On Top of PR with Jason Mudd

Mistakes companies make when working with influencers with Jason Mudd, APR

June 01, 2021 Jason Mudd, Axia Public Relations Episode 50
On Top of PR with Jason Mudd
Mistakes companies make when working with influencers with Jason Mudd, APR
Show Notes Transcript

Learn how to effectively work with influencers with our host, Jason Mudd. Jason is the managing partner of Axia Public Relations.

Five things you’ll learn from this episode:

  1. Mistakes companies make when working with influencers
  2. The difference between an influencer and a spokesperson 
  3. The slippery slope of working with influencers who buy followers
  4. Why influencers are relevant to B2B brands
  5. The value of micro influencers


  • “Every major influencer and many household brands buy fake (or real) followers.” — @jasonmudd9
  • “If you have a million social media followers and half of them are fake, then half of your audience isn’t going to engage with your content at all.” — @jasonmudd9
  • “If you’re not getting authentic engagement on social media, the social media algorithm won’t place posts as often.” — @jasonmudd9
  • “The more followers an influencer has, the less credibility they can have with their audience.” — @jasonmudd9

About Jason Mudd

Jason Mudd, APR, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia in July 2002.

Clients love Jason’s passion, innovation, candor, commitment, and award-winning team. In an increasingly tech-forward world, Jason’s grasp of technological demands on companies provides his clients in multiple sectors a unique advantage toward reaching their top audiences.  At Axia, Jason attracts, develops, retains, innovates, and leads top PR talent and clients. He oversees strategic communications for the firm’s national clients and provides high-level consultations to client leadership teams at billion-dollar global brands, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer, including spokesperson training, crisis communications management, analytics, social media, online reputation management, and more. He also speaks frequently to corporations and industry groups and writes about public relations trends and best practices for national businesses.

Jason’s contact info and resources:

Additional Resources:

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  • On Top of PR is produced by Axia Public Relations, named by Forbes as one of America’s Best PR Agencies for 2021. Axia is an expert PR firm for national brands.
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- Hello and welcome. I'm Jason Mudd with Axia Public Relations and I'm glad you're here. Today is a solo cast where it's just you and me and we're talking about influencers and some common mistakes companies make when they are engaging influencers to be a brand ambassador or to do a product or promotional campaign on their behalf. This is a good episode. I think you're gonna like it. If you do, or as you're listening to it and you think of a colleague who would benefit from it share it with them. They're gonna thank you for it. We thank you for it. And without any further ado, let's get right into the episode.

- [Narrator] Welcome to On Top of PR with Jason Mudd. This solo cast episode is brought to you by media monitoring company, Burrelles. Learn more at burrelles.com/ontopofpr. And now here's Jason Mudd.

- Hello and welcome to On Top of PR. I'm your host Jason Mudd from Axia Public Relations. We want to give a quick shout out to Burrelles, thanking them for their sponsorship of these solo casts, because today is a solo cast. Every fifth episode, I come to you, one-on-one, just you and I, no guests, I'm here to share topics, tips and trends in public relations to help you stay on top of PR and Burrelles has been kind enough to sponsor these solo casts, and so we want to give them a shout out. But we also want to tell you about a little inside deal that they're offering for current and not yet customers who are fans of On Top of PR. If you check out burrelles.com/ontopofpr they've got a special offer there. I hope you'll take advantage of it and thank them for their sponsorship of On Top of PR. Jumping in today, we are talking about influencers. And years ago influencers were all the rage, especially when Instagram was really taking off, but I want to talk to you for just a minute about influencers. We provide some influencer type services to our clients. You can learn more about that at axiapr.com/influencers. That's www.axia, A X I A, pr.com/influencers. And there, we have a package called influencer insights where we help you identify if influencers would be a good strategy or not for you and your company. We recommend some influencers that might be good candidates to be influencers for you. And then from there, we can explore under a different package, you know, negotiating and working on those influencer messaging and content and campaigns. But the reason I wanted to connect with you today to talk about influencers is I see companies making some mistakes when they go to approach influencers, some of it's just a mindset or being kind of thinking through a little bit about how influencers work ahead of time. And so I just kind of want to educate you on this just a little bit. I think it will be valuable to you and your brand regardless of if you're a big company or a small company. I think people really like using influencers and a lot of times it will make some sense. First of all, people tend to think commonly that an influencer is also a spokesperson or possibly a spokesmodel, and in my mind those are two separate roles and two distinct roles. And while you might hire an influencer to be a spokesperson for your brand you could certainly treat them as separate campaigns. And so for the sake of this conversation today let's think about those as two separate roles where a spokesperson, or depending on your product type, maybe a spokesmodel might be someone who is consistently in an ongoing basis appearing as your brand ambassador or your representative on a long-term engagement.

