Influencer marketing isn’t just for consumer brands.
We believe that it’s one of the most effective content promotion techniques that B2B companies can use. I’ve used it in multiple companies (examples below) and we routinely advise companies we work with to use it as well.
In this article, we’re going to learn how a little-known songwriter in LA used influencer marketing to get his song seen by tens of thousands of people, and how the steps he used can be replicated by any company trying to drive more traffic to their content.
I got the chance to talk to the songwriter over the phone this week after his content went viral, and I’ll share the research he did to make this happen, how he’s capitalizing on the initial win to get more traffic, and more.
I’ll also weave in stories from my own experience doing similar things with B2B companies.
Let’s dive in.
The Piece of Content That Put Songwriter Evan Blum on The Map
Earlier this week, I saw this story on Facebook:
The story detailed how aspiring singer and songwriter Evan Blum, perfectly executed an influencer marketing strategy to drive 40,000 views to his Youtube video overnight. I immediately saw parallels to influencer and PR marketing strategies for companies that I’d read about before. Most notably the strategies outlined by Ryan Holiday in his famous book Trust Me I’m Lying.
I decided this would make a great story for Grow and Convert, so I reached out to Evan and he graciously agreed to be interviewed for this piece. After talking to him, I learned that the execution of this strategy was in large part by accident, which adds to the entertainment value of this story. Nonetheless, there’s a ton we can learn about content strategy, influencer marketing and content promotion from it.
Evan’s actions break down how to leverage an influencer to drive targeted traffic to your site in a way that’ll be relatable to everyone.
Evan’s Crush on Pop Star Camila Cabello Gives Him the Perfect Song Idea for an Influencer Marketing Campaign
I sent a Facebook message to Evan on Tuesday night after reading his story and we hopped on a phone call a few hours later to discuss how he got covered in Refinery29. He told me that he lives in Los Feliz, a suburb of LA that’s just East of Hollywood, and that he is an aspiring musician. Evan is in his 20s, with a thin build and the look of an indie band lead singer. His dream is to be a pop songwriter and he just recorded his first album.
“My producer had a crush on Camila Cabello, and after looking her up, I had a crush on her too” Evan tells me. “We wrote this song as a joke. We thought it would be funny to create a song where someone gave a backhanded compliment to a girlfriend by comparing her to another girl.” The woman they chose to compare the girlfriend to in the song was Camila Cabello.
I didn’t know who she was prior to reading that article from Facebook. But it turns out Camila is a famous singer and prior member of the group Fifth Harmony – who recently recorded a hit solo album and has 3.44M followers on Twitter.
Evan explains, “As we created the song, we did a lot of research about her. For example, she often wears a bow-tie in her hair. We weaved all of these details about her into the song.”
The storyline of the music video is that Evan writes a song for his girlfriend, and when she asks to hear it, it turns out the song is all about how much he loves Camila Cabello – and how he likes his girlfriend because she’s like Camila Cabello. His girlfriend ends up breaking up with him at the end of the video because, well, he likes Camila more than her. It’s pretty amusing.
Here’s the video that you can watch for yourself:
Later we’ll show how Evan leveraged this to get in front of Camila Cabello’s millions of fans, but first let’s talk about why this was a perfect piece of content for an influencer marketing campaign and how marketers inside of companies (including B2B companies) can use similar principles to make influencer-ripe content.
Identifying an Influencer That Has Your Customer Base As Their Audience
Step one in a successful influencer marketing campaign is figuring out a good influencer to target.
To find a good influencer to target, you need to do user research to identify an influencer that your customer base is aware of. A simple way to do this could be to ask your customers “who do you trust most for advice about X industry?” via a phone or email survey.
In Evan’s case, he tells me “his goal is to become a pop singer and songwriter”. And for him, Camila is a perfect target influencer because her fanbase is made of up pop music lovers.
Creating Content That The Influencer Would Want To Share
Evan’s song wasn’t created for the sole purpose of being shared by an influencer. Marketers: notice how it’s not a piece of content that rehashes what an influencer has said, or bullshit roundup post that mentions one.
He created an original, thoughtful piece that wove Camila into his story (in this case, a song), which is flattering for the influencer he’s trying to get the attention of. The influencer isn’t sharing the piece of content out of guilt or annoyance, but out of delight.
The whole story is about how Camila is this amazing woman and how everyone should strive to be like her. And it’s genuinely funny and entertaining. What pop star wouldn’t want to share it?
Here are a couple of ways that you execute on this strategy for your business
Identify an influencer who has your same customer base and create a story about them or with them – ie. write a story all about the influencer that makes them look good.
