Cody Wittick is the co-founder of a highly successful agency targeted to pairing businesses with influencers and tweets practical daily business advice to his many followers. Jason invited him on the show to pick his brain about what the influencer marketing ecosystem is really all about in 2022 and how to make the most of it in your business.
- Changes in influencer marketing from 2014 - 2022
- Creative content vs vanity metrics
- Approaching Instagram influencers vs TikTok influencers
- Identifying the right influencers for your brand
- The right way to introduce your product to influencers
- Using organic posts for your content
- How to help genuine advocates of your brand create great content for you
- Steps that lead to most authentic influencer content
- Working with macro influencers vs working with micro influencers
- When is the right time to work with an influencer agency
On this week’s episode of Ecommerce Building Blocks, Jason and Cody Wittick take lessons from Cody’s experience heading influencer marketing at Qalo and now at his own agency, Kynship. Cody is passionate about people doing influencer marketing the right way and has a lot to say about what that means. First, as a foundation, it’s about building relationships. Cody gives great advice about how to reach out to influencers, how to approach them, and how to develop a relationship with them organically so that when they support your product it comes from a genuine and authentic place. Next, it’s about content - and as Savannah Sanchez emphasized so much in our earlier interview with her - no matter the platform, there are ways to create great content that pulls customers in and makes them want to know more. After Cody gives his step-by-step breakdown of how to do influencer outreach correctly, he and Jason discuss how to set up flows for sending out product, and talk about the dangers of looking at vanity metrics when deciding which influencers to pay for.
Cody’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Cody_Wittick
Kynship’s website: https://www.kynship.co/
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🍍Jason’s twitter: https://twitter.com/EggrolI
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Prior to co-founding Kynship, Cody began his journey at QALO, the brand that created the silicone wedding ring.Over the course of 5 years, he built out a robust influencer program of 500+ influencers, all through the foundation of seeding.This included contracting thousands of micro-influencers in a variety of industries to produce monthly UGC and organic posts, while also working with household names such as Lebron James, Jason Aldean, Mike Trout, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.Time and time again, he saw the power of influencer's ability to build trust and ultimately, sell product within Facebook and Instagram advertising.
The very first step, you gotta know your destination. Otherwise you're not gonna get there. Like if you're gonna go on a road trip, that first step is identifying the right influencers. The algorithms changing has made more of the focus on the ability for the influencer to create really great content, which I think is a good thing. And I think more people should be focusing on that versus the vanity metrics that a lot of people do focus.
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the building blocks podcast. Today. I am joined by Cody Wittick the co- CEO and co-founder of Kynship. Welcome to the show.
What's up, Jason? Excited to be here.
Yeah, Cody you've been posting a lot on Twitter. like the past little while. And it seems like you're, you're like the defacto influencer marketing guy, right?
Like you and your, you and Taylor.
Yeah. We've been putting out a lot of content there, but yeah, just passionate about people doing influencer marketing the right way. And so, yeah, it's been, it's been fun.
And how long have you guys been doing this?
Kynship? Specifically? Three and a half years. Yeah.
Influencers. Oh gosh. Since 2014.
Okay. So those are the glory days.
Yeah. The glory days of, of influence marketing back when it was super easy.
You can just DM anyone and they'll be happy to take whatever you wanna give them. Tell, tell me a little more about like, what's that stark contrast between like 2014 and 2022 influence market.
I'm quite curious.
Yeah. Well, I mean, I think for one, it was a lot easier and simpler back in, like I just said, I think. I mean, the algorithms were weren't engagement based. It was all about, you know, chronological timeline, like on Instagram. So you could, you know, like you just mentioned DM an influencer and give them a discount code and a vast majority of their audience would see it.
Versus now it's just like all over the place. Certainly like changes like iOS 14 and things of that nature has, has made us all, better marketers, I would say, but we've had to be more creative. So yeah, I'd say it's vastly different, like the organic side of things and even on paid. But. Yeah. So what's remained the same is like building relationships the right way.
