Influencer shares the product/brand with their following
    • Crafted site content goes live
    • Social media campaigns begin
    • Live social media, ie: Facebook Live, Instagram Live, happen to invite audience engagement
  • Influencer may choose to continue to promote the product/brand in their own way outside of a contract if they feel it’s warranted.

If you weren’t sure just what the workflow for a blogger is, now you know. It’s much more than just getting an email and posting something on Instagram. If you have any questions about any step of this process or why the bold and blue notes are SME skills, the influencer skill set, leave a comment below or send me an email. Happy to chat!

Final thoughts: please remember that sending an influencer product and expecting them to craft content and share with their audience isn’t an appropriate way to launch an influencer marketing campaign. When considering the expected outcome of working with an influencer to promote a product or brand, remember that just like you’d not send Gisele Bundchen or Gigi Hadid a dress you designed and expect them to wear it on the red carpet, or that they’d call their professional photographer friend Nigel Barker to photograph them and then send you the full rez images, do not send an influencer a box of your stuff and expect them to craft professional content around it.

If you want to see your product or brand successful represented via influencer marketing, take the time to craft a campaign and put money behind it to ensure it’s done right and has the maximum impact. Trust the blogger and their influencer skill set to create the content you’re aiming for. Be clear and open in your communication. All of this together is the path to influencer marketing success.


Can you spare a share?