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The Ins and Outs of Influencer Marketing
The Agents of Change

You don’t have to look far to find influencers. They’re the people that have established their own following through their use of tools like blogs and social media to let their followers know when something is good (or less than stellar). It’s amazing what people will do when they get something above and beyond what was expected. 

As a business, when you treat those customers in a way that makes them feel special, they are primed to become your biggest advocates, fans and influencers. They’ll give you great reviews, tweet about you, blog about you, recommend you to friends and family. It’s the kind of free marketing every business wants. 

When you find a way to intersect with your customer’s lives instead of interrupting them and treating them like they come first, you’re focusing on your influencers instead of just targeting to the general masses. 




Rich: Today’s guest is the President of Life of Dad, an influencer marketing agency doing branded content for large brands. Consultant and speaker for Fortune – by the way, did an angel just get her wings… I just heard a “ping” –

Angus: I have it turned off, too, so I don’t know why it’s still chiming.

Rich: No, that’s awesome, I’m totally keeping this, by the way. I’m just going to have to say the whole thing again, but I love the chime. Here we go.

Today’s guest is President of Life of Dad, an influencer marketing agency doing branded content for large brands. He’s a consultant and speaker for Fortune 1000 brands including Walmart, Whole Foods, and Coca-Cola. He’s the host of an Inc.com Top 20 business podcast called, “Up In Your Business”; and his book, Empowering Work, releases fall of 2018. I’m very excited to welcome to Agents of Change, Angus Nelson.

Angus: Well it’s great to be here, thanks for having me.

Rich: We were just talking about our respective cities before we jumped on the line. You are in Nashville, Tennessee, which is a beautiful city.

Angus: Music City, USA.

Rich: And I’m up here in Portland, Maine. I was not exactly complaining about the weather, certainly we’re having different weather patterns right now.

Angus: Well I stepped outside today and it’s actually warm, it’s gorgeous out I don’t even need a coat.

Rich: Yeah, it’s nice up here too, it’s like 36 degrees.

Angus: And snowy.

Rich: Not snowy today, we’re expecting our 4th storm soon, but not snowy today.

So let’s start by talking about Life of Dad. Can you tell us a little more about what this is and maybe what your role there is?

Angus: Sure. So, Life of Dad is two parts. One is community, and on the community side we have a Facebook Group about 1.7 million people, it started about 8 years ago. Our founder, Tom Riles had a child and at 3 days of age she had a congenital heart issue that required open heart surgery. Tom started a blog to kind of tell the story for his family and friends. As he would write the story, more people started paying attention and it started growing from there.

So in 8 years two things happened. One is this community was built. And then the second part of the company is we started doing brand and content because we started meeting all these other dad influencers in the space. And back then it was more blogs and editorials, but now that’s obviously transcended to video and Instagram, etc. So those are the two sides that make up all of Life of Dad, and our full cause is that we want to further this movement of fatherhood and get dad to show up.

Rich: So what do you do? Which is very cool by the way, I love the whole dad thing obviously, I’m a father of 2 beautiful daughters. Or I should say not beautiful in my mind, but smart, intelligent, funny daughters. I think that’s even more important. So, what is your role, what are you doing for Life of Dad?

Angus: I’m the President, so the bucks stops with me, for better or worse. So, I help manage the agency side, so all that branding content that is shared. I manage our Project Manager’s contracts that we do with all those companies, a little bit of biz dev, I’ve been speaking on behalf at different conferences where you and I met at Social Media Marketing.

Rich: Absolutely.

Angus: What most people know about us is – from our branding content side – is the Cheerio Challenge that we did last year. It went viral where we challenged dads to stack Cheerios on their sleeping babies. It went crazy. Soon we had Macklemore doing it, Reese Witherspoon, and even President Obama was stacking Cheerios. So, we won a Cannes Silver Lion Award for that, and we’ve just been building off the momentum working with a lot of great brands creating awesome content that’s focused on dads and fatherhood. So, it’s a little cheeky, it’s a little irreverent, it’s a little off the mark, because if it’s for dads it’s got to be fun. So that’s what we do.

