Do Marketing Influencers Really Influence? Or Do Brands?

The critical role of marketing influencers on driving sales and loyalty for brands in both the B2B and B2C space is nothing new. We marketers have been “influencing the influencers” for decades. But the game has changed and continues to do so at a rapid pace.

The critical role of marketing influencers on driving sales and loyalty for brands in both the B2B and B2C space is nothing new. We marketers have been “influencing the influencers” for decades. But the game has changed and continues to do so at a rapid pace.

Now, with all of the technology available, anyone can create videos on any topic, spark viral marketing campaigns, and get instant fame, likes, and tweets on social media and start influencing others in some fashion at some level. As a result, “influencer marketing” is much more complex, hard to define, and much harder to nail. Yet it is also painstakingly more important than ever.

To succeed at influencing influencers to influence purchasers, we need to step back and review some of the basic fundamentals:

First, what really is an influencer who is worth is influencing in today’s market, when just about anyone can pin on that name? It used to be we could identify influencers by the numbers of followers they had on social media. Well, that’s not so easy in an age where likes and followers can be bought, and often are. There are now many other characteristics of “influence” that marketers need to address.

According to an Influencer Marketing post from Feb. 1:

An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his/her audience. An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with.

Given this definition, who are the top influencers today?

Well, according to MediaKix, an influencer marketing agency that aligns brands with social media influencers ruling YouTube and Instagram, the top influencers in the world are young adults who have mastered the ability to entertain millions of followers by making fun of life as we know it today. They comment on beauty or fashion trends in ways that entertain and inform, or engage followers in game activities. Seriously, most of you reading this post will find little if any value in their trendy, narcissistic, and often meaningless tweets; but somehow, these people are influencing millions daily by just doing nothing but ranting or raving on video channels that anyone can access and use.

Yet these influencers with little talent compared with mainstream entertainers who cross over the big screen to the little screen, sell. MediaKix posts examples of influencer marketing campaigns that engaged these “influencers” in marketing campaigns for clients like Kenneth Cole. The marketing influencers show results that include social reaches of tens of millions, story views also in the millions, high levels of social engagement rates, and, of course, increased sales for sponsoring brands.

Marketing Influencers Seriously Influence Sales

Geometry Global and released a report in 2017 at VidCon that showed 90% of social media users are influenced to make a purchase after seeing content. Categories most influenced by social media content are consumer electronics, fashion food/beverage, health/beauty, and travel.

Quite importantly, they also learned that social media influencers are now the “most effective and trusted source at driving sales, 94% more than friends/family, and more than six times more than celebrities.


When you look at those numbers, its hard not to wonder how traditional broadcast channels are still able to get advertising dollars.

B2B influencers on social media have far few followers than pop culture influencers, who have as many as 80 million followers on Instagram. Yet, the followers they do have pay attention to every word and every idea. B2B influencers ruling social media are those who share their wisdom, ideas, and help others learn from them, without asking for anything in return, other than maybe a follow or like.

By “influencing” others with their intellect and stories that followers can relate to and actually emulate in their own jobs, they have anchored themselves as thought leaders beyond just their tweets or posts. They are authors and speakers. They are executives at companies who are changing the world as we know it, or some aspect of the business world. The leading B2B influencer on social media, Tim Hughes of London, has fewer than 200,000 Twitter followers, which pales in comparison with the consumer influencers who entertain with short, often raunchy, episodes about their daily lives, or jokes about others’ lives. Instead, he tweets his expertise and insights on digital marketing and social selling, and provides tidbits about his personal life. And people look forward to reading everything he says.

The key to a successful influencer marketing campaign for businesses is exactly the above. Make your tweets so relevant and valuable that people look forward to reading your posts and learning from your every word. Another key factor is to spur influence among all areas of your business, not just your leadership. You can light up social media much faster with multiple influencers than just highlighting your leadership and their ideas.

The first step in influencer marketing is to recognize the “influencers” in your own ranks. That’s your staff at all levels, not just the top. Note that many of the top influencers are employees of companies vs. owners or founders. They tweet about what they do, what they learn, and what moves them within the context of their brands and their own personal visions.

Successful employees have a passion for what your business does, and what they do to further your business. And they have intellectual capital and experiences that are worth sharing. As the marketing lead for your company, you can direct social conversations and get people talking about your company, your insights, your value propositions, and even a day in the life of your business.

