Education Content Marketing

Education Influencers: What and Who to Avoid Online

By August 28, 2019December 13th, 2022No Comments

(Catch up if you missed it: Part I: Best Practices for Collaborating with Social Media Influencers.)

Social Media Influencers Part Two: With great influence comes great responsibility

These are words to live by when you dive into influencer marketing, an increasingly popular and viable tactic to spread the word, reach new audiences and build brand credibility. Since 2017, more than 300 new platforms and agencies focused on influencer marketing have been established, according to a survey by Influencer Marketing Hub. However, we’re also seeing challenges like influencer fraud, where fake profiles with large followings are used to deceive companies into running real campaigns, and concerns about brand safety when unfamiliar influencers are engaged.

Since we’ve already covered best practices for working with education influencers, we’re exploring the reverse … what not to do in your influencer marketing campaign. We again are pulling insights from a handful of experts (literally, five of them!). Together, we’ve outlined three big tips for what not to do.

Avoid education influencers who are NOT right for your campaign

While it is important to know who is the perfect fit for your brand, the flipside of that coin is knowing who is not a good fit. The wrong education influencer can be detrimental to a campaign, cause a PR crisis, and sour your board or boss on ever running another education influencer campaign. Here are a few red flags to watch for when researching influencer candidates:

Dodge the disengaged education influencer

The main reason you’re working with an influencer is to increase your brand’s reach and engagement. You simply cannot get results from someone who only tweets or posts on Instagram every few months. That doesn’t mean an influencer needs to be online daily, but they do need to be present enough for their audience to follow along.

People who post infrequently might still have large followings and draw huge audiences for each post, so scrutinize followers and engagement to determine if an influencer’s activity is right for you.

Chelsey Dequaine, social media director at Isthmus magazine, says that influencers have to bring entry-level social media skills to the table to produce desired results. These don’t necessarily need to be school-taught skills. Many influencers simply “get it” and understand how the channel works for them. That said, a partnership won’t work if you have to “hold their hand” on the basics.

“The learning curve has to be quick,” noted Dequaine. And she’s not wrong. One misstep from your education influencers, and your business can be in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Sidestep users actively involved with your competitors

While collaborating with someone who has worked with one or more of your competitors is not off limits, you should proceed with caution for several reasons. Some influencers won’t work with competing brands – this integrity is something to seek. Because their history with another brand is public record, they want to maintain their image. That said, not all influencers have firm stances. Some influencers will work with multiple brands in the same space, which can go a long way towards establishing their credibility.

Another thing to keep in mind is how your brand is perceived by an influencer’s audience. Someone who has worked with brands before will have followers who understand that ads are part of the experience. If these end users are willing to engage, ask questions and post comments, then it can be worth it.

Finally, we wouldn’t recommend reaching out to an influencer if they are currently and actively promoting a competitor. Dequaine agreed on this front, and for good reason.

“We try to avoid working with someone who clearly already works with a lot of other brands,” Dequaine said. “Not that we have run into it yet, but for some brands it could get complicated if you work with an influencer who might be working with competitors.”

Not only will it be complicated, but you could end up promoting each other’s products and services, as many education influencers feature multiple products in posts and blogs.

Banish the brand hater, but mend relationships when possible

Someone who is vocal about disliking your brand is not a great choice for spreading positive messages about your products. Still, it’s important to differentiate haters from detractors.

While haters actively seek to knock your brand, detractors may only have had a negative experience. Perhaps they dealt with a subscription issue or an unsatisfactory customer service call. These detractors are actually an opportunity: to solve the problem and then leverage a satisfied customer to vouch for your commitment. Conversely, by extending some positive attention to a big influencer, you could turn a detractor into an advocate.

If your perspectives or morals clash, it simply won’t work. This sentiment is echoed by Stacy Harbaugh, social media and community specialist at designCraft Advertising.

“Stay away from anything you can see on social media that would conflict with your values, both personal and professional,” Harbaugh said. “More companies are committing to making a positive community impact. Even if it’s not important to the whole nation, but it’s important to your company, it matters.”

And, it is hard to make a positive impact with negative Nancys! So skip it – and focus on the positive education influencers in your community.

Distance your brand from the self-interested

When a brand partners with an influencer, the goal should be to use combined power to raise awareness or drive action. If a brand is in it just for the glory of profit, they’re missing the point, especially in education. And education influencers know when brands are in it for the wrong reasons. Educator and YouTube content creator Claudio Zavala Jr. says he stays away from brands that think only of themselves.

“If a company is not thinking of a user (teachers and students), I don’t want to work with them,” Zavala said. “If they don’t have designers who think about user experience and user interface, [or] if a tool is not easy for end users… unless they’re simply asking for input and feedback, it won’t work for me.”

In general, find the interested, engaged and morally-aligned influencers for your campaign, and then create meaningful relationships that benefit education.

Avoid a one-way street scenario

A professional social media collaboration should benefit both parties. Your company must be able to attain desired results while returning the favor to your education influencers. This is especially true when working with influencers who are also educators. Vendors need to be mindful that teachers are also working a full-time job in the classroom.