And, and they're still, we're still human beings at the end of the day. So even like, as it's changed from the nineties and the eighties, it was still, they might not be called influencer marketing, but you know, they were called like celebrities or talent. Yeah, exactly. And so it's just, the mediums have changed.
And I think social media has made it a lot more accessible too which has been a really cool thing to like the people that we trust or the, the celebrities that we follow. But. It's a lot more like audience hawking, trying to get new audience growth, which has made the nature of influencer marketing very transactional.
I think these platform changes weeds out the weak marketers, you know, the people who think they can just get by, like, yeah, it sucks for the rest of us, but. I mean, we always come out stronger. You've been through the past three years at Kynship past Right. So makes total sense.
How much has the algorithm change, affected the way that you do influencer marketing? Because you talked a lot about, a little bit about chronological order, which is when things just show up as they get posted. Nowadays with the algorithm being, you know, really the, the thing that determines who sees your posts, what are some of the things that you're doing to make sure that you're getting, you know, as much exposure as you can.
Well, I mean, to be clear, we, we actually just try to get off of the organic focus, as much as possible. I really just try to get people away from like the organic focus as much as possible, not to say that it's not a part of it, or like a part of the analysis. It's just not like put all your eggs in one basket type of play.
Just because of what we just said, it's just very, very difficult. Not saying that sometimes it hits, it's kind of like the stock market. Like you might have a stock that hits, but I guess just like in the same way that I wouldn't necessarily be a huge proponent of day trading, although the thrills are probably exciting.
I think there's just a way to diversify almost like a diversified portfolio where you can. You can work with creators for content primarily versus like, you know, Hey, how important is your engagement rate or your follower account or, fake followers and stuff like that. And certainly those things, obviously I wouldn't wanna work with an influencer with fake followers, but it's just, yeah, what's most important, you know?
And so I would just say like the, the algorithms changing has made more of the focus on the ability for the influencer to create really great content, which I think is a good thing. And I think more people should be focusing on that versus the vanity metrics that a lot of people do focus on.
And you guys do both Instagram and TikTok, right?
Yeah, that's where I just, I'm still a fan of Instagram. Just the variety is of ways for influencers or people to post. And TikTok is just hot right now. And it's not always gonna be hot. So you might as well just take advantage of it. And it's really creative content.
I mean, the, the two platforms are obviously very different. Can you tell me a little bit more about like how you're approaching influencers on TikTok and how you're doing it on Instagram or is it kind of the same?
Again, I think it's still like, just primarily them as being great video content creators.
So that's just ways that we can assess that on TikTok specifically. I think it's just another vehicle that you can assess that, right. You know, great content creation, creative, you know, I think the only difference is either there's tools like TikTok creator marketplace that you can actually, you know, it's created by the platform itself to work with specifically TikTok influencers and, it's made it really easy to do deals on there or, to see product on there or identify based on like your niche, as opposed to just kind of like searching the hashtags on Instagram.
Right. So, I don't know if there's much of a difference of a approach besides the fact that, you know, you're gonna get, you know, one specific type of content on TikTok versus like there's stories in IGTV and feed posts in a variety of ways on Instagram.
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, maybe like your approach is a little bit different because we're going in it as a brand and we're not managing any other brand.
But like my take is for TikTok because the, the virality of the video, or like the ceiling for the video depends so much on the quality of the video and the creator and less so on how much followers they have, of course, that helps and so like we're going after creators that might not have a lot more followers, but they are just amazing creators on TikTok.
Whereas on Instagram, even if you have great content, but not a lot of followers, it doesn't really get as much exposure. That might change a little bit with Instagram reels now. But for the longest time, that's kind of like how I saw it too. It's like you kind of, you kind of level up the standards for the people you go after, right?
It's definitely, I mean, TikTok, you can grow way faster. Like in terms of your following or just like an audience versus like Instagram nowadays, it's kind of like Instagram 2014, like people exploded in their audience. Yeah. And they're following, so yeah,
For influencer marketing, I, I definitely talk to some brands who kind of think that it's an end all be all.