Rich: That sounds very cool. So, you mentioned “influencer marketing” when you were kind of describing what’s going on over at Life of Dad. Influencer Marketing is one of those phrases that just seems to be bandied around quite a bit these days, and everybody is saying that they’re an influencer marketer or that they’re an expert in it. What exactly in your words is “influencer marketing”, and how are you using it over at Life of Dad? And maybe just as sort of a follow up to that – because Life of Dad is not a typical small business – how could a small business use influencer marketing?

So again, those three questions that I should have asked one at a time are; What is influencer marketing, in your opinion? How are you using it at Life of Dad? And, how can a typical small to medium sized business use this?  Go.

Angus: Sure, ok, “tag” I’m it. So influencer marketing is the leveraging of people that have an there’s our chime…

Rich: I feel like two angels have gotten their wings. I think this is great, don’t even worry about it.

Angus: So the essence of influencer marketing is leveraging people who have built an authentic voice and audience around the things they do. Typically, an influencer has two kinds of audiences. They have someone who loves what they do and how they do it. Or the second part of that is they want to be them, that audience member wants to be whatever that influencer is doing and they’ve taken the time to invest around a cause/interest/hobby.

So an influencer traditionally in our world is someone who is more the micro or the nano. Most people know influencers as the major people who are like celebrities, these are the Kardashians, the LeBron James, those kind of contracts and sponsorships, those definitely have influence.

The problem is the trust factor and authenticity. Those kinds of endorsements are a little less powerful than when you start working with the kinds of people that we work with, where our audiences are typically 100,000 followers or less. And if you get on the nano level it’s a little less people but somewhere around 10,000. Because when those voices are heard, the authenticity is a lot more trusted, they’re not necessarily someone who is making their millions off of this, that, and the other, it’s someone that’s just trying to get along just like everyone else.

In addition, as these influencers start to grow there’s this shared journey. You’re following along and as this person you’re following becomes more “successful or well known”, you can say, “Man, I was following them back when.” So that’s kind of how I translate that. For us particularly, we have about 350+ influencers that we work with all focused on fatherhood and families. Some of my favorites right now are guys who are the young, millennial YouTubers. They’re just kicking out incredible videos that are funny and they’ve been using junk cut techniques on YouTube to tell these stories that are really tight and move very quickly, so you engage very easily. But in addition, they’re telling these stories that are where everybody else is at. It’s something you can immediately identify with as a father or as a parent.

So those are kind of the elements that we take into the kind of marketing that we do for brands. We have two philosophies that I try and think of in my mind. One is we don’t try to interrupt people’s lives, we try to intersect their lives. So, when we tell a brand message, say Brand X comes to us, I don’t want to just talk about Brand X, I want to talk about Brand X form a very authentic story of where it plays a role in my life and why it’s important to me.

But more importantly, why it’s important to my audience. So, I’m going to tell a story that instead of interrupting them and capturing their attention by stopping them, I’m more inclined to come alongside them and intersect and say, “Hey, I’m pretty sure you deal with these same issues, too, which takes me to the second component is I want the audience to say, “Oh my gosh, I totally experience the same thing. That’s me, too!” So those are two elements of our storytelling and our marketing that we create through our influencer marketing networks. And then the last piece…

Rich: Wait, before we get to that, I just want to kind of clarify. So Life of Dad, when you’re working with influencers you’re almost – and I don’t mean this to be dismissive at all – but you’re like a middle man. You’re helping brands identify and connect with people who are these micro or even nano influencers. Is that an accurate way of describing what you’re doing?

Angus: Yeah, for sure. And there’s actually two nuances to that. One is we’re the agency on behalf of the brand to the influencers, for sure. And then we ourselves are influencers, on our website we have our YouTube channel, Facebook, etc. So with our 1.7 million, inside of that in addition we have different groups; single dads, divorced dads, dads with kids with special needs, and we embrace a really powerful community and engage a very real, vulnerable, and transparent context.

So for instance when Facebook decides to change their algorithm, that’s one of the things that we kind of have a leg up is the fact that our content is so engaging that we haven’t experienced as much of it on our algorithms, and so we’ve built a lot of trust in light of that. So we’ve become an influencer. On the flip side of that is we also protect our audience as much as possible. Even though we do do content, we make sure that we’re not completely becoming brand whores for them like that’s all we do.