Here are five ways you can start influencing people at all levels of your industry:

  1. Identify a Theme a month with which you want to align your company’s expertise. Define talking points that support your position, and potential social media themes to help get those talking points read and shared.
  2. Build Relevant Content for your employees to share on their business and even personal accounts. Align the content with what matters most to your audiences and write it in a way that creates anticipation for subsequent posts. It’s not that hard, if you know what’s on the mind of your audiences and have even basic writing skills.
  3. Enable Employees to set up social media accounts, specifically to tweet about your business and industry. Break down those security firewalls and encourage employees to play around on social media on the job and tweet within the guidelines you set.
  4. Set Guidelines about what can be said, and not per compliance and proprietary issues, and ask employees to tTweet about it.
  5. Use the Business Pages on Social Sites to Reflect Your Top Leaderships’ Thoughts and Insights, and post regularly. Encourage employees to share those thoughts with the network they build within their peer circles.

By setting up employees at all levels to be influencers among peers at all levels, the awareness and buzz about your brand will grow exponentially. And as we have learned from recent political elections, awareness gets more attention and action than just about anything else. People won’t necessarily remember every tweet, comment, position you take, or every insight or idea. But they will remember your name when it comes to “voting” for brands or partners to consider for business deals.

Dr. Pimple Popper: Skincare’s Gross Social Media Superstar

Is there any topic more boring and unlikely to draw an audience than dermatology? If I wanted to make something sound uninteresting, I’d say it was about “pimple popping.” How can you market that? Ask Dr. Pimple Popper, AKA Dr. Sandra Lee, the doctor with 2.5 million YouTube followers, 2.4 million Instagram followers, and a social media empire that’s about to make a big pop.

If healthcare marketing tips and ideas like Dr. Pimple Popper are what you want, don’t miss Target Marketing’s first ever Healthcare Marketing Roundtable on June 15 in Philadelphia! Click here for the details. 

Is there any topic more boring and unlikely to draw an audience than dermatology? If I wanted to make something sound uninteresting, I’d say it was about “pimple popping.” How can you market that? Ask Dr. Pimple Popper,  AKA Dr. Sandra Lee, the doctor with 2.5 million YouTube followers, 2.4 million Instagram followers, and a social media empire that’s about to make a big pop.

Be Outrageously You

A few weeks ago, I wrote about talking to Scott Dikkers, founding editor of The Onion, at MarketingSherpa Summit. One of the things he said was that the best way to get attention and coverage isn’t to send out a press release, it’s to do things people wan to talk about. That meant being outrageous — as outrageous as you could while still being true to yourself.

But being outrageous was easy for The Onion. It’s a spoof news site, outrageous was just a good day at he office. How can a boring doctor be outrageously herself?

Dr. Pimple Popper found a way! (Fair warning: I would not click this if I were you.)

I’m really sorry about that. I can’t even watch these. My wife has watched them for a while, and I had to ask her to use headphones so I wouldn’t even hear them.

But Dr. Pimple Popper’s videos are, without a doubt, outrageous.

And they’ve paid off for her. Not only is this all fantastic marketing for her practice, Dr. Lee recently launched a new line of skincare products.

The Power of Radical Transparency

Beyond being outrageous, Dr. Pimple Poppers’s social media success is a testament to the power of transparency. All of her videos are the kind of thing that you would never expect to see, probably not even as a patient. But there was interest.

From a recent Fast Company article:

“I really saw that people became popular [on Instagram] when they had something that was different or unique about them,” says Lee, noting experimental hair colorists or adventurous travelers who excel in visuals. She thought: Why can’t dermatology be just as exciting?

Lee posted a few skin care videos and pictures, but nothing really landed. That is, until she posted a blackhead extraction video in late 2014 and the numbers jumped. She posted another, and they doubled. She knew she was onto something. After a bit of digging, she discovered a Reddit group devoted to “popping.” They called themselves “popaholics.”

“I was floored to see 60,000 people sharing popping videos they found on the internet,” she says. Most of them were amateurs: People in their garage with beer cans strewn on the floor and dogs barking in the background. Definitely no gloves.

There was a devoted subculture, and she was more than qualified to cater to it. So she dubbed herself Dr. Pimple Popper, posted videos of some stomach-churning extractions, and it “took off from there,” she says. Quickly, pimple-popping fans appeared from all over the place to peep at her practice.