You send some products to influencers and they post and you make money. When it's, it's a full funnel approach, right. You gotta make sure that all your bases are covered down the funnel. Curious to hear about like your approach to influencer seeding, like you talk a lot about seeding on your Twitter. There's million threads that I sent to my team, and I'm like, you gotta read Cody and Taylor's thread.
So seeding is a, is a, the origin of it. Or maybe there's a little step before that, but can you walk me through what that framework looks like to make sure that the brand gets the most out of working with an influencer?
Yeah. I mean, I think the very first step, it's almost like you gotta know your destination, otherwise you're not gonna get there.
Like if you're gonna go on a road trip. So in the same way, if you have to know this in terms of, ways that you can, that first step is identifying the right influencers. So IDing the right influencers basing, like we've been saying earlier based on great video content creation ability,
Second: outreach.So our approach is very unique. We approach very no strings attached. So we don't wanna ask for any posts whatsoever in return. There's like eight other steps involved, but those are the first two, in terms of just getting the product into their hands. I think that the thing with seeding is like, you, you almost think of it as top of funnel, get into as many hands as possible.
Spread the net wide as much as possible. And then the cream rises to the top, if you will, especially when you're not asking for anything up front, like the people that just end up posting organically for free, without us even asking, like, those are, they're clearly like a genuine advocate of you at this point, not build on that relationship.
And when they post, you know, part of our process is like we track the organic posting and then we reach out for content rights. And because we started the relationship the right way, but like not asking for anything, it's not transactional. It's not, Hey, Jason. You've never heard of me before, but I'm gonna ask for five posts, right.
When I outreach to you and that's my first impression. Because we start that relationship the right way. Like we get content rights and people are just like granting them to the brand for free. And then we leverage that content within paid. And, and then now it's kind of like, you have proof of concept with a creator.
To where, you know, onboarding them onto an affiliate program is so much easier, you know, working with them on a monthly UGC type of contract or paying them up front for UGC is so much easier and probably cheaper. So things like that, I didn't give you like every nitty gritty step because I don't want to bore everybody, but yeah, those are like some of the most important steps.
Like if, if a brand's listening right now is just like IDing the right influencers, outreaching the right way. And seeing the genuine advocates, you know, rise to the top
Over the years, there's definitely been a lot of changes in how people receive influencer posts. You know, back in the day, it's super easy for you to work with an influencer and it looks completely real.
And now consumers are getting smarter. Influencers are getting smarter. Consumers are like, okay, this influencer's posting once, they're still getting paid for it. What's in it for me, if they're getting the upsides for it. And then there's like ways that we could do to make this relationship look more genuine and authentic.
And I'm keen to hear like how you do it, because there's a very clear reason why brands come to you guys to do this because there's little things that you do that makes the relationship just feel a lot more real. Whereas if the brand just go to the, to the influencer directly, they might be missing some of those steps.
So in terms of like making yourself more authentic, what are some things that you do with the influencers?
I think it's kind of what I just said, and I might sound like a broken record here as we go on this podcast, but it's the, the communication it's just, Hey, Jason, we'd love to send you the product no strings attached that already is just like the influencer is wow. I've never been outreached this way before. They're taken aback. They get hounded by brands all day long. And then you're the brand that says, Hey, you're you, you're awesome. You represent our brand. We love to just get the product into your hands.
I think that's what actually, so when the influencers do decide to post on their own, that's the most authentic content that you can get because we didn't pay them. We didn't pay them enough money to post, we didn't contract them to do so. So these are things that are just leading to authentic content and it's clearly seen in, in the posts that they do drive. So those are some of the things I think that's the immediate first step.
For influencers that get a lot of PR packages. Are there anything that you guys do to make sure that they, you know, just be reminded that there's a PR package from you guys waiting for them?
