Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon, and today we’ve got a great interview for you. I’m really excited about this one. I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks now because we’re going to cover a topic that we had not covered before on the podcast, we’re going to be talking about influencer marketing and I’m talking with Shane Barker. Shane is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in influencer marketing and product launches, sales funnels, getting targeted traffic and website conversions and he’s consulted with Fortune 500 companies with influencers to sell digital products and a whole number of A-list celebrities. He’s the founder of Shane Barker Consulting and the co-founder and CEO of Content Solutions. He’s got over 15 years of experience in the field of SEO and digital marketing and he’s just… I know he’s going to bring a ton of value today, we’re going to talk about some really interesting things. So Shane Barker, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.
Hey Steve, thank you so much. And once again as I told you earlier, I was… you guys having me on the podcast, you guys send me out that little package you guys sent me with the mug and everything. I just wanted to tell you thank you once again I think it shows the reason why you guys’ podcast is ahead of everybody else’s because you guys, it’s the little things like that, the little attention to details. I wanted to thank you again on… during the recording.
Well I appreciate that and you’re welcome and we love sending those things out it makes everybody who gets one, it makes them smile and that’s… it’s a lot of fun.
So, tell us a little bit before we kind of dive into the meat of things. Tell us a little bit about you beyond the biography and give us kind of the journey you’ve been on. How’d you get to this stage of your career?
So it’s so funny. So it’s even though we said 15 years of digital experience, I only say 15 years is because I want people to think that I’m younger than I am. It’s actually, I was just figuring out the numbers I’m not kidding you. It’s 20, almost 25. So we won’t go into how old I am but I’ve been doing this a long time. We’ve been doing them… I’ve been in the digital space for a long time and then my journey really started off… my first life I would say. I actually was in the restaurant industry, so I was heavy into customer service and I actually would fly around eventually I started as a busboy, I went to a server, went to a bartender and then actually would… they’d fly me around to open restaurants and so I would put on their POS systems… so that the restaurant could be talking to the parent company and sales could be put in there.
So I started off in the service industry and this was many many moons ago. And that kind of catapulted me to going in and I was traveling all around the country opening these restaurants and I really was intrigued by what’s in the process and putting that all in place and I was always really intrigued by the fact that I want to start my own business. And even as a young kid I had done these little lemonade stands and I remember going to Oregon one time here in California, going to Oregon one time and my mom… somehow I found out that you can take a can and you can give it to somebody and they’ll give you money, give you some change and I lost my marbles. I was like, “There’s money everywhere.” We were camping and my… I literally spent the whole camping trip taking out cans like a homeless person.
And my mom’s like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m making money.” I… and so I’ve always had this kind of fascination with money which is kind of been really interesting but that really catapults me to a point where I started opening my own businesses and this is how I… my digital journey started. I had my own businesses and I didn’t have a lot of money and so I was kind of figuring out like, “Hey, I enjoyed marketing. I’m pretty good at sales. I’ve got a pretty good mouthpiece on me but how do I, how can I able to bootstrap this thing?” Right? Because I don’t have tons of money. I need help with websites and logos and at that time SEO but nobody knew it was called SEO it was just putting a website up and seeing what happens when it comes to Google.
And so this whole journey has really been because I’ve had my own businesses and so it’s put me into a position of getting my own businesses to be successful. And then that turned into, “Hey, maybe I can show other people how to drive leads and drive traffic and convert that traffic.” Which has turned me into influencer marketing, which is another piece of that tool set, right? Something else or with PPC and you have SEO, you have influencer marketing, there’s a lot of different things you put in there and influencer marketing is just one of those tools that you can use to drive traffic and really go after really niche audiences because of influencers and then have influence over their following.
When Having “Less” Experience Is Better
First of all, I’ve already learned something just in that little introduction. I’ve learned that I need to reduce the number of years of experience that I list. So thank you for that because I think we revolve in the same ballpark based on- but… I mean it sounds like you’ve been doing a ton of interesting things. It’s funny the story of going around looking for bottles. I’ve forgotten about that as a kid that’s one of the things I regret that are… that my kids, our generation who is having kids now, they don’t know that you… I used to go around all the time. That’s how I bought my candy.
That was… I mean for me, I was… it floored me that people were leaving money on the table. I mean, and I know… I understand what that meant as a kid, five years old camping but it was really interesting to me. And then I… In everything, I used to do to… this is kind of funny, I remember obviously the machines where you’d have like the papers and stuff or we would go into 7-Eleven underneath there was this lip underneath between the counter and the ground and people would drop change and not grab it. “It’s a quarter, who cares?” So for me, I would look under there and I’m like, “You’ve got to be…” So I’m embarrassing my mom, she’s buying some milk and here I am, hands under the counter and I’m scouring for quarters. And there was another time, I almost jumped out… this is a funny story.
I almost jumped out of the car because we were going into San Francisco and they have the tool booth, toll booths and somebody had dropped their change out the window and it was dollars. And I lost myself. I almost jumped out of the car and killed myself to grab these dollars. And my mom was like, “What are you doing?” I think after that point she put it on child lock and I was like, “Well, there’s dollars everywhere.” She’s like, “I will give you a dollar please do not jump out of the car.” But I’m like, “But I can get that dollar.” And she’s like, “You versus a car.” And I didn’t really get that obviously I hadn’t jumped out of too many cars in my days and just said, “Hey, you can’t do that.” And in front my mom realized, “Hey, I’ll give you a dollar, give you $2, I’ll give you $10 not to jump out of the vehicle ever again and not even think that you should do that.” There was that weird infatuation with it for sure.
