The Benefits of Influencer Marketing: ‘How I Work’ EP24 with Michael Diego (Wise Assistant)

michael diego headshot and blog cover

Michael Diego is the Co-Founder and CEO of Wise Assistant, a word-of-mouth marketing platform that helps aspiring creative solopreneurs start and run their business, grow, and monetize their personal brands. Michael has experience building teams, products, and businesses from the ground up all around the world, and much insight into the benefits of influencer marketing.

How I Work, Episode 24 with Michael Diego (Wise Assistant)

Michael joins Josh Becerra in episode 24 of How I Work to discuss the benefits of influencer marketing and the importance of fostering relationships with influencers to ensure genuine and honest word-of-mouth marketing. Plus, he dives into:

  • The shift in marketing: from conventional to narrow cast media
  • Why you don’t want to look at influencer marketing from a transactional perspective
  • The influencer lifecycle: Discovery, Communication, & Tracking ROI

Learn more about Michael Diego and Wise Assistant:

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Transcription: How I Work, Episode 24 with Michael Diego (Wise Assistant)

Josh Beccera: Hi everybody. This is Josh Becerra from Augurian. I’m here with Michael Diego, founder, and CEO of Wise Assistant, a tool that helps creators more efficiently and effectively grow and monetize their personal brands. Thanks for being here, Michael.

Michael Diego: Thanks for having me, Josh. I’m super excited.

Josh: Yes, me too. Tell me about this passion for creators. Where did that come from?

Michael: I’ve really been a creator my entire life. Whether it was when I was a child, I did a lot with visual art, painting, 2D design. In middle school, I actually designed video games, so I created video games. In high school, I was doing a lot of 2D design. I did college work in high school,. Then in college, I studied journalism in film at the University of Georgia. Everything, my background, is all creators. Got into software development and still feel like a grader in that space. Creativity’s really at my core.

Josh: Well, that’s really cool. I know what Wise Assistance is about. We talked a little bit about it. It’s about influencer marketing. People throw around these terms like creator, influencer. Can you help us with some of those definitions?

Michael: Yes, of course, Josh. Honestly, we’re seeing this convergence of creators and influencers, really increasingly creator influencers. To break apart the terms, creator is somebody who makes stunning professional quality content. They’re the photographers, the videographers, writers, and artists. Influencers are really those that have a community and they get engagement from that community. You’re thinking more of YouTubers, Yelp reviewers, and bloggers.

Those influencers, YouTubers are essentially a videographer. You’re seeing them blend together and increasingly, we at Wise Assistant even go a little bit farther and self-define a community influencer. It’s a type of influencer that really has this trust and respect within their community and they drive community e-commerce more generally. Those are some of the terms and how we think about them.

Josh: I like that distinction. I get it one, now that you’ve said it. You’ve gotten yourself into the influencer space and, of course, in doing that, you’ve learned a lot about influencer marketing. You understand a lot about where this is headed. Can you talk a little bit about some of the maybe common misconceptions that exist out there about this type of marketing or where you see brands kind of falling down or not doing what it takes to take full advantage of this channel?

Michael: Yes. I think brands and local businesses when they think about influencer marketing, they think about it from a really transactional perspective. That’s not the most effective way to manage influencers or even to think about influencer marketing. Quite honestly, if you’re just thinking about influencers and your influencers in terms of transaction campaigns, you’re leaving half of your ROI on the table.

You really need to think of your influencers as almost like your biggest brand advocates. Ideally, you have a personal relationship with them. They inform you on product decisions. They are almost a part of your close-knit community. You can have them in chatrooms. The best you can foster a direct connection to that influencer community, the best ROI you’re going to see.

Josh: I feel like when I’ve thought about influencer marketing, it’s like product placement. It’s like, “Hey, I’m going to ship you– You’re like into the outdoors and you got a huge following. I’m going to ship you my really cool-looking backpack. I want you to take some pictures with it out there and share it with your audience.” You’re saying that feels overly transactional.

