Taking a look at Influencer Marketing From Behind the Table

  • Who this is written for:
    If you run an influencer program or are curious of the benefits of it for your brand, this is my view on how it can help and what you can get out of it. Pleas let me know if you’d like to connect to me or my network – drew@drewlentz.com
  • If you are an influencer, this is meant to stoke ideas on what you can contribute and how. I would love to hear your feedback, so please comment below so it can be shared with everyone.

About eight years ago, I started a blog at the encouragement of Tom from Tech Field Day. I had just finished presenting on behalf of a company where I had done some pretty fantastic stuff leveraging their Wi-Fi technology, and they wanted to share it with a group of people that could appreciate it, drive a conversation about it, and help promote the capabilities of their products using my creativity as a use case. Tom pulled me to the side and told me I should start blogging. I didn’t think there was anything that I could say that people wanted to read, but he thought otherwise. So that began the journey that pivoted me into being an industry influencer.

Now, here we are ten years later, the blog is getting about 40,000 reads a month, I get invited to several different industry events, I’m on the mailing list for press releases with analyst opportunities, and a chance to get my hands on more equipment than I could’ve ever imagined. It’s a pretty awesome place to be when you’re a technologist who loves playing with the latest and greatest stuff and keeping on the cutting edge of what is out there. It’s even more exciting when you’re someone who loves to tinker with things and take all that latest and greatest stuff and get it to do something that people don’t traditionally think about. that’s my favorite part about any of it—getting a new piece of technology, combining it with some unique service opportunities, and making it do things it wasn’t meant to do.

One of the great things about being invited to these industry events like Tech Field Day is you get to you meet other passionate people that are either in your industry or adjacent to your industry. There typically is not a lot of crossover in Tech Field Day between all the different segments. Still, I’ve been lucky enough to win the team’s smiles, so they put me on Networking Field Day, Tech Field Day, Mobility Field Day, and other special events surrounding industry trade shows or product launches. This has been an exceptional way to consider the way the technology cross-functionally across the board.

Anytime you get the opportunity to be around a group of people who have no idea how to do what you do, it’s an incredible chance to learn, iterate, and change the way people think about your industry. Embracing this, like a lot of the folks that gravitate around Tech Field Day do, is what helps propel conversation and drive change in the industry. I think that’s one of the things that makes it incredibly successful: the sharing and knowledge transfer of ideas and tech. The more people that move from networking field day into mobility field day to cloud and storage field days, the more opportunity there is to learn how their technology helps explicitly in other industries in ways some may not even be thinking about.

Now, enter vendors. When a vendor is involved in any influencer program, whether it’s Tech Field Day or through their groups, they have a unique opportunity to create a micro-industry for their ecosystems of solutions or specific events. Whether it’s HPE Discover, Aruba Atmosphere, Cisco Live, Juniper NXTWORK, Dell World, etc., you have all these people who are substantial technology fans sitting in a room together trying to figure out how to make sense of new product announcements, releases, and roadmap information. What is important to one may not be important to the other, but it absolutely may be important to someone else. This is the beauty of influencer marketing groups and programs.

It’s more than just tweets, social mentions, and blog posts. When you have people that are all driven to change the industry, who have a background and understanding of exactly how their technology works, and they are happy to share their voices with you, there’s a value in that which is almost impossible to perceive.

I’m writing this now, in June 2022, because we just came off two years of a pandemic where none of us could interact with each other in person for the last two years. Everyone tried their hand at virtual conferences, and all of them failed miserably. There wasn’t one that was better than the other; they all sucked. And I get it, everybody was trying to do the best that they could, but you don’t have that face-to-face collaboration no matter who’s on the zoom call.

At CiscoLive in 2022, sitting around the table at Tech Field Day, we discussed things as important as new and transformative 800 Gbps switching architecture and things as silly as weather widgets on a dashboard. But what we did was expand all of our horizons.

We had people there that were experts in their industry of storage, computing, wireless, networking, and so much more. The thing about it is that the entire conversation centered around Cisco, not because we all like it, not because we all use it, but because we were all at a Cisco event hosted by Cisco, invited by Tech Field Day.

Every mention on social media, every blog post, and article on LinkedIn all had to do with the world that Cisco is creating.

Some of us are trained or certified in Cisco products, but the conversations were about so much more. Ultimately, the winner here becomes Cisco Systems. They had our minds share, they had our voices, they had all of our social media chattering about their latest and greatest stuff, and we got to think about the ways that their advancements are going to change in shaping the future. By inviting us to be a part of the conversation, they ask us to share our ideas and what we see daily in our industries.

I’m using this as an example because influencer marketing seems to be something that may be waning in people’s eyes. I think it’s important to realize that the value that influencer marketing has is less to do with people being influencers and more with being thought leaders and visionaries in their industries.

When you extend an invitation to someone like me to come to your event, it’s fantastic. When you pay for airfare and hotel, or we figure out some way to rinse it, it works very well for us. A guy named Ken DiPietro taught me something a long time ago, I don’t charge for doing this, but it can’t cost me anything either. It’s a great rule, and it’s taking me very far.

I’m happy to talk about your product, whether it works or not, or whether it sucks, and you’ve got to be ready for that. But more importantly, I’m happy to think about how your product works in the grand scheme. If you have a room folk of people that all have that same mentality, which a lot of us do, it’s more than just a way to get your name, brand, event, or product information out there; it can be an incredible way to help provide thought leadership in an industry where so many of us usually work in our bubbles.

From a collaborative perspective, so many of us that create content or make videos, do crazy neon light boarding, or simply write an old-school blog post rely on these tiny little thought incubators to help generate new contact. For example, I’m not going to sit down and write an entire article about a new piece of equipment (unless it’s absolutely incredible and game-changing!) But what I am going to do is write an essay about the way the technology and services that I’ve seen are shaping the industry. When I get around other people with that same type of thought and focus, they point out things I didn’t think about, and I point out things that they hadn’t thought about, which helps us drive better content for the industry as a whole. When we don’t have the ability don’t sit in the same room and have that incredibly constructive brainstorming take place, all of our content is affected.

When a significant event pulled the on-site influencer program earlier this year, in true fashion, I had several people reach out to me who felt the same feeling of a letdown. So, we collaboratively talked about how this affected each of us, and I decided to write a blog about it. This is precisely how influencer marketing works. We see something, we figure out what it means to us and each other, we figure out how we want to help it change, and we publish it.

I hope this provides a little bit of insight into how all of us think about influencer marketing. I know the title is ridiculous because everybody equates it to a Kardashian or someone who takes silly selfies. They all have their place, but our place is helping our industry grow.

So, call us whatever you want, just make sure you call us when you want some voices to help change the world – we will be happy to help.

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