That’s hilarious. So you’ve built multiple businesses and the thing I always like to start off within these interviews is really getting a sense for what that journey’s been like and particularly when you’ve run up against challenging times again you’ve hit those walls where it was just a little bit harder than you thought it would be or maybe a whole lot harder than you thought it would be. And I always like to hear the ideas, the mindsets to just sort of ways of being that you kind of leaned on to push through that. And we always get the most interesting things out of that. So no pressure or anything but no I’d love to hear how you push through when you’re building a business and things are getting tough.
Well, and I… it’s funny because of my background, I do have a lot of experience with building businesses and some of them very successful and some of them failed, right? And I learned different things from each one of those businesses but for me, my mindset is always been very positive in the sense that… and I’ll tell you some of the stories in businesses I built but for me, it’s always mindset, right? It’s always how you start your day and how you think about your day and I think the power of the mind, a lot of people don’t understand the power of the mind. I believe in if you have a disease or something happens that if you believe you can conquer it you can, once you give in your done. Right? So I think the same thing with just life.
I look at life in a different scope. I look at it as, “Hey, I’m very fortunate in the things that I’ve been able to do, some of my businesses failed, but some of my failed businesses I learned more than my businesses that were successful.” Right? And so there’s value in everything. You have to look at that. And so I’m… once I look at my life and go, “You know what, I’ve been very fortunate.” But I have… I’ve got some great stories for you, business wise. I mean I’ve done so many things business wise I used to do… I told you open restaurants and do that. I actually opened a bar. So I used to own a bar in Chico, California, which is where Sierra Nevada’s from in fact that’s where my son’s going to college now. But so that… you sell in a bar for about two years, which was a pretty interesting process that I went through living in Chico, California, which is a pretty heavy party town.
That was an awesome experience. I mean I had a business that I brought from zero to $25 million in two years, I had 130 employees. I had tons of… I mean three, four different offices. I mean… so I’ve done a lot of really interesting stuff and that business is something… when you talk about perseverance. I’m going to tell you guys, nobody’s ever heard this and I’m not just saying that. Nobody’s ever… knows my story behind my business that I built up to 25 million the end of that story is I ended up getting sued by the Attorney General for $65 million and I fought the Attorney General for two years and it cost me about $2 million to do and I won. And that’s a whole other story. That could be a podcast we probably have to spend like a whole day together, that story behind that and what happened behind that.
But building that business up and just how we did that because I mean, like I said, 130 employees in two years is quite a feat, the growth was extremely fast. We had our own video team and I was in charge of sales and marketing. I had two other partners and so it was a really interesting business, while it was in the real estate space and what we did was we helped people that were put in bad loans and this was back in 2008 when there was a lot of people that were put in bad loans because… not to go heavy into this but the brokers, there was a lot of brokers. They… the lenders would actually incentivize you to put people in worse loans and you would be paid out more money if you put in somebody in a shorter loan where they had a higher interest rate than if you were to give them something fair.
So once again, not to go heavy into detail on that but the idea of it was is that we felt that there were people that don’t speak English and there were people that were older that were taken advantage of and put into a bad loan and they were incentivized to do this because they make more money if they put you in a bad loan. So we went after those people and then there was a huge PR play behind that and there was a huge sting, there was a lot of suspects, a lot of politics behind that. Right? Because I mean been going after big banks and you have to… now I realize these, you have to be really prepared If you’re going to go and sue big banks, you have to be ready from all angles and I wasn’t as ready as I should’ve been.
When Helping People Backfires… Big Time
I didn’t have a lobbyist, I didn’t have a… we didn’t have all that in place and we kind of learned the hard way once we got sued by the Attorney General and we went and we obviously won that case but there’s a lot of moving pieces to that whole story. But when we talk about perseverance, I mean, I went from being a local, not say celebrity, but people knew who I was like face, I was on television, I was on the billboards, all this fun stuff to six months, probably about a year and a half later them saying, “Hey, you’ve got to watch out for this guy. He’s got a fraudulent business. He’s taken advantage of people.” which was untrue, which was not the deal that was happening, but there was a big PR and political play behind that. So I mean you talk about businesses, you talk about being unstoppable, there is nothing, there is really nothing that would ever prepare anybody for what I went through my business, what my company went through but because of that, it’s made me a stronger person, made me a stronger individual. And I still live in the same city and I was able to clear my name of everything.
And it takes a while, especially when there’s a PR play and you’re going up against big companies that have millions and millions of dollars that have the best attorneys in the nation, that they’re trained to go for blood and I’m… here I am starting a business and or had a successful business and just looking at how we can help people that were taken advantage of. So, once again, we don’t have to go heavy into that story, but the idea of that is what I learned through that whole process is… I mean, it’s just like… it’s just one of those things like, “Would I ever take that back?”
I… it sucked kind of the whole process but I would not take that back in the sense of what I learned as an individual, as a person. And what I learned from a PR perspective and I learned kind of through… running through flames on, “Hey, when something hits the fan, how do you deal with it?” Right? And how do you… when you’re going up against a big player that’s got millions of dollars and they’ve got connections and networks and all this kind of stuff, me as a small player, I mean even though the business was worth about 25 million at that time, how do I… how do you protect yourself better if you’re going to go up against the big dogs? Right? And so there was a huge learning curve that had huge learning lesson.
