Dipping A Toe Into Influencer Marketing

When I joined the real estate startup, REX, in social media and content marketing, they had the beginnings of a social presence and were producing content for a monthly newsletter. My role focused on developing the company’s social and content strategy, defining how we would treat each channel, how we would message, create reputation, invite interaction, listen to the market and engage with people.

As a startup we had limited funds and most of the budgets were being invested in the product, systems or being spent on direct response channels. But we had an appetite for testing and learning- and dipping our toe into influencer marketing was certainly on our growth list. One of my favorite projects was a collaboration with an agency in LA called Zig Marketing. After a few meetings, and learning about our business, they pitched ideas to expand our brand awareness with influencer marketing. Zig specializes in building relationships between brands and bloggers, developing an outreach strategy, designing unique campaigns and implementing. They brought some interesting ideas but I didn’t think I could sell them internally. I knew I couldn’t ask the agency for a guaranteed return on investment- but I knew that’s what my management would be asking me. Tinkering with Zig’s ideas, I was able to find a creative way to limit our financial exposure at worst, make the program net neutral (our expectation) or, at best, be ROI positive.

The campaign we designed would have the agency sending proposals to 25 prominent bloggers who write for our target audience (potential home sellers in Southern California). To qualify, the agency reached out to bloggers they new and researched/connected with new blogs that fit the profile we defined together. The proposal asked if the blogger would be interested in working with REX on an experiment where the blogger would find a home-seller in their reader base and follow the process of selling a home with REX. It seemed brave to open ourselves and our process up to a journalist. As a new company our operating processes were changing daily and being optimized based on customer feedback. But we wanted the content that the bloggers created to be real and show how REX sells homes just as well as a traditional agents, better actually, but charging 60% less in commission.

If this marketing program could deliver 1 customer to go through this blogger-documented selling process, it would pay for itself and be net neutral. That I could sell to my management. The program would generate hundreds of thousands of brand impressions, posts, shares, comments, likes, and discussions- all great at building reputation but not exactly measurable.

Yes, I have direct response in my DNA- after 10 years of cost-per-lead marketing, who wouldn’t. But that’s not why this was my favorite project. Having a writer detail the process of selling with REX from the client’s perspective would be such an interesting story. Selling a house is one of the biggest financial decisions a person will make and the process is infinitely complicated. REX is a David in a David and Goliath scenario. As a company disrupting the traditional real estate market, REX has a big story to tell and lots of antagonists who don’t want the industry to change. Was I concerned that the process might break down somewhere in selling this house? Sure. Every agent has stories to tell about impossible situations. But we decided the risk was worth it. We didn’t know what client might sign up for this process, if their home would be easy to sell or if they would be reasonable on selling price. But we knew that even a bumpy story would show our strengths and humanity.

Two bloggers received our proposal and instantly understood why we created REX and why the real estate industry and their readers needed to know about what we were doing. Working with Zig Marketing they picked the angle of the REX story that interested them and would interest their readers. We didn’t tell them what to write and we definitely didn’t require any specific content. That would be overstepping the process and be disrespectful to the blogger. We had gotten a great break when Bloomberg Pursuits covered us the month before, but when we were written about by Someday I’ll Learn and SoCal Field Trips, it felt different. It felt like we had lit the match in the communities where we’re creating relationships- where we have billboards, where we have homes for sale, and where we are targeting digital marketing.

These articles were posted just a couple weeks ago, so we don’t have results yet. We are anticipating some traction from this and so far this project has been a great way to dip our toes into influencer marketing.

Read the articles here:

Someday I’ll Learn
Bloggers Nate and Chelsea create a fantastic blog called Someday I’ll Learn which takes you along on their adventurous activities with four boys. Chelsea is a marketing consultant and writer and Nate is a photographer and do-it-yourselfer. They run their businesses from their farmhouse in Southern California.

Jilleen Butler is the founder, blogger and field trip coordinator behind SoCal Field Trips. SoCal Field Trips is a lifestyle blog dedicated to active families who enjoy adventuring out of the home and into the world of hands-on learning. Jilleen offers a unique perspective to thousands of families in Southern California.

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About Suzanne Appel

Over 15 years working in Internet Marketing on the client and agency sides creating strategies and managing advertising campaigns, budgets, forecasting leads/sales, website and application development, creative/brand design, promotions and analytics. I have a lot of passion for what I do and am best at working across Internet Marketing disciplines to lead and integrate the company’s multichannel online initiatives. I approach my work with a consulting eye to identify the key success measures and then create strategies to help us arrive there. I'm able to sift through large volumes of information to find the main thesis and direction needed to develop actionable plans. In my role at WellPoint (Anthem), a Fortune 30 company, I oversee several large initiatives developing marketing plans and designing campaigns with a specific focus on lead generation and sales acquisition through online channels. Previously I was leading the online marketing and e-commerce efforts for Qantas Airways North America. Specialties B2B and B2C online marketing, aquisition campaigns, direct marketing, online advertising, promotions, ROI marketing, email, website development, online product launches, campaign planning, loyalty programs, sweepstakes, e-commerce, being busy.