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Finding Micro-Influencers to Grow Your Business – @zonozi
The Agents of Change

We all know the importance of reaching the right audience, but what about getting a little help doing that. As the saying goes, “it’s all about who you know”, and there is a lot of truth in that. So why not find some influential people to help us get the word out about our products and services to reach an even wider audience?

Amir Zonozi teaches us a thing or two about the different kinds of influencers, which ones are better poised to help us, and how we can form a working relationship with them.

Rich: Amir Zonozi is a co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Zoomph, a social media and data and analytics activation platform, and co-host of the Why I Social, Five Favorites Podcast. Amir has had the privilege of working with clients like Coca-Cola, Facebook, NFL teams and the White House, to build stronger audience relationships and data-driven strategies.

You can follow Amir at @Zonozi for tweets about burritos, drones, vlogging, and rants about people who use auto DM’s. Amir, welcome to the show.

Amir: Rich, so excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Rich: So years ago I used to write for Fast Company online for their blog section, so I could write on whatever I want. And I wrote this diatribe against auto DM’s on Twitter because I was just so fed up with them. Why do you hate auto DM”s so much?

Amir: It’s just the worst. You’re trying to connect with people and then what you’re telling them immediately is you’re not really worth my time. It just sends the wrong first impression. Personalize it, put yourself into it. So I just find it as a complete turnoff.

Rich: I totally agree. And I get why people started doing it, because you know when somebody signs up for an email newsletter of course you send out a ‘welcome message’, which is in fact an auto response. But it’s just not the same.

One of my biggest pet peeves – even though I hated all auto DM’s – was when they were like, “Hey, follow me on Facebook and LinkedIn and this other platform, and this thing over here, and download my eBook.” I’m like dude, we just started dating, stop trying to get me into bed. It’s like this is a first date, buy me a drink first, get me some flowers.

Amir: Right. I didn’t even swipe right.

Rich: Exactly. Sadly that was when I was single that was before my time. But you know what I’m saying. Alright, so let’s get to the interview. What was your path to Chief Strategy Officer at Zoomph, and what do you do in that role?

Amir: That’s a really great question. So the role is sort of like “clean up guy”. Everything kind of just assumes into it. Basically I work with partnerships with Twitter, Facebook, make sure that the company is moving in a forward direction, that we have the latest and greatest. And then helping our customers really reach their goals and objectives.

So I’m a co-founder at Zoomph. We started from another company, we did government consulting with this government agency. We were government consulting with agencies like State Department and stuff like that and we were just hacking stuff together. At that role it was more of like a community venture, but understanding social media and kind of building tools around what pissed me off or couldn’t do or what frustrated me. It’s what I kind of call “fubu”, like we created stuff to make our lives easier, “for us, by us”. But it just worked into this role of being a voice of Zoomph and working with some of the people that help drive the entire industry.

Rich: Awesome. You and I were chatting the other day and we started talking about some things that we could cover, and we started talking about micro influencers and how to reach them. I became very interested in this idea.

So let’s start with the basics. What is a micro influencer?

Amir: That’s a really great question. So let me take a step back and describe different types of influencers that are out there, and then how I would describe a micro influencer.

So I would start off with celebrities, they are people with large audiences but they don’t really have a subject matter expertise, like Kim Kardashian. Now they might be associated with a couple of things, but Kim Kardashian is not going to influence you to buy tech gear.

And then you have your influencer which is people with large audiences, but they are subject matter experts. They’ve got a focus, they’ve got a niche, and when these people talk, people buy things. People listen to them, they look at them for translating all the noise that’s out there to “you should get this” or “you shouldn’t get this”. And this comes in many forms.

And then when we look at micro influencers, these are subject matter experts without these large audiences. These are people that are typically doing things for free just because they’re passionate about what these things are. They might be on their way to becoming a professional influencer that you pay to have promote certain products that you have. These are people that can help you translate what your business is doing, to niche audiences and audience segments that are out there, to better understand your business.

Rich: Well I was going to ask, why should we care about these micro influencers if they have such a small audience? You may have kind of answered that in the last little bit of your previous answer, but can you kind of expand on that. Why do these people matter to us and our business?

Amir: That’s a really great question. So influencers – whether they’re a profession influencer or mico influencer – they’re incredibly powerful. They translate these benefits of a product or service to these audiences, but they have trust, and that’s the most important thing. Audiences trust their opinion because it’s authentic.   

When you see ads you sort of just start to clock them out these days. That’s why social media platforms have to get so creative in getting ads in front of you. Snapchat on average you seen an ad for 3 seconds before you click on it and move to the next story. They’re trying to do all these things to get in front of you but the most valuable asset is a friend. And you look at Facebook and these personal networks that are out there and it’s so noisy.