What is it that makes these work? She’s actually following a lot of best-practices for content marketing:

  1. The content is unique: She’s revealing a behind-the-scenes POV that even her patients probably don’t get to see.
  2. The content speaks to a specific audience: “Popaholics” were basically waiting for someone to make this kind of content.
  3. The content is very visual: This is important, you need to find something you can show, not just discuss.
  4. The content provides value: For the most part, Dr. Pimple Popper’s audience is driven by curiosity about these epidermal maladies. They may even have some. Her monologue during the procedures imparts a lot of knowledge to viewers.
  5. The content is prolific: Dr. Lee has created hundreds of these videos, enough for even the most hard-core fan to disappear down a long rabbit hole and establish a strong connection with her brand.Her YouTube channel has something like a billion views.
  6. The content has personality: Dr. Lee is charismatic, and her gentle candor really resonates through.
  7. The content is unforgettable: Perhaps regrettably so — good luck forgetting that you saw any of these videos.

Those are principals that any marketer can work with to establish an effective, content-driven social media marketing presence.

Find Your Own Weird

Figure out the weird, interesting aspects that go into creating your product or delivering your service that a strong segment of people are interested in. Poke around the Internet and see what kinds of things from your production process people are already watching.

As Dr. Pimple Popper proves, it doesn’t have to be dinner party small talk that appeals to everyone. In fact, you might be better off building on a small, devoted base (like the popaholics Reddit group she found) around something not everyone wants to see than trying to sanitize it to appeal to everyone.

Interesting is a lot more important than palatable.

There’s more opportunity for this kind of social marketing in the healthcare world. There are undoubtedly other areas of medicine that people are just waiting to see more. You may already be filming procedures that people are dying to see. You just have to find that thing.

If you can find that thing, you might have yourself a social media empire waiting to happen.

10 Lessons From My First Viral Video

Creating a video and having it go viral is surely every marketer’s dream. Last month, it happened for me. The outcomes — ranging from monetization to brand awareness — were surprising, eye-opening and beyond my wildest dreams. Since you, too, may hope someday to have a video you’ve created go viral, I offer 10 lessons …

Creating a video and having it go viral is surely every marketer’s dream. Last month, it happened for me. The outcomes — ranging from monetization to brand awareness — were surprising, eye-opening and beyond my wildest dreams. Since you, too, may hope someday to have a video you’ve created go viral, I offer 10 lessons that I have learned with this viral video experience.

Regular readers know that I do the marketing work for an internationally acclaimed chorus that has appeared throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K. The performers, including myself, are all volunteers. We sing for the love of singing, bringing richness and emotionally touching people’s lives.

It’s been my dream, for years, that someday we’d have a video go viral. Instinctively, I knew it wouldn’t be a polished, professionally produced video, but rather, a video showing a side of the chorus that the public generally doesn’t see.

A confluence of factors set the stage. One of the chorus’s most beloved songs is “Hallelujah,” written by the great singer, songwriter, musician, poet, novelist and painter, Leonard Cohen. He passed away on Nov. 10.

As we had planned to rehearse “Hallelujah” for an upcoming Christmas Show that evening, word spread of his passing. I realized that honoring Cohen by singing “Hallelujah” would be a moment to acknowledge this great modern-day composer. We had experimented with Facebook Live Streaming in recent weeks, with very positive audience response and a few thousand views. So we decided to live stream this unscripted moment to our thousands of Facebook fans, as we remembered Cohen and sang his song to honor him.

In a moment of spontaneity, we gathered our thoughts and I asked one of our teenage performers to hold his iPhone for the live stream. In a hurry, he didn’t have his tripod, so he held his phone in the vertical orientation (natural when using any smartphone) instead of horizontal (which would have better filled the frame for most viewers). Our director, by his own admission, rambled in the early seconds of his introduction. And yet, through this less-than-ideal setup for a video, it has been viewed by millions.

We recorded it at about 10:00 p.m., toward the end of our rehearsal. By 8:00 a.m. the next morning, it had already been viewed 30,000 times. We were thrilled, but then the groundswell continued. The next milestone of about 100,000 views came at about 1:00 p.m. Then a half million by 10 a.m. the next morning. One million in just over 48 hours.

And now, just a month after it was recorded, it has been viewed more than 8.2 million times, with the post seen by about 19 million. The numbers continue to grow — even after 30 days.