We do have like, as a part of our outreach flow, basically like three days after they get the product, we basically reach out in a very palms down way of just, Hey, how are you liking the product? Things of that nature. So if they do love it, it's kind of like a little elbow without asking, you know, for them to post.
So that's, that's one practical way that you can is like through tracking on Shopify or whatever system that you use, you can track the, the tracking link of you sending them that product.
Makes total sense. And was there any instances with influencers that like was not expected good or bad. Like you sent something to someone and they just went out of like complete out of scope for you in a good way or someone who just completely missed the direction and then did the opposite way. I'm I'm very curious about the stories here.
Yeah. I'm sure there's some that I'm just not in the weeds at the day to day, so,
No, you're, you're good. You're good.
But yeah, I mean, as far as like on the positive side, influencers, like blow us out.
I mean, we have a slack channel at Kynship where. It's just like influencer generated content of the week. And you just see these creators that are just going super creative, funny, comedic, or like just awesome content. And they take, you know, they get the product in the mail and they just take it and run with it
. And that goes back into like, just seeding the right influencers, right? Like, so you can get the type of content that you want, but in terms of like, Them going off the wire or posting something really like off brand or anything like that. We haven't seen that too much just because we put a lot of pride in our ID process to really nail and the brand has approval on all the influencers too.
So there's, there's just extra eyes on it. Yeah. So yeah, that, that identification process, as, as I'm sure, you know, you guys do a lot with influencers, is super, super important.
I mean, it's a testament to why people come to you guys, right? Like the fact that there's no bad stories, it's actually pretty good.
Not good for the podcast. I wish there was some like, ... ha ha ha
I certainly have some for my days at Qalo that's for sure. I mean, paying a lot of macros back in the day that I thought would crush and we spent a lot of money and. Some of 'em worked some of 'em didn't. I mean, that's a whole nother podcast episode of like working with huge macro names that you shell out a lot of money and you're already in the hole.
And to get out of that hole, they really have to drive a lot of sales. So there's certainly a lot of mistakes
Briefly touching onto that cuz I know that little background I've actually attended one of your Shopify talks two years ago in LA when you did in yeah, I was there and I remember you talking about, you know, paying this macro influencer a lot of money to post this thing and it drove a fraction of the sale.
Compared to an influencer who was, I believe like a mom or like a wife. Yeah. Talking about, can you share a little bit more about it? Cuz I'm might butcher the details. Yeah.
Yeah. That's actually the one that I always think of. So the, it was Bryce vs. Brittany. It was Brittany Aldean. She was the wife of Jason Aldean she's a huge macro now, but at the time she was, I mean, she was basically known as like Jason Aldean's wife and she's pretty, And, but now she's, you know, she's built a whole name for herself.
But back then it was kind of just, you know, mommy blogger, that type of thing v ersus Bryce Harper, who is like a major league baseball player, still one of the huge names of major league baseball and the product, which is Qalo, which is a wedding ring. We were massive in pro sports and. Bryce Harper, all this stuff told us about, you know, audience insights.
You should be a thing on Facebook, not anymore, but it all told us that there was a ton of MLB interest in and who was buying Qalo. And so I just thought this was gonna crush and it ended up being. We lost money on the deal, cuz we paid Bryce, I think 30K. And then, with Brittany, I think we paid her 7K. It was still up front I mean, incredibly low. Even back then and for multiple deliverables and yeah, she ended up just absolutely knocking it outta the park.
Why do you think that happened?
Creative. I mean, it was just the content. I mean, Bryce, for even that just shows you like, even a massive name. If they are terrible creating content, he was just very like monotone creating a testimonial of like, Hey guys, I love my Qalo ring.
You know, versus Brittany, she was like talking about, you know, she even was very natural, organic. It wasn't even that her content was like premier or a plus, but she was, I think she was pregnant at the time. She was just like, super like. Like, I think it was a clip of a Facebook live that we ran as an ad that ended up like driving a ton of ton of sales.