And like I said, I’m not just saying this, this is literally the first time I’ve talked about this and this is one of those things that happened 10 years ago and it was just a crazy, crazy deal but once again, I feel blessed in the sense that I made it out and I was able to learn and I was able to once can clear up my name and get other businesses up and going on that were successful.
As I’m listening to you, I’m thinking not that many people have experienced being sued for $65 million?
No, I’m telling you man, it was one of those things and there’s a lot of like I said, a lot of moving pieces to it and we only have an hour today, but in a nutshell it was once again going after people that have bigger money than I do and have better networks and know people and so what we were doing, we were suing banks and we had about 1400 lawsuits up against all the banks. And so when you do that each… for each lawsuit obviously they have to hire an attorney and it’s not that big of a deal. They have money but really at the end of the day, they’re going, “These guys are starting to move the needle and if they start to get all these precedents, we have attorney or judges that say, “Hey, it looks like there were some problems here and they start showing that in legal records then people use that as a precedent for other cases.”
So what we were doing is we got on their radar and it was a situation where they said, “Hey, we got to stop these guys.” And it looks again a lot of politics behind that and once again I am not… I mean the way that it happened and everything that happened, I don’t have any bad feelings for people that sued me or the individuals and all that kind of stuff. I look at like life is a journey and everything happens for a reason. And I feel like that happened for a reason to, even though, you know my outlook 10 years ago when it was happening, I’m like, “Man, I build up this business.” I mean we were most… nobody knows this, but we were going to sell our business we had a… somebody that wanted to buy the business for right around, I think they want to buy at about 25 million.
So I was looking… I was months away from selling my business when this hit the fan and even the company that was going to buy it said, “Hey, that’s fine. We’ve been sued by the attorney general as well. It’s not a big deal.” Well, the trump to this whole thing or the checkmate was they froze my business accounts, business, my personal and my business and so at that point, they had stopped me 100%. So my business actually shut down because I had no way to pay my employees. So it was a crazy little… and once again, you guys are literally hearing it first, I mean it’s… I’m… I’ve debated whether to write a book about it and stuff because it’s a crazy story and it’s not about me saying, “Screw this person or these banks are bad or…” This is what it is I look at it like how did I make it through that? Right?
And how did I… was able to persevere in a situation where people are talking bad about me and my business. And I took that personally because I’m a very passionate person and I felt like I was doing good and helping people, and was I making money? Absolutely. Right? But the thing is making money isn’t a bad thing. Right? So it just… once again the learning lesson through that whole thing and it’s… I do look at it now and I go, “Wow! that’s just crazy.” I got super 65 million when… after this journey and I’m going up against… I… they shut down my money, which is obviously a way to be able to… once they shut down your money, how do you pay for attorneys?
But that whole story is crazy because we would… we had… anyways, long story short, we actually had some things that we had filed for the… for insurance to kind of cover us and these are big 700-page documents that we had signed off on. One of my guys said, “Hey, we really need this to cover us. If anything happens.” I’m not reading 700 pages of legal jargon on insurance stuff. Well, long story short, when they froze our accounts everything got shut down. I mean, a few of my… a lot of my employees actually continued to work for me knowing they weren’t going to get paid because they knew the passion behind what we were doing and we were doing a good job but what happened was I… my attorney sent out messages to all of the individuals of the insurance plans and they all said, “Hey, you know what? We don’t… sorry, there’s nothing we can do that’s not under our… under your plan.”
And of course, I didn’t… my attorney came back and said, “Hey, the only way that you can prove this is that you have to sue them.” And then they go and look at the paperwork and they say, “Yes, we’re sorry on line two on page 586 you are covered.” But of course I don’t have the money to go do that and so my attorney came to me and says, “Hey, Shane.” Brought me in and says, “Hey, there’s nothing else we can do. I don’t… sorry about this, but there’s… you don’t have any more money because it’s frozen. I can’t…” And I said, “Hey, I totally get that.” Really sucked for me, right? I’m like, “God, I had to go home to my wife and my son.” And I’m thinking, “God, how do I tell my wife that? It’s over. I’m… I’ve no… nobody protected me now.”
And what happened the next day, which is a crazy story, my attorney called me up and said, “Hey Shane, why don’t you come on in? I want to talk to you.” And I said, “Okay.” I said, “What do you got going on?” And I actually was being somehow a little bit of a smart aleck. I said, “Why? You said… but are we going to talk for free because you know I don’t have any money?” Being kind of funny, right? I’m like, “Ha ha because everything’s frozen.” And he goes, “No, come on in.” And he comes and tells me Shane just sit down. He goes, “Some of those three insurance companies that we reached out to, we had one of them send me an email this morning wanting to apologize and you have $3 million to fight the attorney general.”
I mean it… sorry. So that’s… and that changed my life but… and that was it. So now I had some money to go and fight, show people that we were doing a good business and we won, we won in the end. So getting a little choked up a little bit but it’s just one of those things that’s like a crazy deal.
Who Are the Real Influencers?