This was a strategy I used while at ThinkApps. YCombinator did a video series called How to Start a Startup. It was a 20 lecture video series that featured some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names teaching one component of starting a company. Because each of the videos were an hour long, we decided to have writers watch the videos and summarize the lectures into blog posts.
We’d then share the stories with the people who taught the lecture, and share with YC via Twitter and HackerNews – oftentimes they’d share our content with their audience.
Another way to approach this is to reach out to an influencer and ask to do an interview with them as a way to get them to share your piece with their audience.
I reached out to Chris Messina over Twitter and asked to do an interview with him. The key part of the pitching him was letting him know about our audience – product managers, startup founders and developers from the Valley. I also cited traffic numbers and previous interviews that we had done in the past. He agreed and we transitioned the conversation to email to coordinate.
Chris is widely known as the inventor of the hashtag and was also a former employee of Google. We talked about his experience at Google as well as how he needed a much needed break to work on some passion projects. There was so much great information from the interview that we decided to make it a two part series.
The second piece of the series being about his thoughts on the future of social networks.
He shared both of those stories with his audience on Twitter after they were published (back then it was upwards of 70k, now he has over 95k followers). The stories got additional traffic after being posted to a subreddit. The results were thousands of visitors for each article.
I can’t say this enough, the essential part of this strategy is to not just half-ass the story with the intention of trying to get someone to share it. You need to put in the work to create a piece of content that the influencer would want to share AND that is interesting to your intended audience.
As you can clearly see with Evan’s video, it was a really good piece of content and it made the influencer look good.
Getting the Influencer to Share Your Content With Their Audience
After telling me about his thought process around creating his music video, Evan tells me about his initial, simple social promotion strategy, “I shared the video on Facebook, Youtube and Instagram five months ago when I first released the song. But we only ended up with 800 views.”
Not too exciting. But here’s where he accidentally stumbled into influencer marketing. As he explains it, “It wasn’t until I released the album on Spotify that someone searched for Camila by name, found my song and shared it in a Portuguese Facebook group that had a bunch of her fans in it. One of those people tweeted the song at Camila and she retweeted it to her 3.4M followers.”
HAHAHAHAHAHAH OMG OMG
evan, I don’t know why she was upset, I think your song is dope https://t.co/fNlGGfwNNX
— Camila Cabello (@camilacabello97) February 20, 2017
“I didn’t know what was going on” Evan says, “All of a sudden I started getting 50 comments per minute on my video in Portuguese and I was frantically trying to translate them to see what they said.”
From there, the publication Refinery29 picked up the story because they thought it was funny (which is how I first heard about him).
That Refinery29 article sent a ton more traffic to his Youtube video. “In a day and a half nearly 40,000 people had watched my video and my Youtube subscribers grew at the same time” Evan says.
Keep in mind his other videos have on average around 1,200 views, so this was a big deal for Evan.
While the way Evan got the influencer to share his article was an accident, there’s a lot we can learn from it.
The key piece in getting Camila to share the video was having a fan share the video with her telling her that someone created a song about her.
— Louise Francisca (@FranciscaLouise) February 20, 2017
If I were a company trying to replicate this strategy, one way to engineer this is to identify someone who knows the influencer and have them share it with them. That way there’s a warm connection and it’s more likely to be shared.
Another way you could do this is to share it with the influencer yourself. The key to being successful with this approach is to take the time to craft a personal email. This is something that I did with Hiten Shah.
He ended up sharing the post in his newsletter and it drove over 1,000 people to my article alone.
Lastly, you could pitch it to publications like I did with this piece I created for ThinkApps about the Apple Watch. I identified industry writers who had written about the Apple Watch previously, and sent them personal emails pitching my article to them.
The results? My story got picked up by 9to5Mac and 200 other publications.
The syndication of my story to these publications drove 20,000 unique visitors in a week and it’s what initially launched the ThinkApps blog and put us on the map.
In the case of Evan, the advice I gave him is to use that Refinery29 story and start pitching other reporters about covering different angles of the story. Also, to tailor his pitch to what he thinks their audience might be interested in.
He tells me he’s already started on that strategy, “I spent the afternoon looking up people who’ve covered Camila Cabello in the past and I wrote emails to them sharing my story. One of the publications already wrote back saying they’re interested in covering the story.” Brilliant strategy in my opinion.
Update: After I finished writing this story, I looked back on Evan’s Facebook being we’re newly Facebook friends, and found out that his story indeed got picked up by another publication. None other than Billboard.com. Now it’s also been picked up by Teen Vogue.
While Evan’s success story was a combination of both genius and luck, he accidently laid out a perfect influencer marketing strategy for you to replicate.
For companies launching a blog or looking to drive a large amount of traffic, identify an influencer you can create a story about and get it in front of them. You never know, you could become an overnight success like Evan.
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