Will Post for Profit

Justin Blaney wrote the book on influencer marketing

If you spend any time on social media, you may be familiar with the names of some top “influencers.” Kylie Jenner. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. PewDiePie. Or maybe you follow a lesser-known blogger for fashion, fitness or gardening tips.

Regardless of their audience size, influencers can make considerable money—and careers—by endorsing products. And brands are willing to pay handsomely to reach specific influencers’ loyal followers.

Of course, audience size and the influencer’s status dictate the cost of marketing through them. Topping the list of highest paid Instagram influencers is The Rock, who commanded over $1 million per post to his 187 million followers in 2020. At the other end of the spectrum are nano-influencers (those with fewer than 3,000 followers), who might be paid only in product discounts or free samples.

The average influencer makes between $30,000 and $100,000 per year promoting products on their social media feeds.

Infographic courtesy of Visual Capitalist.

Intro to influencing

Influencer marketing has become a multi-billion-dollar industry in recent years. “Nearly everybody I know in marketing and the business world, this is on their minds,” says Justin Blaney, an affiliate instructor of marketing at the UW Foster School of Business. “If they’re not using it already, they’re asking whether they could start using it, and how to do it.”

When Blaney and Mark Forehand, the Pigott Family Professor of Marketing and chair of the Department of Marketing and International Business, began discussing a class for Blaney to teach, influencer marketing rose to the top. As far as they could tell, Foster was the first university with such a class when Blaney began teaching it in 2017.

But when he first began building the syllabus and looking for a textbook, he couldn’t find one that approached influencer marketing from the business perspective: “Everything was from the influencer point of view,” he adds. “How do I become an influencer? How do I make money in social media? Nobody was looking at it as how businesses could hire influencers to be successful.”

He wrote the book

And so Blaney, along with co-author Kate Fleming, wrote the book. Will Post for Profit: How Brands and Influencers are Cashing in on Social Media was published in October 2020, and Blaney has used it as a textbook for two quarters so far.

Will Post for Profit is written with both sides of the influencer marketing business in mind: for influencers who want to learn how to make money from their trade, and for brands who want to use influencers to promote their product or service. Advice for each is denoted by either a grey or black bar, respectively, running alongside the text.

“We wrote the book from both points of view, in part because we wanted each side to understand the other side better,” says Blaney. “If you’re an influencer, you can read what we wrote for brands and use that to inform how you approach brands and how you work with them. And vice versa. But the true niche that we’re filling is helping businesses try to do this better.”

Tips of the trade

Along with a multitude of tips on how to work with influencers or brands, Will Post for Profit recommends the following factors for a brand to consider in finding the right influencers:

  • Niche (are the brand and influencer’s niche compatible?);
  • Followers (how does the number of followers line up with the budget available?);
  • Engagement (how engaged are their followers?); and
  • Reputation (what is the influencer really like?).

Chapters of the book focus on topics such as how to become an influencer, what else to look for in collaborating with influencers, how to measure this unique form of marketing, and ethical issues in social media. Q&As along the way with real influencers and brands that have been successful in partnering with influencers offer a glimpse into the thoughts and experiences of both sides. One of the appendices is a marketing plan written as a class project by some of Blaney’s students.

Justin Blaney at one of many speaking engagements.

Blaney and Fleming also co-wrote a companion workbook with additional sample contracts, marketing plans, and a step-by-step guide to developing and rolling out an influencer marketing strategy.

About the authors

Blaney was already a bestselling author with 14 books to his name—in a variety of genres—prior to writing Will Post for Profit. Besides teaching at the Foster School and in the doctoral program at his alma mater, the University of Maryland, he is a seasoned public speaker on topics surrounding marketing, psychology and relationships. He’s also a marketing agency executive and an influencer in his own right, with over a million followers.

Co-author Kate Fleming was a guest speaker in Blaney’s first class at Foster. Fleming had a background in technical marketing, and had launched her social profile, @the.skincare.diary, in 2018.

“I was very impressed with her,” says Blaney. “After about a year, she was already quitting her job to be an influencer fulltime. She brought her own perspective to the book and had connections to influencers that we interviewed. It was a really good collaboration.”

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Marketing growth

Blaney says that since the book was released, he has been contacted by professors at other schools who are either writing their own books or creating similar classes. And he says the book has been well received by businesses wanting to learn how to launch influencer marketing campaigns.

“I don’t think most people realize the extent to which influencer marketing is going to be a major part of marketing going forward,” says Blaney. “Working through influencers to reach a target market is not only becoming one of the only ways we can reach people, but it’s also incredibly effective because it harnesses the high level of trust between the individual following and the influencer in a way that simulates a friendship relationship. I think there are going to be a lot of classes on influencer marketing someday, because it’s going to continue to grow and become a major part of the marketing mix.”

Renate Kroll Renate Kroll

Renate Kroll is a former managing editor of Foster Business magazine, and a Foster MBA graduate (class of 2018). She is currently a freelance editor, writer and consultant.