Well, and aside from all the details of the particular situation, just the enormity of it is what is striking to me and I can’t imagine being in that position. I mean, all of us who run businesses we go through difficult times and everybody does but I’ve talked to, I don’t know over 120, 125 people at this point on this podcast, that’s probably… other than some people who’ve talked about some life or death health things. Probably the biggest challenge I’ve heard. How did you grapple with that? I mean, it’s one thing to sit here now 10 years removed and say, “I sort of had the Zen approach to everybody around me.” But in the moment I got to imagine that you were feeling some pressure and it had to be very difficult?
Yeah. it really was and I dealt with it in a very… in a weird manner. And I don’t mean weird, but it just… it was like everything around me was on fire but I was somewhat not okay with it but I was still able to go through continue and persevere. Right? So it was a really weird deal because I’m… literally there’s… I mean there was local… here in Sacramento, there was local new stations that six months earlier were talking about how I’m helping people and I’m… people who are put in bad loans or freezing foreclosures we are doing all this great stuff for people that were taken advantage of, because if you can’t pay your notes because it’s adjusted and we find out you were put in a bad loan, how are you going to pay an attorney? Right?
This whole system is built on you have to have a lot of money, If you want to go get a great attorney. I mean, how are you going to sue somebody when you can’t even pay your mortgage? So what we did is we made it affordable for people to be able to have a voice. And so that whole thing and when… and then all of a sudden when the PR thing started to come out they were calling me a con artist and all this kind of stuff. I mean, it was hard, the thing that was hard for me was how it affected my family. Right? My Dad’s president of the Teacher’s Association, my mom’s been a nurse for 35 years. My wife was a… worked as a… she was an executive administrator now she’s a nurse, but she was an executive administrator for a very high up CEO here locally.
And so that’s the hard part for me. I can take a punch and I’m okay with that. We can do that but when it affects people around me, that’s what was really difficult for me and it affected me because… and my business because I had 130 people that I had to lay off because they froze my accounts. So that really sucked because once again, for me, it’s a very personal thing. I wanted to see none of these people… this is all around Christmas time, I don’t want to let these people go. I can’t… I mean, I’ve always promised them that I would always have a paycheck for them and they would always have an office and we really took care of our employees and now I’m at a point where… I mean they did a checkmate there’s nothing I can do, I can’t… I don’t have money in my personal account because they took it out and then on my business account.
So that was the hard part for me. That was the thing that for me once again I knew that I could handle it or well I was hoping that I could handle it but I knew mentally it was going to be a journey. But what really sucked is when they’re trying to pull my dad in or my dad’s getting some calls, “Hey, is that your son?” That really sucked but it’s one of those things man, it’s… I look at it now and I think, “Man, how did I make it through that?” Almost not unscathed because there was something every week that we were doing. I mean, it was a two-year court case going up against the Attorney General.
And so it was grueling. I mean, it was… constantly being pulled in and it’s funny, my wife and my son and they knew what was going on but I kind of had sheltered them a little bit too. Because I’m taking punches and I don’t… I can’t come home my face all bloody, not really, but I would come home and then be like, “Hey.” I had to still kind of keep it moving. Like, “Hey, how’s everything going?” “it’s going good we’ve got some this, that and the other.” But I kind of had to shelter them from that. So I was taken on a brunt of that, obviously, because it was me and two other partners. So that process is just like it’s… nobody probably that’s listening to this has ever gone through anything like that and I hope they don’t have to but for me, my journey, my personal journey, that was it. That was in my cards for whatever reason. Right?
And for me now because of that, I mean that’s why I talked about working with celebrities and stuff. I work with celebrities to help them with their online reputation management. That’s because I had to do my own, right? I mean I had Barbara Walters, I had all these people that we’re reaching out to me at the time when this happened, I mean this was a big deal where they wanted to interview me and Shane 1.0 it said, “Hey, let’s do an interview.” But Shane 2.0 realize my attorney was like do not do those interviews. Right? Because they’re going to make you look bad. It doesn’t matter what you say you’re passionate about it.
And for me, I’m like, “But I’m not going to hide. I want to talk to people. I want to tell people what happened.” And you can’t do that. And so I kind of had to be quiet and not go after what I wanted to go after and that’s to protect my name. Right? Because that’s the only thing you have at the end of the day. And so I wanted, if somebody’s attacking me from whatever angle, I want to protect myself and I want to say, “Hey listen, you said this but let me show you this or are you think I’m taking advantage of people? Let me show you 200 people that haven’t paid me for four months and we’re still fighting their case. Let me show you… just show people.” Because for me it wasn’t the money that I was losing. It was my name and it was the fact that somebody had done false claims.
And so for me, that was very personal. And so that’s… that was kind of my journey. And I went after that very… I mean, I had people online that we’re talking bad about me that didn’t even know me and I would offline talk to them. And then I even went to lunch with a few of them, which my attorney probably if he ever hears this, which he probably won’t but if he does he probably is not going to be happy about that. But I went and met with people individually and brought them to lunch. I had two guys who said they were going to beat me up, they saw this, it’s perfect let’s go to lunch. So we go to lunch and they’re like, “Why did you reach out to me?”