Typically speaking, when you're dealing with social media influencers, in my experience, these tend to be short-term bursts, maybe a one-time thing or seasonality. It basically has a clear start date and a clear end date versus with a spokesperson, you know, this might be somebody that you're hiring to be a spokesperson in commercial and other appearances for your brand for a semi-permanent relationship, which, you know, continues until such time as the parties decide to no longer continue that relationship. So here's some mistakes that I see companies make when it comes to thinking about influencers. Number one, we've worked with some brands who are only doing business in the United States. And when they start looking for influencers they're looking for an influencer, or influencers, who have a geographic footprint that is either majority United States following or near exclusively United States following. And their logic is we don't sell products, or we don't have stores, or we don't have the ability or desire to ship internationally or do business overseas. And so we've presented to them, you know, some recommended influencers and they've paused when, you know, 60%, 40 to 60% let's say, of their audience are social media users that are outside of the US, so let me rephrase that. So the influencer, when we get some demographic information about who their followers are, our research may show that 40 to 60% of their following are non US-based consumers. And so our client will say, well, gosh, I'm looking for 100% of their social media fans or followers to be based in United States 'cause I only offer products or services or experiences within the United States. And so, while I understand their thinking and their rationale if you want to be in the influencer space you have to understand that, you know, there's a lot of countries who follow American politics, who follow American celebrities who follow American trends, fashions, and styles, products, and services. And so you're never gonna find a situation where that influencer only has an American following. And if they do, then I would question how authentic that following is and why there are not people from other countries keeping tabs, or paying attention to this influencer. In addition, here's another mistake I think that people make is, I don't know if you've seen the documentary Fake Famous on, I believe it's on Netflix, but I highly recommend it. It shows how, you know, three, four or five individuals are selected from a casting call where a company is trying to help these individuals become famous.

And so they kind of show what goes on behind the scenes in the world of influencers. And if you're ever thinking about hiring an influencer or sponsoring an influencer post or sending products to an influencer, if you're ever thinking about doing any kind of influencer work, I would highly recommend you check out this documentary Fake Famous. You know, the 90 minutes to two hours you spend watching it I think will be very beneficial to you and show you a little bit of kind of the behind the scenes of what that world is really like. One of the things that that documentary exposes is this whole idea that apparently every major influencer, and believe it or not, many household brands, beauty brands, billion dollar brands buy fake, or even real followers. They are paying a company to go and get more followers for them. They're paying another company to, or individuals, to follow an influencer or follow themselves or follow their brand. And you know what the documentary does a great job of showing is the slippery slope that this creates. Because if your a brand or the influencer that you are paying to post sponsored posts, if they are buying followers, if they're buying likes if they're buying comments, number one, those may not be real accounts. So you're paying to sponsor an influencer who some of their audience isn't real. They might be a what's called zombie followers or bot followers who are programmed to follow but don't really consume the content. And that's worthless to you. The slippery slope there is that if you bought 1,000 followers in June what's gonna happen, so you added 1,000 followers, paid followers if you will in June, well, what happens in July when you only add maybe 200 organic followers? Suddenly you look like you've peaked and you've started to decline. Therefore, the social media platform, let's just assume for a minute it's Instagram, might be less likely to serve your content because you're trending downwards, because you're not as popular this month as you were last month. So when you start getting the business of paying for real or fake followers, you've got to keep paying that money to either show that you're increasing trends or at least you're maintaining your numbers. So to me, that's a slippery slope.

A step further than that is you can also start paying for likes and paying for comments. So if you think about it, if you have a million followers and half of them are fake, then your content's being served to a audience that's real of 500,000 and an audience that doesn't exist of another 500,000. So half of your audience is not gonna engage at all with your content. They're not gonna like it. They're not gonna comment on it. They're not gonna share it. So you're showing a low engagement rate of immediately out of the block, 50% or less. And then in order for you, your posts to look authentic, if you have a million followers then you should be getting a bunch of comments and a bunch of likes to almost every post. And so if you're not getting authentic engagement on these posts where you have real or fake paid followers, then your value diminishes. And so the algorithm is kind of saying, well, gosh this influencer has a lot of followers but not a lot of engagement so we're not gonna place their posts as often. And so now you're in the habit of buying followers every month, buying likes every month, buying comments every month, and as soon as you stop doing that your credibility drops, your visibility drops. So that's something you really want to think about whether you're trying to make yourself famous, whether you're trying to build your brand, but in the show notes I'll add a link to a service you can go to and the service will actually tell you how many fake followers an individual has. And by the way, when we did this, we were blown away. I mean, some of the most famous names you know on Instagram including the Kardashians and entertainers and singers and even beauty brands and fitness brands and health brands, they're all buying fake followers or they're buying real followers. They're just paying to have somebody, an account, whether it's real or it's fake to follow them. And to me in my mind that that really is discrediting. It's something our agency experimented with years ago and did not like the results. And so I frown against it, you know, our social media person at the time did it and I wasn't on board with it. I didn't know about it until later but I honestly don't recommend that you do that. But if you do that and you want to do it, and so it's a strategy, it's a tactic you could take, but you need to know what you're getting yourself into first. So I wanted to address that.

In addition, I wanted to talk about, you know, another mistake that I see companies make when it comes to influencers is determining that well, we're a B2B brand so we don't need influencers. That doesn't make sense. But in a minute, I'm gonna tell you a little bit about a report regarding how that is in fact, the exact opposite. In fact, let's go ahead and just talk about that report right now. So there was a new report that just came out recently. And I want to talk about this for just a second because I think it's really important, and brand influencers don't influence most social media users is what we've learned here. And so micro influencers are actually more affordable and more influential. And we've kind of always known that but now there's an official study by an organization called Visual Art Objects that is making this really, really clear. So, you know, many companies are quick to seek out brand influencers for social media sites thinking it's the best way to engage followers and grow interest in their products. But what they found out by surveying more than 500 social media users is that almost 60% never intend to buy a product using an influencer code or promo code, even if that code is associated with an important deal or savings. Instead users are more likely, it says, to engage with content and buy products or services that are promoted by a trusted expert within that niche or within that industry. These experts are commonly known in the industry as micro influencers. So meaning they may not have millions of followers but the followers they have are target followers. So the idea, if you think about it is, would you rather advertise your product to a million people of which you're throwing a lot of seed on dry soil or on concrete, or would you rather advertise to an audience of 200 who are qualified, interested and able to buy your services, who fit your niche, who are desiring your exact solution? I think everybody would rather advertise to the more narrow audience who is pre-qualified and who is enthusiastic and interested in who you are, what you do and how you can help them. And so these micro influencers might have less than 50,000 followers, but 50, 55% of users are likely to follow them when they're in that niche. So that's really important to think about because when you think about influencer campaigns you're really thinking about going after the influencer who has millions of followings but what we're learning here are a couple of things. One, they might have fake followers. So you need to do your research on that. Number two, the more followers they have the less influence they have on those individuals because people understand that they're not as credible unless they're in a specific niche space. So that's really important to think about. So what we've learning here is consumers value influencers who have a niche specialty that relates to an industry or expertise rather than content coming from a generally famous or well-known person. These specialized experts might include business leaders, health and wellness influencers, political leaders, athletes, celebrities, or celebrities within an industry and lifestyle influencer. So if your company wishes to use a brand influencer, studies show micro influencers are more successful because they're more engaged with their followers, perceived as more authentic by that audience and generally they cost you less money.

So I hope this was helpful to you. And by the way, just one other factoid from this same study is that more than half of social media accounts or users only follow one to five influencers. So that's something to think about also. The influencer world is very competitive, both in getting an influencer as well as, you know, brands looking for influencers and influencers looking for brands. So, you know, think about that a little bit. As I mentioned earlier, we've got a package where we help you find the social media influencer that would be a good fit for you. We call those influencer insights. Take a look at our website, maybe we can help you with that. And otherwise, I really just wanted to kind of share this with you as a solo cast today, talking about influencers talking about influencer marketing. The important thing here I think is to keep in mind that just because a particular influencer doesn't have millions of followers, doesn't mean that it's not a great candidate for you to explore deeper. This is Jason Mudd from Axia Public Relations. Thank you for tuning in, thank you to our solo cast sponsor Burrelles, and thank you for considering the information we've presented here today. I hope it was helpful to you. If you've got a topic you'd like to hear more about or you'd like us to address during one of these solo casts please be sure to leave a comment or contact us through social media. Let us know what you want to know more about. We're up for the challenge, we take requests and we look forward to hearing from you. Be well.

- [Narrator] This has been On Top of PR with Jason Mudd. Many thanks to our solo cast sponsor Burrelles for making this episode possible. Burrelles has special offer just for On Top of PR fans. Check it out at Burrelles.com/ontopofpr.