Do you want to go to the third part?

Rich: Well I guess a little bit more on this. So if I felt my business needed to get in front of an audience and it was around single dads, that you would help me connect with this person. And obviously there’s some sort of financial investment in this type of influencer marketing – as there is in most influencer marketing – and then we would negotiate a deal – where this person might use our brand and my videos, in this case, or might talk about it in terms of what they’re doing, or maybe our products just show up in their videos. What is the nuance there, it’s just not an area I’m especially familiar with?

Angus: Sure, I’ll give you kind of an example. SO for instance we did a campaign with Canon copiers. We brought in about 60 influencers, Canon sent them each a Canon printer, we had two different kinds of printers. There was a more traditional one with a cartridge for ink, and another one that actually had a bottle of ink. We built an entire creative concept for Canon on their behalf and created what we call a “playbook”. And that is a deck that gives parameters of how a campaign will launch. It’ gives all the key messaging, it gives a storyline that we’re looking for, the hashtag, all the links, and then where to put all the content and regulations, etc all in this one deck. That’s the playbook.

Inside of that, the creative that we conceptualize was this thought, “What if a printer was such an important part of your family that is was almost like another member?” What if it was another kid, #printbaby. We’ve got 60 dads who are treating their copiers as if it was a baby, so you’ve got guys pushing strollers, going to the park, on the swing set and going down slides. We’ve got guys who are using their printers to print out pictures of their kids and filling the frames and creating this whole family environment. WE have guys who are bringing printers strapped to their chests.

Rich: Piling Cheerios on their printers, perhaps.

Angus: Well, then we’d get a little cross promotion, yeah. That’s hilarious. So that became 97 million impressions that we created for Canon because it was such a bizarre, crazy thought that the Canon marketing team literally laughed out loud and said they would never come up with anything like that. And so bringing something that unique to the table – again, this is a little on the side of ridiculous – we thought it was very appropriate for that brand and it was really successful.

Rich: Nice. So yeah, let’s bring it to the person at home that’s listening. They run a small business or are marketing for a small business, where does the influencer marketing fit into their game plan? How might they use it?

Angus: Sure. I’m going to show you two concepts. One is, you are the influencer so start marketing one. And what that means is start seeing your brand as something exactly like I just said. Find ways to intersect your customer’s life instead of interrupt.

So many times as marketers we become so fixated on who we are and what we do, we’re staring at our navels and are the ultimate narcissist. “I’ve got this great sale, you’re going to love it”. Nobody gives a rat’s about your sale unless you can frame it in a way that’s going to change their life.

An influencer will tell a story about one of their customers who came in that had a need, and how your company was able to provide a service or product that transformed their life experience. Something that affected or impacted a meal they were preparing, something that changed the way their car ran or what the car was capable of doing on behalf of getting it fixed.

You have to see storytelling from an influencer point of view, to tell the stories of the things you want to highlight that are going to connect with your customers. The customer has to come first.

The second component of that is you have some customers who are your hero customers, they’re amazing, they love everything you do and everything you put out there and they’re going to buy. They talk about you on social media, they post pictures every time they come. Those are the very customers that you have to treat as your influencers and what are ways that you can offer them additional products, additional experiences, additional things that they can talk about on behalf of your company. Now they become your advocates. It’s amazing what people will do when they get something that goes above and beyond the expected.

For me and my family we actually are influencers ourselves. We have a side hustle which is our family travel blog, called Those Crazy Nelsons, and one of the brands that we partnered with is General Mills. Out of the blue I will get a box that we treat like Christmas morning every time we get one, you never know what’s going to be in there. During the summer months last year we had a little picnic experience with a basket and it had some cups in it and it had a box of cereal which you can’t buy off the shelf, it was a very elite product. Over Christmas time they sent us a box of Chex with a bag of chocolate chips, one of powdered sugar, and a canister of organic peanut butter. And then in addition inside the box they had these little baggies and an instructional sheet and gift box. And the whole ask that they made was this is how you can do something nice for your neighbors, you’re going to turn all of this into puppy chow. Which if you’re not familiar with it, you mix the Chex with the peanut butter, and the chocolate, and the powdered sugar, you put it in this little gift bag and hand it off to your neighbors. It was amazing, of course we told stories about that. 

