Tools of the Trade: Influencer Marketing Conversation with Andy Naselli
This week our team brought in popular theology blogger Andy Naselli to host a discussion about building a following and earning trust – two critical components of Influencer Marketing. His career also includes roles as an author, pastor, and professor, which is to say that Andy is not necessarily a marketer, but he has spent years growing in his role as an influencer to spread information and ideas that support his beliefs.
Here are four main takeaways from our session with Andy regarding social media and Influencer Marketing:
1. To build an influence, you have to focus on producing quality content before worrying about strategies for promoting it.
Andy cited Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World on the concept of building a tribe, or a group of followers who share your interests. Hyatt’s first recommendation in building a tribe is discovering your passion. For Andy, his passion has always been theology, and with a PhD and a close connection to prominent New Testament scholar, D.A. Carson, Andy had a formula for getting noticed.
Over time, Andy learned to transition his voice from an academic journal style to a popular voice that has resonated with a broader audience. He’s authored or co-authored 7 books, including his most recent, “Conscience: What It is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ” earlier this year. He is also currently working on 2 others – and all of this is on top of his day-to-day role as a professor and pastor. His blog is hardly his first priority, but rather a place to share those ideas and others with a broader audience. This outlet has built a loyal following, with his top posts receiving over 50,000 unique page views.
2. To maintain an influence, you have to do more than just promote your own content.
Andy firmly believes that leading his “tribe” involves more than just publishing content. He views himself as a curator of content, like a museum curator’s selecting new pieces of artwork. Subscribing to more than 120 blogs and 100 academic journals, Andy systematically sifts through content and shares the most salient pieces with his followers on Twitter and through his blog. He interacts with his followers through comments on his blog and social media, while also engaging his followers and peers by sharing others’ content regularly.
Active networking with fellow tribe leaders — online as well as at conferences like Together for the Gospel, Evangelical Theological Society, and The Gospel Coalition Conference — helps Andy stay connected to larger topics and conversations as well.
3. To build a successful relationship with an influencer, you have to do your research.
Andy receives daily requests to promote brands, products, or books, but ends up deleting most of them. Why? He has limited time, and he says that many requests come from people who obviously have no idea what he’s interested in or what he’d be interested in promoting. “I put my reputation on the line when I promote a product. I’m not going to promote something I don’t absolutely believe in.”
He even cautions friends against receiving endorsements from people they don’t completely align with, because doing so can damage your brand and reputation. For Andy, the most important aspect of promoting a person or product is alignment with his values and interests, rather than notoriety or money. This insight highlights the importance of doing research and maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship with influencers.
4. To use social media effectively, you have to understand its pitfalls.
Andy avoided joining social media networks for a long time because he felt that it would be more of a distraction than a help to him. He’s a master of getting work done (earning 2 PhDs before the age of 30!) and even has 2 meticulously arranged desks to maximize his productivity.
He cautioned against letting social media dominate your life, explaining that working effectively with social media means becoming its master and letting it serve your purpose. To him, this means being aware of social media’s tendency to cause unhappiness or rude behavior and not giving in to the distraction. He recommended strategies such as the Mac app SelfControl or turning off Wi-Fi for a period of time to stay focused on important tasks.