Michael: Yes. There’s this broader shift happening in the marketplace for the last half-decade or so. The influencer marketing space has really been hijacked by closed marketplaces and these ecosystems that you can’t really see behind where there’s a wall between the brand and the influencer. It’s really been facilitated almost as a service, butas the market has evolved, has it changed? You’re seeing software applications that actually assist in the management of influencers at scale.

Developing relationships, nurturing relationships, discovering those relationships with influencers, and then tracking ROI for campaigns, that’s really where the market’s going outside of this, like we’re going to do one campaign and we’re going to be done. Why would you invest or why would a smart brand or business invest in developing a relationship with an influencer and then abandon that?

If the campaign is good, if that influencer and their audience are having this conversation about your product or service, you want to build on top of that. You don’t want to start from scratch every time. Now that there are plus sides of leveraging new influencers, but what we’re seeing is that the better you can continue to foster and develop that relationship, the more return you’re going to get.

Josh: What do you think is hardest then for brands? Is it choosing who that– If really you’re going to try to create this long-lasting relationship, man, I feel like choosing the right influencer becomes really hard. What are some of the hardest things you think brands have to deal with when it comes to influencer marketing?

Michael: I think one of the biggest things and one of the things that have been most challenging for us as we’ve developed these relationships with influencers is that there are many parts of the process. You want to be able to manage it end to end, so there’s discovery. That’s one element. Discovery happens a lot on social media, so you’re finding influencers in Instagram, TikTok, et cetera. How are you tracking that? Maybe it’s a spreadsheet.

Maybe it’s a CRM of something of some sort. After that, then you have to communicate with this influencer. Maybe you’re communicating with that influencer directly on Instagram because that’s the best place to get their attention. Maybe it’s their email. Some other creators, some other influencers prefer email, TikTok. You’re not only you’re discovering on different platforms you’re communicating on different platforms, and then tracking ROI, whether it’s with an affiliate link, broader just like campaign ROI.

I think it’s really this the fragmentation of the entire influencer management life cycle process and moving from each piece. That’s why it makes a lot of sense to actually bring all those influencers, essentially your brand advocates, into a community where you can interact, communicate with them directly, and almost get their feedback in a larger space almost like a town hall of sorts.

Josh: Sure. Okay, yes, that makes perfect sense. You’ve mentioned ROI, so what are you seeing as some of the key metrics? What are some of the things that brands really should be paying attention to when they’re having these conversations with the influencers? What are some of those KPIs that you would say are essential?

Michael: I guess it’s going to vary depending on the brand and its business model. The brands that we’re talking to, most of the time, they’re looking for sales. They’re looking for increased revenue, they’re looking for additional purchases. I’m curious if you’re more interested in what metrics we’re looking at that defines a good relationship with an influencer, or what a brand are typically looking for in these relationships.

Josh: I’m thinking it’s the former, so what are some of the KPIs or what are you looking at to know that the relationship you have is strong with that influencer that you need to continue to invest in that relationship?

Michael: Engagement’s everything. I think, for a long time, there was this like frenzy of let’s work with the biggest influencers in the market and that’s going to be what’s best for our business, but as the market’s matured or as it’s grown, engagement has become the biggest, the most important thing. That could be that influencer’s engagement with their community, or the brand’s engagement with the influencer.

If let’s say you’re an e-commerce brand, you’re selling watches or something, being able to identify an influencer that talks about that accessory and having good engagement with them and then fostering that engagement. Because as you continue to develop the relationship with that influencer, that influencer is developing a relationship with the community that they’ve curated. With them continuing to put your product or your service out into their community is only going to continue to develop and lead to sales for your business.

Josh: Cool. We’ve talked about some of this stuff, but besides brands getting into relationships, are there any other high-level best practices? There’s probably people who will be listening who have never done any influencer marketing before. Do you have any other high-level best practices or just like, say, make sure that you’re thinking about these things before you get started?