Equally impressive: More than 184,000 people have shared the video, and about 52,000 have commented. The comments came from all 50 U.S. States, and dozens of countries. I’ve always felt it important to promptly respond to comments of an inquiring nature. We have kept up with them, but at 52,000 comments, it’s been a heavy lift to read and respond accordingly. Engagement breeds further engagement. You have to do the work.

Along the way, the media in Dallas-Fort Worth (where the chorus is based) picked up the story with interviews and mentions on a local TV station, the Dallas Morning News, a highly rated radio station, and smaller community newspapers.

You’ll Get My Attention With a Giant Squirrel

Almost anyone who’s flown more than a couple of times knows what the safety instructions entail on a commercial flight. And so most of us ignore them. Delta Airlines recognized this, and chose to create a series of safety videos full of pop culture references and humor to convince even the most seasoned flier to pay attention.

Delta squirrelI recently got back from a short vacation to Key West (yeah, yeah, humble brag), but I’m not going to regale you with photos. What I want to talk about is Delta’s airline safety, content marketing and storytelling.

I’ve been flying for 28 years, so I’m a pretty seasoned airline traveler. I jockey for a good position in line as I wait for my zone to be called, focus on getting my gear stowed, butt in my seat, seat belt buckled and book out to read as quickly as possible. I don’t mess around.

I also have heard the safety announcements so many times that I tune them out, a problem Eddie Izzard recognized during his comedy show, “Glorious.”

For my flight to Key West, I was prepared to do my usual ignoring of the flight attendants. Instead they announced there’d be a safety video. Oh goodie. Yawn.

But when I saw out of the corner of my eye a giant squirrel putting an oversized acorn into the overhead compartment within the first 13 seconds of the video, I stopped reading, and slipped my bookmark between the pages.

I watched the rest of the 4 minute and 39 second video. I heard people giggling. The kids behind me exclaimed, “Mom! Mom! It’s Yo Gabba Gabba!”

That’s right.

When the safety video ended, I was smiling. Delta had entertained me, reminded me about the usual safety drills, and managed to stay in the forefront of my mind for a solid week between my flight and when I wrote this week’s post. I told my aunt and uncle about the video when I met up with them in Key West. I sent links to the video to my best friend as I was writing this post. I told my dad — also a seasoned traveler — about the video Sunday night on the phone.

You’d think Florence + The Machine dropped a new album. Or that Jon Bonham had come back from the dead. Nope. A Delta airlines’ safety video had me talking.

As I think about it more, the entertaining safety video shows me that there are some creative problem solvers at Delta. The problem they faced was that most passengers tune out the flight attendants sharing safety instructions.

The solution, then, was to use the airline’s sense of humor to tell a story of safety, creatively. From Delta’s News Hub:

Delta launched a series of safety videos beginning in late 2012 meant to grab the attention of even the most seasoned travelers by using pop culture references, surprises and guest appearances — all to communicate important safety messages.

The video I saw during my flight, launched in August 2015, has over 250,000 views on YouTube. The description below the video on the YouTube page reads:

Safety information is information that no one should miss, even if they’ve heard it a dozen times. So to help encourage even the most frequent of frequent fliers to pay attention we’re constantly adding fresh scenes and moments of fun. It’s part of Delta’s commitment to making every part of our passengers’ flight a memorable one.

A few months prior, Delta released “The Internetest video on the Internet” featuring 22 Internet memes and clocking in at more than 9.5 million views after going viral.

Finally, taking this all to the next level, Delta hosted the SAFETYS on Feb. 28, right before the Academy Awards. Following its Twitter feed starting at 5 p.m., the airline revealed which characters from its previous safety videos were up for a SAFETY award, as well as its newest safety video.

Suffice to say, Delta gets it. The airline understands its core business, sure. But it also understands the importance of storytelling and content marketing, of delighting its customers, and also keeping them safe. And, of course, all of this factors into the airline’s unique selling proposition (USP).

After enduring a stream of disappointing flights on a different airline — ranging from poor customer service to cancelled flights — my flight with Delta really showed what Denny Hatch calls “Customer Relationship Magic.” From the free snacks to the entertaining safety video, as well as arriving at my destination early, Delta wowed me. I look forward to racking up frequent flyer miles with them, especially if they feature more giant squirrels in their videos.