And I said, “Well, because you’re saying something about you… you get the media, you’re getting heavily involved in stuff, but you don’t really know me as an individual. You think I’m a con artist because you saw something in the news, right? Which is what they’re looking to do is bring out drama. And I’m here to tell you this is the truth. This is what happened.” And the funny part was out of the four people that I met with, two of them offered me jobs afterwards, “Hey, what are you doing now? Do you need a job?” I said, “No.” I said, “I appreciate it. I’m just trying to repair our relationship or what you think is the relationship that we have. I want you to better understand me as an individual because I take that very personally when you say stuff about me, but you don’t know me and you don’t know the story. Right?”
And I said, “I just wanted to educate you on that.” And they’re like, “hey man, I’m so sorry. I’m going to take that stuff down. I just heard this and I’d heard that.” And it is what it is. But once again, that journey was just crazy, man. I mean, I learned so much and I feel like such a stronger individual because of that. And eventually I think I will turn it into a book or a movie or something like that because the story is, once again, we only have an hour today, but the story is crazy.
Wow! And just to kind of wrap this part of the interview up the thing that strikes me about all of this is… and I see this has been the kind of the pattern of… throughout this podcast. When I talk to people because we start off every interview, I want to know, how have you gotten past some of the hurdles and the thing that keeps coming up again and again and again and I think you’re such a good example of that and I love the way that you handle dealing with those individuals. Is that to be an entrepreneur, to be a business owner, it means putting yourself out there personally. And you see this a lot talked about online with people who are just getting into it and they have, even on a low level, a lot of people struggle with putting themselves out there personally.
Just putting their opinions out there, their point of view or that kind of thing. I mean, on where it’s not even a real threat to your livelihood but it escalates. And I’ve had the honor of working with clients through some very difficult times and have been through it myself in the past. And every time I hear this, I’m just struck by the courage that it takes when things are going badly to still stand up and say, “Yes, this is what I stand for, it’s a mess. It’s my mess. I’m responsible for it.” Just to own it and then to keep moving forward because the easy thing to do would be to crawl back in a hole.
And so that’s just the thing that… the thought that just kind of struck me listening to all that. So thank you for sharing that. That’s really powerful. I do want to take a quick break. I want to come back because I want to talk about influencer marketing and I know people listening want to hear about what you’re doing there. So we’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back in just a second with more from Shane.
Hey everybody. Welcome back. This is Steve Gordon and I’m talking with Shane Barker. And if you heard the first part of the interview, you know it was powerful and I think I can probably guarantee that the second part is going to be just as powerful but in a different way. We’re going to talk about influencer marketing and Shane if you’re sitting down one on one with somebody who’s listening today and they go, “Influencer marketing, I’ve kind of heard of that, but I don’t really understand what it is?” How would you explain what it is?
So influencer marketing is really, if you have a product or service and it’s working with influencer or somebody that has an audience or has a community that they’ve built and selling your products or service through them and so historically people think of it as just like through Instagram or YouTube but it really can be anybody that writes a blog. It can be anybody on any of the social platforms, it can be a reporter, it can be whatever it is. I mean there’s a lot of different ways to once again be able to have your product or service and be able to promote those through individuals that have some kind of a community or influence online.
So for the business owners who are listening, where does this sort of fit, like what types of businesses are a really good fit for this? And if somebody was thinking about maybe just kind of approaching this and getting started, where would they begin with the process?
What influencer marketing is… So really it is… the cool part about influencer marketing is that there’s a thousand different niches, right? And there’s a thousand different ways that you can sell your products. So the typical play is like, “Hey, if you sell… It’s like a lifestyle thing on Instagram that makes sense. If you have a demonstration type product is great for YouTube, right? So those are all some of the basic ones. If you have apparel, then obviously you can put that online and give it to influencers or work out some kind of campaign kind of strategy around that. But the cool part about, I mean there’s some that don’t fit you have maybe insurance or sometimes financial planning, that kind of stuff was kind of not as sexy right when it comes to marketing it.
But that’s not to say that you… that there’s not an angle there. That’s what’s interesting. I’ll give you an example. I did a keynote speech and this was in Mexico. I was one of the… while was the first influencer marketing event out there? And I was a keynote. But what was interesting is that one of the other guys that was presenting after me, his Instagram profile is all about things pink. The guy came out in a pink suit, pink shoes and pink everything. So now, I mean, so if you think about that. He markets anything pink and people love pink. And so he… his clients are like lemonade companies, it was whatever. Anything pink. And so when you think about that there’s just… you would never think that just because you have a pink product that there would be an influencer that specifically talks about pink stuff.
But I’m here to tell you there is. Right? And so that’s where things can get interesting where you go, “Well how can I kind of think outside the box and then how do I go find these influencers that I think would be a good fit? And sometimes with insurance, some of the stuff you can find out the easier fits or like I said, more lifestyle stuff but it’s influencer marketing. The interesting part about it is it’s no different than PPC. No different than SEO. It’s a strategy. And not… just because you go and work with one influencer doesn’t mean that it’s going to work. Just because you pick one keyword doesn’t mean you’re going to be one for that keyword. Just cause you pick one target audience doesn’t mean you’re going to be number one on your campaign for PPC. Right?