Michael: Yes. We can dig into the details on exactly how you can deploy an influencer campaign. Is that what you think would be most interesting here or–?

Josh: Yes, maybe. Maybe we could dig into that. I think you could segue into Wise Assistant. We’ve been talking around it a little bit. I know that you have a platform that brings a lot of the pieces together. Why don’t you just talk about that?

Michael: Let’s talk very briefly about maybe how Wise Assistant has started to develop these relationships with influencers. Depending on the type of influencer we’re looking for, we’ll use hashtags to segment a portion of influencer, whether in Instagram or TikTok. Then we use tools to be able to extract information about these influencers and send direct messages or send emails to them to start to bring them into our community. Whilst they’re in our community, we have a space where they can communicate directly with us.

We can start to deepen and develop that relationship and then we can deploy them for campaigns for ourselves or campaigns for the brands that we work with. That’s been a pretty successful method that we’ve done. We post local events, again, talking about engagement and keeping engagement at the center of everything that we do. We host local events. We bring our influencers together. We bring our influencers together with the brands that they’re working with. Again, really what we’re trying to do is break down the wall between the influencers and the brands.

Today, consumers have gotten really smart. They can sniff out an inauthentic recommendation that an influencer makes. An influencer can’t really make an authentic recommendation about a product or service if they don’t authentically believe in that product or service. Influencers are almost your most important customers. They have the loudest voice, and continuing to develop that direct connection and that authentic relationship with them is going to serve your brand the best. I think maybe that’s a good segue into Wise Assistant which I believe ties a bit into my background.

Josh: Let’s hear it.

Michael: I studied journalism at the University of Georgia. My minor was in film theories. In that major, you really look at the evolution of the printing press to the radio, to the TV, and to increasingly Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Web 2.0 is really where interactive digital media emerged, where now I can post about something and then somebody can engage with that. Now, it was my belief system that whatever came next would be a digital platform that extends beyond Hollywood or traditional media and impacts society and culture more broadly. That’s why I got into software development. I spent a few years working in cloud computing at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. During that time, I had the opportunity to travel the world and was an influencer myself.

Josh: Awesome.

Diego: At that time, I learned basically some of the challenges that can go along with influencing but I also learned how I guess important influencers were inspiring people to try new products or try new services or experiences. Wise Assistants emerged around that. When you describe the company earlier, you talked more about the product. We empower influencers to really grow their brand and start their business so that they can do it as more than just a side gig. We like to think of ourselves as a word-of-mouth marketing platform.

We leverage the power of influencers as our means of helping brands and helping the influencer amplify their voice. That’s really what we’re doing with influencer marketing. The most authentic kind of marketing is marketing generated through direct authentic recommendations. That’s why we believe in helping influencers, empowering them to not only fund their work fund, their ability to experience new things, try new products and services through these partnerships that they’re developing, but to help them monetize so that they can sustain it as a business generate passive income through selling digital products and services.

Josh: I love that you’re talking about it as word of mouth, because in the end that I still believe is the very best marketing. If you can translate that to influencers and really help brands understand that all we’re doing is amping up the word of mouth by leveraging people who have large communities that take that recommendation, that authentic recommendation, I mean, I think it’s super smart to be thinking about it like that.

Michael: At the end of the day, the things that you end up buying or trying as a consumer typically come from people in your network that you like, know, and trust. With influencer marketing, you’re really just giving a megaphone to these community leaders and you’re being more intentional about how they’re talking about products and services, and where they’re talking about it. You’re like staging word of mouth marketing and that’s really at the core of what influencer marketing is.

It’s really the shift between conventional marketing, where conventional marketing is broadcast media; where a company is talking directly to an audience and this shift towards more narrowcast media where members of the community are talking to each other. That’s really where authenticity– that’s really where the conversion happens. That’s where the magic happens. I mean, millennials and Gen Z are increasingly turning to influencers and members of their community for recommendations to make these buying decisions.

Josh: Cool. A lot of the audience here is a software as a service kind of marketers and companies. Wise Assistant, of course, is software. How are you guys going about growing– what strategies have you started to use as a SaaS company that you’ve found to be most effective?

