She is one of truly outstanding digital marketing experts who juggles so many balls at once that it’s hard for me to wrap my head around how it is even possible.

Just as it was with Lee Odden, I really wanted to see Ann Smarty speak at our inaugural Influencer Marketing Days show in New York this Fall. She wanted to come too, but had her obstacles.

Nonetheless, she happily agreed to partake in my series of pre-show interviews on influencer marketing; and today I bring you this interesting, though-provoking conversation with Ann.

Question: While the concept is centuries old, influencer marketing became the “buzz word” only a couple of years ago, and advertisers’ interest in it is only getting stronger. What do you think about influencer marketing?

Ann SmartyAnn: In the current era of micro-celebrities (when so many bloggers and social media users got audience, voice and hence influence) influence marketing became accessible to even smaller brands.

Influencer marketing is the most affordable and efficient type of marketing I am aware of. It cannot be equally efficient in all industries (think the notorious plumbing example), but for some niches (like beauty, technology, and multiple other ones) it’s absolutely a must-do.

Question: What’s the biggest misconception you’ve seen brands have about influencer marketing?

Ann: Many smaller brands shy away from influencer marketing because they think it requires huge budgets. However, today it can even be free, if done right. The key is in proper relationship-building which takes time and effort but can cost the brand absolutely nothing money-wise.

Question: What top 3 mistakes should advertisers be aware of as they look into getting their feet wet in/with influencer marketing?

Ann:

  1. Focusing on one-time benefits. The success of influencer marketing is not about one good campaign. The growing list of influencers who are ready to endorse your brand again and again – that’s the goal of influencer marketing. Long-term benefits of influencer marketing are much more important than one campaign.
  2. Using the cookie-cutter approach to building connections. One influencer can be offended by what you offer while the other one will be happy to accept your terms. There’s a risk of reputation crisis out there. It’s important to be careful and approach each influencer differently.
  3. Focusing on direct conversions as ROI. While we all want to focus on money, influencer marketing is not only about that. In fact, other benefits of IM is even more important. Influencer marketing builds brand loyalty, trust, and community – all three are able to drive more sales than a huge advertising campaign, on a continuous basis.

Question: What is the biggest overlooked influencer marketing opportunity, in your opinion?

Ann: Going after tomorrow’s influencer. I’ve described this tactic here. It’s a good way to save time and money while achieving good long-term results. Today’s influencer is busy and expensive. Tomorrow’s influencer is hungry and inspired. And you will be their friend tomorrow, when they are today’s influencer!

Question: With 2017 just around the corner, what would you recommend for advertisers to consider implementing as soon as Q4 is over (a New Year’s influencer marketing resolution of sorts)?

Ann: Hire a community manager. Seriously, connection building is hard. You’ll probably be overwhelmed trying to squeeze it within your current team. Hiring an experienced community building professional will pay in the long run!

Question: What do you believe to be the biggest challenge that advertisers face in terms of influencer marketing, and what steps can they take to overcome it?

Ann: Influencer marketing is extremely hard to scale and we know how advertisers and businesses like to scale things down! Influencer marketing requires daily engagement, lots of experimentation and creativity, inventing new ways to achieve results and listening to others too. It’s a diverse process!

Question: If you were to leave brands with one piece of influencer marketing advice, what would it be?

Ann: Start now! Planning is good but it drives no results without action. I am a big proponent of acting. Don’t try to do a lot fast though: Step by step learning by what you (and your competitors) are doing, adjusting your plan as you go – that’s how you’ll get there eventually!

 

Thanks to Ann for her time and thoughts!

You may read the other influencer marketing interviews here and hope to see you at Influencer Marketing Days 2016 in six short weeks!!

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