Jeffrey Bradbury, educator and founder of the TeacherCast Educational Network, understands firsthand that educators are loyal primarily to their students and schools.

“It is important to keep in mind that first and foremost, an educator is an employee of a school district and needs to speak and represent their employer,” said Bradbury. “For example, if a school district is using ‘Brand A’, it’s difficult for them to be an influencer for ‘Brand B’ no matter what the influencers personal preferences are.”

Zavala is an educator himself, and says that brands must consider a teacher’s availability. “If you’re going to reach out to influencers, keep in mind that they’re full-time professionals who should be compensated for that extra work,” Zavala said. “Depending on where an educator lives, the time that an educator [needs for travel] should be counted in. Always have that in mind.”

Brands and educators share a mission

The best way to understand what an influencer expects from your partnership is simply by asking them, “What do you hope to gain by working with our company?” Being aware of their goals and desires, allows you to tailor the campaign to be mutually rewarding.

This means involving your education influencers in the strategic planning stage. Getting buy-in and input up front will go a long way. Listen to educator, author and coach, Jorge Valenzuela. When thinking about a good fit, he avoids companies too caught up in their own bubble.

“I know a company is not going to be a good fit when their strategizing doesn’t involve educators,” said Valenzuela. “When considering a collaboration with any entity (companies included), I look for how they can enhance my teaching curriculum. [I want to see] their vested interest in improving education for all students.”

When considering this brand-influencer relationship, it is important for both sides to be honest on the front end. Dequaine took it a step further and created a one-page partner guidelines document that outlines the specifics of what the Isthmus brand is looking for in each influencer partnership.

“Tell them, ‘This is what they get. This is what we get.’ Break down the benefits of working with your company, as well as what specific posts will be created, and include example posts,” Dequaine emphasized. “Let them know they are ultimately promoting your company. It’s important to be able to recruit folks who can work with that.”

Avoid treating influencers like robots

Keep in mind, you are working with another human being. Education influencers want to be treated as such. Your shared professional interests are the foundation of your partnership, but the personal connection is what makes it an enjoyable experience for everyone. This connection will be the reason influencers come back to your brand in the future. Harbaugh shares success moments with her influencers as projects develop to remind both parties of their wins along the way.

“Educate each other on the value of marketing. This has to be an ongoing conversation. Share the little success stories and use them as teaching moments for your team and your partner,” Harbaugh said. “Keep it positive. It feels good to have people see companies saying positive things about your brand and your work.”

After your campaign, keep influencers you have worked with in your back pocket — there may come a future project that you can collaborate on. Also, it’s best practice to check in on what they do after the campaign. If you created a joint blog post, they may repurpose that content in the future. Try to share and engage with it as much as possible. If they share your content again a few weeks later, don’t miss that bonus opportunity to continue the conversation.

Harbaugh adds that “people phase out and they may or may not stay in touch. The friendships that you build are the most sustainable and most lasting.”

Finally, let’s look at some of the relationships that our influencer experts have cultivated.

Who is one of your favorite education influencers on social media?

We asked our contributors who they idolize on social media. These are some favorites they highlighted:

Claudio Zavala Jr.: @SirKenRobinson, a teacher, writer, researcher, adviser and speaker who sparks creativity in the most unlikely places. Watch one of his many TED Talks about unlocking student creativity.

Jorge Valenzuela: @ayahbdeir, inventor of littleBits, has developed a company, tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning, making the world a little bit better.

Jeff Bradbury: @Teachers_Tech, by Jamie Keets, is an amazing website and YouTube channel that produces compelling weekly video and written content on all things educational technology.

Chelsey Dequaine: @MidwestMunchers, the Madison, WI based couple “eating their way through life.” If you enjoy funny captions and mouth-watering food photography, give them a follow.

Stacy Harbaugh: @TheLeekAndTheCarrot, the husband and wife duo passionate about building community around agriculture in Wisconsin. Another delicious page to follow.

Share this article on Twitter and tag your favorite influencer with the hashtag #EduInfluencer. And of course, if you missed our first installment: Best Practices for Collaborating with Social Media Influencers, there’s no better time to catch up!

INFOGRAPHIC: Tips for marketers on working with social media influencers and education influencers

Tips for marketers on working with social media influencers

Did you like this blog? Try these other three options from our social media category:

  • Best Practices for Collaborating with Social Media Influencers, Part One: One tactic that builds brand awareness and credibility is collaborating with a trusted third party, such as a media outlet or industry thought leader. A new avenue is leveraging the voices of social media influencers. Influencers come in many flavors, and making the right choice for your campaign is the key to success.
  • How to Use Influencers in Your Education Marketing Strategy: Finding the right influencers for education marketing, or any niche can take time, and a bit of trial and error. But with your name in front of the right audience, you’ll be amazed how quickly you gain new viewers, customers and followers.
  • Four Ways to Leverage Social Media Advertising in 2019: Changes to social media algorithms, more time spent on mobile and digital platforms, and advanced targeting capabilities have moved social media advertising from “nice to have” to a mandatory fixture of any education marketing plan.