How to work with influencers – advice from Rob Scotland, cultural anthropologist

If I asked you to write down a list of buzzwords to do with marketing, digital and social media in 2018, I’ll bet influencers would be on it somewhere.

Influencer marketing is something seemingly everyone wants to do. But, how many of us actually know how to do it well? That’s what I’m hoping to help you with on this episode.

My guest is Rob Scotland, a cultural anthropologist, speaker and someone who has experience working with plenty of influencers on plenty of cool stuff.

In our chat, we look at how you can reach out to and build relationships with an influencer, how to avoid your influencer marketing simply turning into a media buy and what the future of influencers might look like.

Oh, Rob also explains what on earth a cultural anthropologist is as well!

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Show notes

You can find Rob on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter. He’s also speaking at the YMS LDN festival of youth marketing, which takes place on 21 and 22 March 2018.

Rob is a cultural anthropologist, which involves him observing and analysing modern culture for business purposes. For the past two years, he’s done that for Pandora jewellery, looking at how women interact with jewellery, and he also had his own business for eight years. It’s about working out how people live and then working with businesses to reach those people.

Rob points out that, when you’re a teenager, you are it. You’re at the epicentre of music, culture and fashion – you don’t have the money, but you have the arrogance and the swagger. But, as you get to 30 and upwards, you notice that brands don’t touch upon any of the passions you know people would like. The people signing things off don’t know what’s hot – that’s where Rob’s idea of cultural anthropology came from.

It’s the Wild West right not, and it’s awesome

The concept of influence has been around for a long time – subculture has evolved since the second world war…it’s not a purely social media-driven concept.

If you have enough money and you can repeat it often enough, a television commercial is probably still the best and most effective form of advertising. However, influencers are now usurping traditional forms of entertainment.

What was really exciting for Rob with the growth of social media was that things that were previously, say, London-specific were going global.

The influencer is now the person with taste. The curator.

A lot of brands realised that, and it became a cool media buy for a while.

Now we have the micro-influencer. People’s bullshit filters are highly-tuned and they want authenticity from their influencers. Do they have a track record of talking about something?

Influencer marketing has to be done very carefully

When brands reach out to an influencer, they have to make the effort to build a relationship with them. They have to be prepared to co-create and let go of some control.

People want to see a genuine interaction between brands and influencers

When approaching an influencer, be up front and honest and tell them that you love what they do – Rob was once able to get a top photographer to come and work on something with him and the photographer effectively waived his fee, all through building a strong relationship.

Influencers are like the hot girl/guy in a club – they’re getting hit on all time. So, what differentiates what you’re trying to do from the rest of the crowd?

Having conversations internally before reaching out to an influencer is key, and then having a really frank conversation with the influencers to establish exactly how you can work together. Be up front about any problem areas but always come back to the fact that you want to work with them because you like them.

Think about how you would want to be approached to work on something and apply that to when you contact an influencer.

In 2018, don’t treat working with influencers as a media buy. Don’t be an ATM, don’t let things become really transactional.

If you call yourself an influencer, are you even an influencer? Influence is very different from being an influencer.

The way to not being a cashpoint to to get the value working between both parties – could you offer your influencer access to something that they wouldn’t otherwise get?

Whenever you’re looking too hard – chasing likes, chasing hits, pushing things too far – that’s when the problems can start

Rob hopes that the evolution of the influencer will be around people growing an audience because they have taste, because they have actual influence. People like House Curious on Instagram.

An influencer has to plan their business model around having influence, otherwise they are just a media buy. They’re just reach.

Rob’s top three tips for approaching and successfully working with influencers

  1. Evaluate the reasons why, the pros and cons.

2. Stay true to why you wanted to approach that person.

3. Be very clear on your strategic objectives – that stops you just being a fanboy or fangirl!


5 apps on your phone you use the most

Instagram, Google Maps, Spotify, WhatsApp and Twitter

4 celebs you’d love to invite round for dinner

Kanye West, Elon Musk, Paul Pogba and Lupita Nyong’o

3 words to describe what it’s like working as a cultural anthropologist

Frustrating, enjoyable and #curious

2 places in the world or big events you’ve never visited but would love to

The carnival in Trinidad and attend the Champions’ League final, ideally in Barcelona

1 social media channel you love more than the others


Find out more

You can find Rob on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter. He’s also speaking at the YMS LDN festival of youth marketing, which takes place on 21 and 22 March 2018.

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The Native Podcast is hosted and produced by Dave Musson, our editor-in-chief.

Our music is by Broke For Free and is used under Creative Commons.

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