Michael: We’ve tried a little bit of everything. At the end of the day, influencer marketing is the largest ROI that we’ve ever seen.

Josh: Doesn’t surprise me that that’s your answer.

Michael: [laughs] I mean, I’m being serious. We’ve done a bit of SEO. We’ve run ads. At the end of the day, when you really hone in on an influencer whose community could get a lot of value from your product, and they talk about your product or your service in a way that resonates, that’s when we see spikes in our growth and in our trajectory. We’ve experimented with a little bit of everything, though.

I’m not saying that your entire marketing stack should be 100% marketing. I mean, I’m a big proponent for diversification, but I do think that specifically what’s going to resonate with this generation is going to be that direct recommendation by people that have almost become a part of their life, and you really get that through influencer channel marketing.

Josh: Cool. Well, I love that you’re drinking your own Kool-Aid and that it’s working. I think that’s awesome. I feel like there’s a lot of people who shy away from it because they just don’t get it or don’t understand it. It sounds like you’ve learned that it can work for, not only Wise Assistant, but a lot of other brands and companies as well. That’s super cool. Talking about learning, we’re getting close to time, and one of the things that I love to ask every one of my guests, of course, is what are you learning right now? Who are you listening to? What books are you reading, podcasts, any thought leaders out there? Anything that you can share with the audience?

Michael: Yes. I guess I would highlight two people or one book and then one person. Back when I was doing the travel influencing gig, I read a book called The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine. In the book, he talks about the evolution of economic value from commodities to goods and services out into experiences and transformation. It set my focus on what became Wise Assistant. I really would encourage that book for any business owner.

I think it’s how they talk about the value of experiences and therefore relationship that developed through them, I think is really powerful. As it relates to more of more directly to influencer marketing and more directly to word of mouth marketing, there’s this guy, Ted Wright, who has this company called Fizz. There’s a book called Fizz: it’s harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing to grow your business, something like that. It’s really like the manual for word-of-mouth marketing. He talks about how you turn your most engaged customers into advocates.

I believe literally, in the first chapter of the book it’s influencers and why you need them, which he gets into this idea that word influencer is really becoming very loaded because people tie influencers just to social media influencers and less community influencers. I think he does a good job about separating the two and really highlighting, whether you like it or not, you’re already working with influencers. He does a really good job about separating the two. I like to stay up to date with Ted. Fizz is actually in Atlanta and they do a lot of work with local restaurants that I think is really fascinating.

Josh: Awesome. That’s outstanding. I love that you’re talking about the book talks about experiences and relationships and how that is where the most value can actually be derived. I’m a huge proponent of that. We talk all the time about how while digital marketing, Augurian is definitely focused on data and there’s a lot of tools to help us understand that data and derive insights and all of these things. At the end of the day, when we’re showing up to meetings, we’re meeting with people, there are clients.

We have to have relationships with them and they have an experience when working with Augurian that makes them feel good and confident in the work that we’re doing together. I’m a huge fanboy of talking about relational aspects of our economy because I think there’s a lot to it. I think sometimes we skew so heavily towards tech and tools and data and we forget about the art of being human.

Michael: No, relationships are everything. When you boil and remove everything else, relationships are what move the world forward, what move everything forward. It’s two or three smart people that turn into a company and a company is just a group of people that change the world. I think that bleeds into everything. We talked a lot about influencer marketing, but the way to think about influencer marketing is about relationships at scale generated by conversations directly indirectly through a variety of different mediums. As technology is maturing, there’s a lot of more tools to foster and create this, but relationships and experiences, they drive the world forward.

Josh: I love it. That’s how we need to end: relationships and experiences drive the world forward.

Michael: Perfect.

Josh: I really want to thank you, Michael. This has been a great episode of how I work and we’ll just say goodbye for today.

Michael: Thank you so much for having me and look forward to the next one.

Josh: All right.

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