Influencer and practitioner content marketing deliver similar value to companies, so it would seem that managing a practitioner community would be similar to managing an influencer community. Both types of communities increase reach, should increase credibility, and have a substantial impact in long-term lead and share of voice growth. Some organizations get away with practitioners and/or influencers supporting their product without any effort. But those situations are rare. For the typical business, implementing a practitioner or influencer marketing strategy is a very deliberate effort. But practitioners and influencers are not the same.
While practitioners and influencers provide similar value, a practitioner and influencer can be found in a single person. How you build a community of each is very different.
Practitioner communities are rooted in “technical” ability. Access to the community is gated by individuals’ ability to demonstrate real-world experience with the technologies, principles, and practices that the community is meant to cover (for example, if the objective is to create bioinformatics-related content—In this case, the community should be comprised of bio-science and data science professionals).
Management of the practitioner community is high-touch. It requires active engagement from community leaders and among members. Practitioner communities are less directive-based communities—Their contribution is interest-based. Consequently, the leadership of the community is about stirring interest, fostering engagement, and supporting a process—not dictating needs.
Influencer communities take a directive and execute. For example, if you want an influencer to showcase your product on Instagram, you ask the person to do it, and provide the tools they need to execute. A practitioner’s deliverable is usually blog content or a written asset. In order to produce content, their interest in the topic and product needs to be genuine, and they generally should not be actively promoting anything.
Tactically, practitioner communities need to be managed. Social tools like Slack and project management tools like Trello should be leveraged to organize and manage the community. CMS tools like Google Drive and conferencing platforms like UberConference are needed to keep everything running.
An under-recognized part of keeping practitioners who continually demonstrate their credibility is the ability to demonstrate your credibility to them. You also need to speak their language and communicate in ways that are comfortable for them.
Practitioners are motivated by sharing what they know, having published examples of what they know, and participating in a community of like-minded people. In practitioner marketing, the typical goals of awareness and overt marketing are not present. Practitioners should be given a sounding board or even a soap box (which happens to be mutually beneficial to your brand and message).
Working with influencers would seem easier than working with practitioners, and in many respects, it is. It’s easier to recruit and keep influencers. Finding them is harder, however, because you are targeting popular individuals who are also being targeted by all your competition. There is a limited pool.
But once they are on board, they are easy to keep. And that’s usually driven by money. Many times, influencers do not even need to have real-world experience or interest in your product.
With an influencer community, you don’t need as many tactics. Influencers don’t need to interact with each other, and they only need limited interaction with you. They need to have the tools (links, product, videos) to promote your offering, and they need to know what their “get” is. On the administration side, there is more burden on you to track the impact of your influencers and make sure you understand how each campaign is going. An influencer CRM is a useful tool. A campaign in influencer marketing should realistically be divided into each outreach/engagement the influencer is a part of—which means you will likely have many campaigns, all with varying outcomes.
The nice thing about influencer communities is that campaigns are very similar to what marketing teams are already familiar with—advertising. However, influencers are harder to woo, and it takes time to massage their egos to make sure you get enthusiastic engagement.
Managing both influencer and practitioner communities requires deliberate efforts to grow and extract value. Influencer communities are more cut-and-dried, and the greatest challenges are measuring and wooing. For practitioner communities, the effort is likely higher, and there are more subtleties in working with and curating content that they produce. Not all brands need both types of communities. Knowing which is going to provide the most value, and how to manage them, is a critical element to success.