Though the steps look different, influencers build their brands in largely the same way a small business would. On this week’s podcast, Steve Oriola, CEO of Julius, spoke to Danny about the similarities between influencers and startups.
Takeaways from this episode include:
- How Steve’s conceptions of influencers have evolved
- Steps influencers can take to grow their brand
- Why it’s vital for influencers to professionalize
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About our guest
Steve synchronizes Julius’ product, design, and sales strategies to propel influencer marketing with Julius. He has over 20 years’ experience in strategic finance and marketing at successful SaaS companies, including 10 years at Constant Contact and as the CEO of Pipedrive. Steve holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts and an MBA from Boston University.
Key Episode Insights
How Steve’s conceptions of influencers have evolved
Even with 20 years of experience in SaaS, Steve turned to his daughter to learn more about influencers. He knew word of mouth on social media worked, but he didn’t know much about the people doing it. “I came into it thinking it’s just a bunch of twenty-something narcissists trying to get free stuff from brands.”
But after sitting with marketers, experts, and even some influencers, Steve came to a realization:
“These are very thoughtful people who care about FTC compliance and authenticity, and really care about their followers. These were things that were really pleasant surprises as I got really deep into it.”
Now more than a year into his tenure at Julius, Steve has learned a lot about the business of influence – and sees several parallels between the way influencers grow their channels and the way he is growing Julius.
Steps influencers can take to grow their brand
With those parallels come similar challenges. As Steve puts it, “building a brand takes time, money, and consistency, and often, influencers don't have any of those things.” Unlike small businesses, influencers often work on their passion projects alone. Overcoming those obstacles, then, is a matter of persistence. Persistence, however, can take on a few different forms:
“So there is a sort of physics, you know, there's a natural constraint on the expansion of the business. There's only one of you. So growth can take a few forms.”
To Steve, an influencer isn’t just building a brand when they post. In fact, he likes to refer to it as “audience curation.” After all, a dedicated audience is the most valuable asset an influencer has and is vital to finding success.
“A brand will never have the kind of relationship with an audience that a human being does. Brands are not humans. So, you know, I think influencers have an incredibly valuable asset that they need to curate carefully.”
Why it’s vital for influencers to professionalize
To sustain their success, Steve argues that influencers need to take concrete steps to professionalize their business. The first step they can take is to get their business affairs in order:
“I think influencers try to get into this because it's a fun thing to do, but then all of a sudden there's a ton of work involved with it. For all of those mundane activities that an influencer is really not in this to be doing, they should find economical ways to get them done.”
In addition to getting better at the business aspects, there are larger, more strategic goals for aspiring influencers to reach. Steve recommends for influencers to get feedback anywhere they can get it to better understand their position in the space.
“Influencers need to understand what brands want in addition to cultivating their own brands... I think that they should elicit feedback from marketers quite honestly.”
Feedback is vital to understanding what marketers want from them, and moreover what their audience wants as well.
His final piece of advice for influencers is to seek out and build long-term relationships with brands:
“Influencers should strive to be less transactional in how you're doing this business and pursue those longer-term relationships because brands are generally looking for those as well.”
Following this advice can help influencers manage and grow the business end of their platforms, and give them the time and flexibility to work on their content – the reason many of them got into the business in the first place.
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