What can you do with your product, your service, your brand, that is completely unexpected with the hero customers that they can participate with what you do?

Rich: So I kind of get how to engage our superfans. I’ve definitely seen people over the years who just took a real liking to flyte new media or Agents of Change – or even more bizarrely, myself – and I’ll be honest, I sometimes have kept them at arm’s length because I didn’t know what to do with them. And what I’m hearing from you is I shouldn’t have been keeping them at arm’s length, what I should have been doing is embracing them and rewarding them for that kind of loyalty and trust. 

Angus: Absolutely.

Rich: So that seems pretty obvious to me now that you’ve pointed out the obvious to me, and I can work on that. But I’m more interested in this whole “you are an influencer”. Like, how exactly, I mean do I market myself or my brand as an influencer? And I’m kind of curious, does that tie into you getting free stuff from General Mills? 

Angus: That can be a whole other partnership in itself depending on what your brand or product is. But my philosophy here is thinking like an influencer. If you were to create some campaign for a holiday that’s coming up, instead of thinking it from just a discount code or a buy one get one free, what if instead you thought about your customer. What is it about this holiday that your brand or service can intersect their experience over that holiday?

So thinking like an influencer will help your marketing become more authentic and more contagious than you just bragging about yourself. It’s like going to that cocktail party and you meet that one dude and all they do is talk about who they are and what they do, and you never get a word in edgewise. That’s what most brands do, they just talk about themselves. And then when they do a testimonial it’s one of these canned ones, and it’s like, where’s the story.

Ironically some of the most annoying commercials are those insurance ones where they talk to someone and they tell their story of how they were in an accident and this attorney came in and paid these bills. And on one hand you can say it’s awkward and it’s never really nicely produced. But guess what, those companies are making money because they’re telling a story about where they’re intercepting someone else’s life. And in a time of crisis, that makes sense. And so they tell these obnoxious stories over and over again. What is a more authentic way that you can tell yours?

Rich: Alright, that’s a pretty good takeaway. I don’t want to throw a fly in the ointment, but over the past few weeks I’ve seen a couple stories in the New York Times and I’m wondering how this might impact influencer marketing. Maybe you already know what I’m going to talk about, but the New York Times had a couple of articles about – especially Twitter and Instagram – and the number of influencers who have fake accounts following them, fake accounts engaging them, and just how easy it is to buy fake accounts. Do you see that this is something that might hurt influencer marketing or is this just something that if we are looking to connect with influencers we should just be a little bit more careful about.

Angus: Yeah, I think it’s the best thing ever. When influencer marketing kind of came into the limelight it was a lot like social media, people said, “What does that have to do with anything? It doesn’t have anything to do with my company.” And then when people said, “Oh, maybe it does”, and everything people did was a crapshoot and they didn’t know what was the return on investment, or if this was making a difference and bringing people into my store, or is it selling products.

At first we didn’t have a lot of measurements, but as time has gone on, technology is changing and people have been able to dig into the data and create tools that could measure the success of a campaign.

In the same fashion now, influencer marketing has developed tools to be able to measure engagement, to be able to measure true growth, and those tools are now proving who are the frauds that purchased their followers. Or even those that didn’t purchase their followers – maybe they built it authentically – but maybe now they’ve become only about brands and that’s the only content they create. Their engagement has nosedived and nobody is listening anymore. Every time they post something it’s just crickets. We can now measure that using software tools and we know of our influencers which ones of them are no longer effective.

We’re actually in the process right now of having hard conversations with some of our influencers because everything I just told you is describing them. And they have to make a choice to shape up and start letting their voice be heard again and rebuild engagement and authenticity, or we’re going to have to part ways. So I think these conversations are actually super helpful, they’re actually going to strengthen the space because now the people who are involved are going to be the real deal.

Rich: Makes sense. It’s almost like when you grow the same crops on the same piece of land over and over again. After a while you can’t grow crops on that land and you have to let that land sit for a while. It may be that people have over harvested their own influence for a while.