And it wasn't like she nailed all the talking points. It was just authentic and spoke from the heart and was excited and, charismatic....so.
And people see that, you know, like the biggest mistake that people make is thinking that the vanity metrics is the key driver for conversion. When in fact it's the authenticity of the voice. You know, how much they really care about it. You can hear that, like influencer who gets paid a substantial amount of money, just to say a couple lines that are pre-scripted will never outperform someone who just has a fraction of their following, but so talks so much from their heart. And you can see that consumers know that, you know, their bullshit detector got so well [honed] over the past few years.
Probably because of people like, you know, us who constantly drive these campaigns and it's good. Like I'm glad that people are getting smarter and it honestly poses a challenge for us to get better, become better. Like things should never work forever. So I'm happy that things work out the way that it is.
And I, I think your example always stuck with me, the reason why I still remember it two years later is because it it's something that I still take day to day right now. Like I never look at the amount of follows that they have. Because a lot of them actually will charge you based on how many follows they have.
Totally. And, and that's not a fair assessment for their value to your company. Mm-hmm . And obviously there's a lot of calculations that we can go into. Like in another episode of you, you know, still like me after this . But no, thank thanks for sharing that. And it's truly very memorable. I want to pick your brain on a couple other things before I let you go.
And it's truly like the common mistakes that you see when you work with these clients, like misconceptions about what you do, because people are probably like, well, I can just go talk to the influencers myself. Why can't I go DM them? Why do I go to you? Right.
They, they can, I think the advantages of working with us as an agency is just the scale of which we can do it. I mean, we identify and reach out to 500 influencers every month. I mean that might take most brands, like six months to a year just to identify the right to, right. Yeah. So it's just like, I think it's just the, the speed and scale, which we can work, but all the time, I always say you don't have to hire us, like for those listening right now, like, please, if you can you have the resources to do this internally, do it, like, I just want people to build relationships the right way and see that true ROI of influence marketing, not get lost in seeing all these big brands with big budgets that have so much money, they don't know what to do with, so they hire these creators for TV commercials or, you know, they just shell out so much money. You don't have to be doing that. Like there's ways that you can go about smart, like influencer marketing.
So, I think some of the things that like people misconstrue. It's just the amount of labor and investment and time that it does take. And you, well, you know this as well as me, it's just like all the idea and outreach just alone is a lot of labor to maintain track. Cuz it's not just going into your Facebook dashboard, right?
Like it's not, oh, here's here's my dashboard for the day. And I make a few changes, implement this content and then I'm out. I outreach this influencer and they go on vacation for two weeks and then I have to negotiate with them and then their agent gets involved and stuff like that. If you're going about it that way, you know, it's just, it's a lot of back and forth.
Cause it's humans, it's multiple humans in the same equation. It's not like black and white, a key. And yeah, like I wish it was as easy as media buying, but like once emotions are, are involved or like you're waiting at the mercy of their schedule. then, you know, right. It's out of your control too.
And last question. First time I'm asking this, if you weren't in this line of work, what would you do?
Something in sports or coaching? I played college basketball, so I'd probably just be like. And, in Iowa, somewhere coaching basketball, or I don't know. I don't know why it's Iowa. I probably wouldn't moved to Iowa actually, but something in sports, I don't know, like sports marketing or being an agent maybe, or working with athletes in some degree, probably not the agent route, but more so like coaching.
Did you watch the game? Pretty sure you did, right?
Oh yeah, yeah. Insane finals.
I, I mean, that's the only thing I watch. I, I have no time to watch 82 games.
Yeah. Me neither and Lakers suck this year. And so we won't talk about that though.
Yeah. That, that's another story. Not on this podcast though. Cody, thank you so, so much for coming on, to this show, you know, like, like I said, I've been watching you from literally in the chairs f or the past few years, just building up your agency, building up y our knowledge panel. So, you know, lots of praise to you for giving out a lot free game. And thank you so much for coming on.
Yeah, appreciate it, Jason. Thank you.
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