If you look right now to your group of friends, you have that one tech friend that you go to when your computer is in trouble. You’ve got that one friend that when your car is having issues you go to them and ask them for their advice. There is always someone that you have that you trust them and they go through all that noise and stuff to come out with, “Hey, you should do this.”

And so who these micro influencers are, are those people. They are those people that understand that this is the best coffee shop or this is the best place to go when you want to eat this certain thing. It’s just these people understand because they are part of the people, but they can translate that experience.

Rich: I’ve definitely seen that in my own business. I haven’t actively sought out micro influencers in the past, but sometimes they’ve come to me where all of a sudden I find this “super fan” that’s liking all my work and sharing it on Facebook. And then suddenly I start seeing a surge of interest or signups or whatever it may be. And when I trace it back it turns out that they all heard about me through this person.

And similarly, I recently published a book and one of my friends kind of commented and tagged somebody in the comments who she thought should read that book, and then that guy just reached out to me and said he just read my book and wished he’d read it 10 years ago and can we talk. So I think that sometimes it seems like you want the biggest audience possible, but sometimes it’s just about finding that right audience.

Amir: Absolutely. Once you get to those large audiences it dilutes the impact that it can make like on small segment audiences. You can target it better, just like we were talking about auto DM’ing. So your audience is made up of multiple segments, smaller audiences within it. There might be moms, there might be dads, there might be people without kids. It just all varies across, and usually you can distinguish this across life moments – whether they just recently had a kid or not – or where they are demographically, and all that type of information where we could just organize these different groups.

But each one of these groups has different things that they care about and these change frequently and in real time. So your friend that you used to hit up years ago when you were single and you were going out for a night to the bars and having fun, now recently they had a kid and “bottles” to them has a totally different meaning. So things that they care about – and even words that they use – have different meanings and things that they connected to and what they associate it with.

So looking at these micro influencers, these are people that speak to those segmented audiences. So the person that’s a new father might connect better with this one person that talks about parenting than this other person might around tech oriented or going out and stuff like that. So it’s just finding these people that can help you reach audiences – like you said – that you might not know about out there that are waiting for your content.   

Rich: Now I know that your software could help us with this. If we’re working on our own, how do we find these micro influencers?

Amir: That’s a really great question. When I look at an individual on social media, we look at them as a puzzle. Each puzzle piece is a social media platform and if you put all the pieces together you get that one person, 360 view. I know it’s a cheesy metaphor, but it shows how different channels have different impacts and different people are influential on different platforms.

So maybe I post cat videos on my Instagram, but on my Twitter or my LinkedIn I don’t really talk about that stuff. If I’m a pet store I’m going to only want to work with you on your Instagram channel. So one of the key things to first focus on if you don’t have a tool like Zoomph is manually go look and see 1) what channel are you trying to get access to larger audiences from, 2) if there is an influencer that you’re aware of already before going into the conversation, know what channel you want to hedge your bets on. You don’t want to necessarily “spray and pray” across all their different channels. There might be one channel where they’re a little bit more prominent. And there are things that you can look at.

So if you go back to Instagram. Say you’re a specific location, you can search by location and look at the top post and if you’re seeing the same people there all the time, then you have an understanding that this person posts a lot.

If it’s Twitter you want to look at things like their “Twitter Lists”, that’s one thing that has to be the most undervalued metric in the entire existence of metrics, Rich.

Rich: Hallelujah. I don’t understand why people don’t use Twitter Lists more, but that’s a whole other topic.

Amir: I’m going to diverge for a second. I list on everything. I list on competitors, I list on people that I enjoy their content – some of them are private, some of them are public – and you should do this as well for your business. People in the community, I add people in DC all the time just so I know what are people in DC talking about. I have influencer lists, I have other platforms that might be competitors to see what they’re talking about. It’s just a great way of filtering the noise to get to the meat or just an idea of what’s trending at that moment.

And so when it comes to Twitter lists, if someone has a high amount of lists that they’re on – and you can look at this on their profile – it means so many people looked at them and said they have valuable information, I’m going to take you out of the noise and create a curated list just for you.

So that’s one thing that I look at, but on each platform there’s a number of different metrics that you can look at. The one thing that I stress more than everything is do not look at follower count. Back in the day Klout might have worked for what there was, but these vanity types of metrics like follower count doesn’t translate to engagement. If you have a large army and you make a command and they don’t listen to you, it’s worthless. So even if it’s a smaller audience but they’re very active, that means so much more and that shows that their trust is so much higher than that individual.

Rich: I agree, and I’ve seen some studies – this was a few years ago so I don’t know if things have changed – but the #1 thing when they were looking at all the engagement on Twitter is it always came down to the number of followers they had divided by the number of lists they were on. But it was really like it had to do with home many times were you added to a list, that was the most defining characteristic of whether or not you were influential to other people or not. So that makes a lot of sense.

Amir: Yeah, absolutely. Not all metrics are created equal. So retweets are worth more than ‘likes’ and shares on Facebook are worth more than comments. And it all depends, there’s also sentiment on these so if it’s someone that gets a lot of comments but not a lot of ‘likes’, it’s usually someone that likes to test the status quo, they like to create something that gets people very polarizing that they want to talk about on Facebook. If everyone is liking it and there’s a lot of comments they’re usually saying things that are very agreeable upon that people also agree with.

So there’s ways of looking at what strategies do these influencers use when they create their content. There’s tools out there that you can use to get a good idea. There’s follower analytics and stuff like that. We provide some for free on Zoomph that you can just go look up someone and have a good understanding of what are their top topics that they talk about or where are the locations that they kind of come from.

For example for you Rich, New England Patriots is something that you like to talk about on Constant Contact. We got Bob Marley once on Channel 13 news…

Rich: I don’t know why Channel 13 news, because I’m on Channel 6 news, but regardless. The Bob Marley bit, I wonder if part of that is because I live in Maine and in Maine if you hear the name “Bob Marley” you don’t necessarily think reggae. There is a comedian who has been here forever named Bob Marley as well.

Amir: And here’s the thing, you also can’t control who follows you. You can, per se, you can make your account private. You can talk about certain things but there’s ways of realizing you as an individual based off these non-behavioral metrics. So for example where are the people that follow you? Mostly Maine, you’ve got some in California. If you look at the bio words that people lead with, 15% say “marketing”, 8% say “Maine”, and social media is in there as well at 11%. But you get an idea of who you are as an individual from these words that the bios use and these personas that follow you.

Rich: Any mentions of zombies or Spiderman?

Amir: Well I know that Spiderman is your spirit animal and you like to kill zombies and take walks on the beach. But you can even look at the sentiment that your audience talks about. So they love Hubspot – not getting political I’m going to skip some things – they love their Red Sox, and these are all things you can associate with you and people that follow you also follow Guy Kawasaki, Hubspot, Fast Company, Gary Vaynerchuk, Social Media Examiner, Jay Baer,  I know he’s speaking at one of your events coming up.

So you can see all these connections that are out here. Even talking about your dad’s new book, which is really cool, congratulations by the way. But this is all information that people look at and say they don’t want to be Big Brother. But I look at this and say you want to be Big Mother. You want to look at your audiences and see your influencers that are out there, you want to take care of them and provide them these experiences that they can show other people about what your brand is and what it is to experience your brand. It’s taking all this information and all these insights to connect with the right people that can connect you with larger audiences.

Rich: And the right audiences.

Amir: Exactly.

Rich: So let’s say that we’ve found these people now and we’ve got a list of people we might want to approach. I’m sure that regular influencers – and certainly celebrities – are used to people approaching them for this kind of engagement. But for someone who might be a micro influencer – they might not even realize they’re a micro influencer – they’re just talking about and doing what they’re so passionate about, whether it’s guitar picks or comic books. How do we approach them without being coming across as being creepy?

Amir: So the creepiness is definitely something that people worry about when approaching these people, and it’s not that creepy, people are actually flattered. I usually start with UGC (user generated content). And if they have a really great post that features your business or product, whatever channel it’s on you can send them a DM or a message and just be like, “Hey Rich, this is a really great tweet, would you mind if we used this?” And that’s just how you can initiate a conversation. And over time you can start moving forward with, “Hey, we love your content that you create, especially when you mention us. We would love to bring you out to our restaurant (if you were a restaurant owner) and see if you’d share this on social with your audience.”

And that’s the thing with these micro influencers, when it comes to a professional influencer they don’t need a lot of guidance, but you might want to give them sort of “we’d love to have you share this on Instagram or on your channel”, but you shouldn’t have to really tell them how to do it. They’ve perfected that, that’s why they have an audience; they know what their audience wants.

You as a company probably think you know what people want, but these influencers are highly trained and they just know. So it’s just giving them that creative artistic ability to share your content, but realize it’s giving them that experience which means a lot to them for them to share it with a larger audience. It allows more people to see that experience.

Rich: Ok. So the restaurant example was a good one. Do you have other examples of different types of business? I assume just sticking with the hospitality, if you’ve got an in you might give somebody a room and just ask them to chat about it on whatever your channel of preference is. Is there more than that? When do we start saying, “Would you like to do this on a regular basis?” Is there ever money exchanged and how do we handle that?

Amir: So when it comes to monetary value, as you move up to more professional influencers, this might be their livelihood. This is something that they understand that they have a talent with sharing content to audiences and helping generate leads, helping generate transactions and conversions. And at that point you might want to offer them some compensation. So you might ask them at that point if they have some sort of process.

So what I usually start with – just to be real here – I try to give them experiences and free types of products and experiences, and usually they’ll come to me and say, “I would really love to do this more professionally with you”, and I let them kind of approach me, and I ask them what kind of number that they would give.

And then you can use a number of tools to look at their content and average it per post. But what I would recommend is having a contract between you and the influencer once you do get to that point. And monetary value will change, there’s no one direct “you pay this much for this”. What’s a negotiable rate that they’re happy and you’re happy, and just realize that these people have a major megaphone towards a large audience so you want to make them as happy as you can. And while doing this understand which audiences you’re engaging with.

So once you start growing to multiple influencers, you might not want two of the same people, two of the same personas that are hitting the same audience. You might want to spread that out. As you’re signing more people, just realize that your contract is super important and you need to monitor if they are dealing with their end of the bargain and have some sort of clause where you realize if this is not working out than you can break the contract, or if they’re not meeting their requirement. But it is up to you to kind of track this, and there are social tools out there that you can utilize to see if they’re mentioning you or so you can track all your influencers against one another.

But it really ranges and I would first start out with sharing as much as you can in kind sponsorships; free meals, free experiences, free products. And then as you get to that point where it starts to become professional, definitely have a contract in place that you can utilize. And if they are professional then they usually have something already put together. But I would start with some micro influencers and use this as agile experimenting. Try different personas and see what works and what doesn’t work, and don’t’ set yourself up so that you’re getting married on the first date, date them for a while before you contractually get together.

Rich: That makes a lot of sense because I’m thinking about that, especially for these micro influencers who may not have a lot of experience in this. I’m thinking of the book Drive, by Daniel Pink. There was some research in there that showed that when you rewarded kids for drawing pictures after they’ve already shown that they enjoy it, then you take the reward away, they’re less interested in doing it. In fact even when they’re getting the candy the joy goes out of it for them.

So if you have people out there that micro influence that are talking great stuff about your products or services, I’d want to give them an experience – maybe something that they wouldn’t have done on their own – related to your product or service. But my fear would be that all of a sudden I put a dollar amount on it and it turns it into a job for them and some of their joy or passion might go away.

Now obviously if things continue to build and you’re seeing good reaction from it, I might then say, “Hey, maybe we can take this to the next level.” But it does seem like the best way to start is small and nimble and see where it goes form there.

Amir: Yeah, very well said. And one thing we like to do – and this is in Zoomph but there are other ways you can track this manually – we sort of gamify it. We understand which one is sharing the most, which one is getting the most conversions, which ones are receiving the most engagement. And we sort of have a little bit of a leaderboard, that way it does have that gamification where you can let people know. And with influencers – like any group – there’s a sense of narcissism and “I can get the most engagement” type of approach. It even happens to me when I’m at a live event and there’s a social wall with a leaderboard, I fall for it every time.

It’s a way of just getting people to realize that there is a common goal and if you put them up against one another you do drive the best out of it. If you’re able to do that, that definitely does help.

Rich: Awesome. Amir this has been really helpful. I definitely want to go start looking for my own micro influencers, both for flyte new media as well as Agents of Change. In the meantime, where can we find you online?

Amir: If you wanted to follow myself @zonozi on Twitter, or at @zoomph. And then there’s also https://zoomph.com/free-social-media-tools/, we’ve got a bunch of free tools that do a lot of things that we were talking about whether it’s ZIndex or our follower analysis.

Rich: Awesome. We’ll have those links as always in the show notes and I definitely want to check out Zoomph for myself. I know you guys have actually been a part of Agents of Change the past few years with your wall up there with all of the hashtags that people put up there, so I want to thank you also for being part of AOC all these years.

Amir: It’s been a pleasure, you’re doing amazing things. I’m actually wearing tactical gear right now, but I feel like and agent of change.

Rich: Awesome. Amir, thank you so much for your time today.

Amir: Thank you, Rich.

Show Notes:

  • Run over to Amir’s website to see all that Zoomph has to offer, including free tools that can help your business drive its ROI strategy. You can also find him on Twitter, say “hi” and let him know you heard him on the AOC podcast!
  • 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 also just added “author” to his resume with his brand new book!