The idea of it is a strategy. It’s one of those things that you’re using a side by side with everything else you’re doing for your marketing mix, but it takes time and it takes effort. And guess what the idea of this is you hire, let’s say 10 influencers. One of them done is an unboxing on YouTube. One of them does some posts on Instagram, and then you see who moved the needle. Right now I know that it’s, Hey, it’s Jennifer that has this kind of a following that moved the needle. Now what I do is I go find more Jennifer’s on Instagram that have this type of an audience and those will have kind of a winning funnel there, right? We can kind of see how… who was moving the needle. And so that’s what influencer marketing is just because you tried it with one person doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. You have to find out where that perfect… what kind of influence you’re looking for, what kind of audience they have and then that’s where you want to kind of put your money.
Putting an Influencer Strategy in Place to Get a Return
So it’s almost like if you were running adverts on like maybe AdWords or Facebook or LinkedIn and you would never start with one advert. That’d be… I mean, some people do, that’s the fastest way to fail, right? You’d start with 10 adverts or 20 adverts and then get some information back, get some data back to see what’s working and what’s not and then kind of double down on what works. That sounds like that’s the same approach you take here.
It’s exactly the same. And I… that’s the part that people miss though, is they just go and do it with one influencer and most of the time it’s an influencer they think has a high followership. So they assume that things must be good if they have a lot of followers and then they don’t put a plan they don’t put a strategy together, they’ll do a one post type deal, right? Or two posts, whatever that is. And then they don’t come talk… have a brief together. They don’t have an agreement in place. They don’t know what kind of KPI’s or key performance indicators we should be looking for. There’s just not that communication and that’s the problem is you… just because you send somebody a product and they take a picture of it and put one picture on Instagram, we’ve… you’ve already missed that boat, that boat was six years ago that you could do that and just all of a sudden money would start coming in.
Now it needs to be a strategy. You need to talk with the influencer and say, “Hey, this is the kind of campaign I was thinking. I know what kind of content you produce. I love it for this we’re willing to pay $5,000 and for that $5,000. What would you be willing to do?” And the influencers should say, “Well, what I’m willing to do is I can do an unboxing video and I can also do three Instagram posts. I can do two stories and I’m also going to write a blog post that can be keyword driven around your specific title or a keyword or something like that.” That’s a strategy, right? It’s not just posting one thing on Instagram and you don’t even know this, Steve I haven’t told you this, but I actually teach at UCLA, so I have a personal branding and how to be an influencer course at UCLA that I teach.
And that’s what it… that’s what I train the students to do is, “Hey, you want to be an influencer, what you have to do is this is your personal brand, right? And how are you going to be able to build that out? And so it… and if you are just… if anybody’s listening to this and you’re an influencer and you’re just on Instagram, be nervous. If you’re just on YouTube, be nervous. You have to have profiles, you have to have a website and your website should be where you have all of your stuff and all of your Instagram and all your YouTube and all that stuff should point to your website. Because Instagram and YouTube are always going to change your algorithms. Facebook will always change your algorithms. Things will always change there. And so you can’t really complain about that knowing that they’re going to always change, right?
So what you have to do is make sure that you have a website that you own so as long as you’re paying hosting, you own the domain name and you’re putting content on there, you will always have that. Now you fight with Google from an SEO perspective, that’s okay. That’s a whole other conversation for another podcast. But the idea is you should be pushing people to your website and then building on your email list and building those kinds of things out. So if everything, if all your social media stuff went down, you still have your email list, you still have your website and there’s other ways to monetize.
So just good old fashion smart business, own the asset.
Own the asset. I mean it really comes down to that. If you’re making a lot of money on Instagram right now, hold on to that money and put it away because they’re going to change things. Instagram’s always no different than Facebook and other platforms. They’re looking at ways to monetize. And so they’re like, “There’s obviously this black market of influencer marketing and all other stuff that’s going on.” And not really black market, but I’ve explained that as that because it’s not on their platform. They’re figuring out ways that they can kind of force you to do… to work through them. They did it originally with Facebook, right? Used to have this crazy EdgeRank which is their algorithm, tons of people, you get all kinds of engagement for your stuff and then all of a sudden it started to taper down and you’re like, “God, I don’t feel like anybody’s seen my content anymore there as much.”
And what happens is they go, “Well, hey, if you want to boost your content for $10, you can boost it.” Well, guess what? You originally seen tons of people. Now you’re not seeing that many people. Now they’re trying to give you the keys to the castle to be able to get seen again. And it’s going to… same thing is going to happen on Instagram. And it’s… and that’s okay. That’s not up… I mean, Facebook has to monetize. They’ve got stakeholders and people that are going to be asking how are we making money? So and people don’t like that, but that’s a natural progression in this whole thing and it’s going to happen on all the platforms. Their algorithm will constantly change sometimes it will favor you, sometimes it won’t, but you have to figure out once again, how are you going to kind of like diversify your revenue stream?
The Rise of the Micro-Influencers
I can imagine so. So you mentioned sometimes people will look for an influencer who just… they’ve just got a pile of followers, they think that’s the answer. Is the follower account the main metric to look at if you’re trying to select an influencer to work with?
No, it absolutely is not. It is one of the things you look at. The problem is most brands they look at follower accounts. That’s the number one thing they look at him. And the reason why the fake follower thing became an ordeal is because they were paying people out according to your followership. So if you have $5,000 I’ll give you 1000 dollars. If you have 10,000 I’ll give you 2000 but if you have 250,000 I’ll give you 20 grand. So guess what happens? I’m like, I built my organic following for two years and I’m at 15,000 how do I get to 80,000 or 100,000 well I’m going to continue to what I’m doing but I’m going to start adding some fake followers. I got to get up to that next number cause I want to make 20 grand. Why would I only want to make a thousand or 2000 right?