Angus: And related to that also, because we started 8 years ago, a lot of our “influencers” were editorial and they were bloggers because that was more the thing. And now the trends are pointing to a visual experience, so Instagram, YouTube, and with the video side if it we can make it far more powerful.

Some of our stalwarts in the space that were editorial – either by admission or omission – had not transferred into this new space. They’re going to get lost in the shuffle if they either can’t keep engaging with SEO driving people to the traffic or learning how to create great visuals. So some of our guys are having to learn very quickly that times are changing and you have to change with them or you’re going to get left behind.

Rich: So in the last minute or so I just have a question. Do you have advice for people who may have built up an audience, they’ve got stuff they’re sharing, but haven’t really been able to figure out how to monetize it, is there a place that people can go to say, “Hey, I’m an influencer, I’ve got an audience of x size, I speak to x type of person, what are the brands that might buy into that?

Angus: So I would tell you there’s a couple of different ways you can about that. One is, you want to be able to tell your story so create just a one sheet. And if you’re not familiar with that you can simple Google it and go to the images and you’ll actually see samples of what other influencers have created. It’s basically an image of you, a little bit of a nugget about your brand. And just to help you with that, I always tell our influencers to make it a value statement, “I am X that does Y”, and then insert your superpower. You always want to have an edge, you can’t just say, “I’m an influencer”. What are you an influencer of? Dive down one notch deeper. So you have that and then you have your numbers, and then you have some of the things you’ve done with some links to some examples. That’s number one. 

Number two, is you can go to a number of different websites and enter in and become another cog in their wheel, like Tapinfluence, Izea. If you do a Google search you’ll see there’s a whole lot of other places that you post your name and register – usually it’s for free – and then they will let you know when campaigns are up and then you can put your hat in the ring. The problem with that is it’s super competitive and there’s lots of people involved.

So that takes me to the third piece. Like anything, it doesn’t come easy. You’re going to have to do some outreach, jump onto LinkedIn and find out who some of the social media managers are for some of the brands you want to work with to talk to the brands you want to work with. And if you tag them in some of your content now – even before you’re paid – you do it in an authentic way, and then reach out to that brand and say, “Hey look, I did this post on this particular piece in your product line, here’s the results I got. I’d love to do some more of that, what do you think about partnering on your next product?” And you open the door for conversation. The best kind of influencer marketer is not a one shot deal.

The best position of influencer marketing is an ongoing relationship. Just like I gave the example of General Mills, you have an ongoing advocacy of people who know, love, like, and trust your brands. They’re speaking more authentically because of what they’re experiencing and they’ll talk about you even when you’re not paying them to talk about you. They run into a friend and they start talking about cereal and, “Oh my gosh, I was just telling him about these Lucky Charms, they’re amazing and made by General Mills.” Or when something goes wrong and we have bad PR that goes out, those are the advocates who jump onto their channels and then go defend the cause, “I don’t think you understand, I’ve worked for General Mills for x amount of time and they’re really great at what they do. I think this might be a one-off bad experience, maybe you should give them another try.” Those are elements of influencer marketing that people don’t see the big picture of what’s possible.

Rich: Nice. That’s some good advice. So I’m sure that a lot of people are intrigued, they want to learn more, they want to learn more about you, Life of Dad, maybe some influencer marketing, where can we find you online?

Angus: If you’re interested in learning more about the influencer marketing side of what we do at Life of Dad, you can simply go to agency.lifeofdad.com, and you can see the highlights of what we do. And if you want to get ahold of me you can email me angus@lifeofdad.com. If you just want to learn more about the influencer marketing space and you want to ask me some questions, feel free to use that email address. I can speak at your event or I can consult for you, I’m always happy to serve, so feel free to reach out. 

Rich: Angus, thanks so much for your time today.

Angus: My pleasure Rich, thank you.


Show Notes:

Angus Nelson speaks, consults, and coaches on the topic of building alliances through influencer marketing. Follow him on Twitter, and definitely check out his website where he connects dads from around the world (and creates cool ideas like the “Cheerios Challenge”!)

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conference to inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitter to check him out, and he just added “author” to his resume with his brand new book!

For More Agents of Change Podcast Episodes on Influencer Marketing: