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The future of influencer marketing: Long term relationships

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

Influencer marketing, as most practices do, is advancing along a maturity curve.  Here is the first of three ways I see evidence it is moving, based on engagement with customers, watching other vendors in the space, and more. Then some thoughts on the consequences of these developments.

Building long term relationships

Influencer engagement has compounding returns and the model of just-in-time cold call pay-to-play is far from the only game in town.

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Clockwise from the top right: If we as influencer marketing practitioners start building more long term relationships, we’re going to need technology to manage that.  Specifically, in order for this to be a sustainable practice, we should be able to track our organization’s history of engagement with a given thought leader and we should be able to leverage automation as much as possible where appropriate.  I like to say: let’s use automation to surface opportunities to engage – let’s not use automation for the actual engagement itself.  

Next, we’re going to need to get to know the people we’re engaging with: as a group, as individuals but across platforms, and based on relationships built by the right people in the right places in our organizations.  For your company to get to know influential people well is a staffing issue.

Finally, developing long term relationships and working with people over time requires that we give up some control.  I’ve honestly had someone say “these thought leaders you found are great…how do I get them to do what I want?”  Lol, yeah so…that’s not really how it works.  We’re going to engage with and collaborate with these people respectfully, as peers.  That means two other things: we need an organizational structure that supports that kind of work and we need to be selective about the people we engage with.  Since they won’t be reporting to us – let’s vet them before we spend a bunch of time engaging them.  Or we could use software to discover and vet thought leaders for credibility in specific contexts, then use its automation to track opportunities and history of engaging with them…that’s what I suggest.

This post took longer to write than I thought it would. I’m sitting in the lobby of the Brooklyn Museum and just got surrounded by kids, curious to look at my computer. 😉  In subsequent posts I’ll write about the future trends of B2B influencer marketing and the use of influencer marketing for gathering market intelligence research.


  • I like the distinction you’re making, Marshall. Richer territory than just finding ten Instagrammers to post pics of your product (although I suppose that could also be a potential outcome of developing deeper influencer relationships).

    Looking forward to your future writings on this.

  • Marshall Kirkpatrick

    Thanks Doug! Yeah – I like to say that advocacy is just the tip of the iceberg. Influencer marketing is great not just because influencers will tell the world about you – but also because of what they’ll tell you about the world. When I look at the people who’ve shared my content with their audiences after I’ve built a long term relationship with them, the lion’s share of value I get from the relationships comes not from the content distribution but all the things I’ve learned along the way from them. Michael Krigsman, for example, is one of the most influential people in enterprise digital transformation and we’ve done some content collaboration together now. But the things I’ve learned from listening to him interview his podcast guests and from talking to Michael on the phone or at conferences? Far, far more valuable for my business interests. And that’s just one example.

  • Nice post! You noted the importance of vetting before getting too involved with an influencer. Two open ended questions related to that: 1) Vetting gets more complicated if we look at not only the context that we care about, but also the other contexts in which the user is influential or even just active. Are they influential in our field but controversial on other subjects? How much does that matter? 2) Given all this complexity, is it important to build ongoing vetting into our process so we can detect any new developments? Or is this paranoia part of needing to “give up control?” Very much looking forward to your next posts on this too!

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  • Marshall Kirkpatrick

    Thanks Timur! Your mileage may vary but to answer your two questions here: I would just trust my gut and comfort level on these kinds of matters. And it would probably depend on the brand I was working with. Are they risk averse or ok with taking some risk?

    Also, I just posted the next post in the series here: The future of influencer marketing: B2B influencer engagement

  • Marshall Kirkpatrick

    Doug, said future writings now up at: B2B influencer engagement Thanks again for your comment, comments make the world go round!

  • Fantastic, Marshall. Appreciate you flagging me to it. Definitely checking that out.

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