So that was the problem. And not blaming the brands and also influencers should do that. But brands need to quit looking at the numbers being the number one thing. Because we’ve actually seen higher or better success with micro-influencers that don’t have as many followers because they have a more engaged audience. Because engagement is this. If you’re Kim Kardashian and you put something up and you get 10,000 comments, am I going to be able to respond to everybody? No, you can’t physically do that and she’s not going to do that. So the problem with that is the engagement rates are lower, right? So if you have a micro-influencer, let’s say they have 50,000 followers and I get 50 comments, I can respond to those comments and now that’s engagement because people are like, “Wow! anytime Shane post something and I say something, he responds back, that’s really cool.” Right? Now there’s that engagement.
There’s Hi Elia, “Shane was wondering that suit that you wore the other day. Where did you get that?” “Hey Man, I got that at Nordstrom.” “God that’s really awesome.” “Cool. Thanks.” “Hey Shane when is it going to be your next thing?” “I’m going to be doing this here and doing that there.” It’s having that conversation, right? That’s what you want. You want people that are engaging with their audience, not an influencer. And I’m not saying you can’t use the big influencers. If you got big budgets, you’re Coca-Cola and you’re just looking for eyeballs and brand mentions great. Then you want to be some kind of a crazy PRPs because something happened with the influencer. They’re drinking a Pepsi or something. Awesome. You got that budget. I mean, cool. Not saying that doesn’t work for that, but if you’re a medium-size or small business, you’re not… you don’t have $100,000 or $1 million to spend on that.
So we have to figure out like what are we looking at? What are our goals, right? Is it to get sales? Is it to get brand mentions? Is it to be able to talk about that influencer and put them on your website and as for social proof, is it to… what is the goal? You really have to figure that out if you go in and doing anything. Just in influencer marketing but anything, and you don’t have a goal in mind. I mean, how do you know when you get there? Right? That’s why you have to kind of build this thing backwards.
To me, that would be the most critical thing to have up front because I see companies get into all kinds of marketing and the big mistake in all of it is not deciding ahead of time how they’re going to measure results. And sometimes there’s multiple ways to measure and often times there’s never a perfect way to measure but you’ve got to decide up front. Otherwise, you get into this thing and you may end up creating a strategy that has no hope of creating the result that you ultimately decide you want.
And that’s just… and once again that’s a… you would think that’s a staple just for any marketing, anything you’re using and influencer marketing is no different. But the issue is this and so see this is where things get interesting is we actually obviously for my course that I teach at UCLA, I actually have a thing because my big thing this year and moving forward is education because I feel like the influencers are there, the brands are there, they don’t know how to work together. So I actually I just did a workshop in San Francisco about a month and a half ago. We had… Amazon was there, we had purple.com and really big brands that were there. And I did… it was a full day training workshop. And so that was really awesome. And I’m also creating courses for influencers based off my UCLA curriculum that we put together on like how to be an influencer but less, I use the word influencer, but more of like your personal brand.
How do you build this out, put a media kit together? How do you pitch brands, how do you… Once again make sure you put your stuff out there so you’re… you look like this is a viable business, right? And so a lot of influencers, they have influence and they have followership but they’re not marketers, right? I don’t know how to build my personal brand to the next level. And most brands are like, “I see these influencers and I see they’re out there but how do I negotiate a contract? What do I put in the brief, what can I… what do I tell them money wise? How much do I pay them? And this is all stuff that… like I said, I developed two different things.
One is a workshop in-person or we have stuff that we do online or the course will actually be an ongoing thing. We’ll do a Slack group and have influencers in there and they can go in and ask questions and specific questions they have about brands and how to talk to them. And once again I’m trying to get people educated so that they can… the campaigns will be… have a lot higher likelihood of being successful.
It’s interesting listening to all this and you’ve been talking about this in terms of brands and I know we do have people from some larger companies who listen but we also have a lot of people in small businesses who are listening to the podcast and I’m wondering if maybe they’re going to have a little trouble translating because I know that this approach applies to all sizes of businesses. It might look slightly different or it might use slightly different terminology. So for people in smaller businesses who are looking at this thinking maybe just in my local area, how do I find someone who can fill that role? How would you advise somebody like that?
So if you are a smaller medium-sized business, a place where you need to start is if you have your own Instagram, you’re on YouTube, wherever you are, and you have some kind of followership there. Look at your followership because you might have people that are influencers in your current that are following you, that like your product or service that you can reach out to that you don’t even need to pitch because they already know they’re always… they’re already following you. They may be already liked your products, maybe look at their content they’re already promoting it, right? So that’s the lowest hanging fruit. A lot of people don’t think about that. Like you might have people currently that love what you do and you’re not knowing it and now you can go and talk to those people. Another thing you can do if you’re a smaller size business, you don’t need to have $1 million to do influencer marketing, but what you do have to figure out is how do you do a value trade?
