Creating a Social Media Influencer

I went to a seminar a few years ago for online marketing of small to medium businesses, on behalf of my company. The lecturer started by saying that the best way to get attention online was to convince an Influencer to showcase your products.

Yeah, great. Thanks. For most of us, that advice is akin to saying “go become friends with a billionaire, then convince him to give you free money.” Wonderful advice if it’s even remotely possible.

In this particular seminar it was ridiculous because these companies were all middle-market resellers. They didn’t have their own products to sell and couldn’t put their own names on them anyway. So even if they’d gone through all the work of convincing an Influencer to showcase their product, it would likely result in people buying from their competitors, as a thousand shops across America are all trying to sell these same products.

So I tuned out on the seminar. I started chuckling over the idea (even as all the innocents around me were scribbling this into their notes) and thought it would be just as feasible to create our own Influencer as to find one we could get time with. Then I pictured coming back to the office and telling our IT guy, “Your job is now to become a Social Media Influencer. Hop to it.

By the time I got back to the office, this idea struck me so funny that I had to share it with someone. A few weeks later, it had morphed into a web series, “The Influencer,” about a guy in our office doing his darnedest to become a mover-and-shaker in the world of social media.

Here’s our first video, “What’s With Kirk?”

I wrote these scripts, then convinced some of my friends at work to act in them over their lunch hours. It took about a week to film them all.

We had absolutely no budget. I didn’t even tell anyone we were doing it. I filmed the whole thing on my smart phone.

Episodes 3 and 5 were filmed with the cell phone duct-taped to a coat rack as a makeshift tripod. Then I broke down and bought a $12 selfie stick, so that $12 became the budget for this whole endeavor.

We filmed these in a low-traffic area, so nobody noticed we were filming until we got to “Catchphrase,” which grew quite loud during practice. The three of us involved in that scene would yell something, react, then stop filming and laugh ourselves silly. I peeked around the corner a few times at the girls in the cubicles and they were all eavesdropping intently with no clue what the heck we were doing.

After we filmed, I spent a week working on these at night. I edited everything through Adobe Premier Pro, which my company has as part of Adobe Suite. The music at the end of “Catchphrase” is a snippet of a real demo album from a band the guy who plays “Kirk” had been involved in, so that’s really his music playing.

We finally unveiled these to the staff one otherwise quiet Tuesday, after a staff meeting. I told them I wanted to show them a side project we’d been doing, then started playing these with no explanation at all.

The reactions were wonderful! People watched, laughed, clapped, then asked for some to be replayed. After lunch, the people who had seen them dragged in some of the people who hadn’t been in the meeting so they could catch the second viewing.

We uploaded these to our company YouTube account and … nothing. Nobody knew they existed, so nobody was watching them. I joked that if only we knew a real Influencer, we could have him promote them.

Then we started sending them out to clients, as links in our e-mails, a different one each month. It took a while for people to start clicking on them, but when they did they always responded. We got a lot of “so THAT’S what you guys do all day” comments.

It started a dialogue between sales and the customers. People would ask when the next one was coming out. We started sending out samples with the jobs featuring the products that Kirk is trying to promote in the videos.

Bit by bit, word of mouth grew and people started watching these. After a year, we hit 50,000 views of the series.

Not bad for a budget of $12, huh?

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