And so what I mean is this, I’m reaching out to an influencer. They’ve got, let’s say, 100,000 followers, phenomenal content and great videos everything about it, tons of engagement you can tell they’ve really got a great personal brand. And I say, “Hey, I’ve got this tee shirt. I want to offer you this tee shirt, this free $15 tee shirt. And would you… I’m going to send it over to you and let me know what you’ll do.” And as an influencer, they’re like, “So I have these 15 free dollar church tee shirts that’s free to me and for me to do a video, for me to do all this stuff. My video guys, $500 to film, $300 to edit it, right? So we’re looking at this thing, it’s going to be $1,000 to promote this free tee shirt.”
The influencers not going to do it. Right? Because that doesn’t make sense. “Why would I go and spend money out of my pocket to promote your free tee shirt? I appreciate you gave me the tee shirt, but there’s just not a… that’s not a right value trade.” So what… in those situations, if you’re a smaller business and all you have is the shirt, then what you can do is say, “Hey, this is what I’m thinking about doing. I want to create some content with you. I have a video guy in town that we would use if we’d just took up two hours of your time or one hour.” Hopefully, it’s more expensive than a $15 shirt but you get my point just for numbers. “And what we’d be willing to do is give you $100 worth of shirts. So you can pick eight shirts from our clothing line or 10 shirts, whatever. And we would have our videographer come out, we’ll pay for all that. All it would take up is two hours of your time and then you can use that content. And then also the content we create is it cool if we use it on the website put up some testimonials, we’re also going to do some PPC campaigns, right? So any kind of content being produced there is that okay? Which will also help promote you as well.”
Now an influencer is going, “Cool. Now this will cut down my costs. They’re going to promote me as well through PPC. They’re going to put me on their website there’s some value trade there, right?” That’s what you have to figure out is what is going to make it so it’s a win-win. If an influence your pitching an influence and they say, “Hey, this isn’t a good fit.”
The cool part about that is there’s thousands if not millions of other influencers, right? We can’t put influencers all under one category that if you talk to Jennifer and she’s a female and she’s 26 and she’s on YouTube and she said, no, that Michelle who’s 26 on YouTube that she’s going to say, no. Everybody’s different. They have different audiences, They have different parameters. They have different pricing. They have different things, but what you should need to do as a brand is going in and say, “Listen, Hey, I’m bootstrapped. I don’t have $1 million, but this is what we’re doing and let me tell you why I think you are a perfect fit. I’ve already looked at your profile. Looks like you just had a kid. You just got married. Our demographics are moms that just had children and what this is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
This is why I think you would be a good fit. These are influencers we work with in the past. We’ve seen some great successes through our affiliate program. You’ll get paid out 50% Jennifer Smith over here actually did the campaign and she made $3,000 in a month. Let me know if you’d like more information on how to do this.” There we go. Right?
What Engagement Really Means
That’s it. Well, it’s funny because I find more… the more digital marketing I do, the more everything comes back to building relationships.
That’s it. That’s the-
In the real world.
It is and that’s not to go in on AI and artificial intelligence but a lot of people are worried about AI and are worried about this and that. Nothing’s going to replace just human contact. The fact that I can sit belly to belly with somebody and have a conversation that will never be replaced and that really is what it is. Back in the day it was coming, how many… how big my numbers are fellowships or influencers and I said you know what, ignore all of that, forget all that because brands are going to quit pricing off of that here soon, what you need to look at is engagement and really I would much rather work with somebody that had a thousand heavily engaged audience than 100,000 that they’re selling a new product and they’re all over the place and there’s no vision or there’s nothing going on the profile. Right?
Because nobody wants to follow an influencer that talks about the new shoes like, “My God, last week it was Adidas, this week it’s Nike and the next week it’s East West.” Know I’m like, Well what do you like? Or you just kind of taking anything that people send to you?” Right? I would rather have somebody who has a thousand followers that’s heavily engaged. They obviously trust the influencer. There’s some authenticity there and I will explain why I think my brand is a good fit for them and why it’s beneficial for them and lay out this plan. Right?
Because it’s really about those relationships. You could talk to a thousand influencers, you can send out an email to a thousand influencers and offer them a free product. A thousand of them will take it, and if you don’t have a plan in place, I know influencers that have boxes and boxes of stuff at their house that they haven’t even opened yet because they don’t have time because a brand just went ahead and said, “Hey, I’ll send you some free product.” And they said, “Great, I’ll take it.” And then the brand didn’t tell them what they wanted from it or talk about what’s the next step? They’re just… they’re hoping that they love the shirt and they talk about it. That’s not hope isn’t a good marketing strategy. If you look up hope, hoping and praying are better for church, not for marketing. Just that’s my little snippet for the day.
It never works well. I don’t care how you’re doing your marketing, hope never works well.
Well, this is fascinating. We could go on for hours with this but I’ve already kept you longer than I promised I would. So can you tell everybody Shane, where they can find out more about you and the work you’re doing?
Yeah, absolutely. So you can go to my website. It’s shanebarker.com that’s S-H-A-N-E-B-A-R-K-E-R.com. And then I’ll give you my direct email, too. So if you have any questions about influencer marketing, anything like that is just Shane S-H-A-N-E@shanebarker.com and once again usually give me about 24 hours. I get a few hundred emails a day. So if you’re reaching out to me, please, any questions are open. If you want to learn more about the brand if you’re a brand that wants to learn how to do influencer marketing the right way reach out and influencers I’ll have your course ready here in the next few months.
Awesome. Well, Shane Barker, thanks for being here and just learned a ton today. Thank you.
Hey, not a problem. Thank you so much for having me.