Five Questions with Holly Brockwell
“Influence is far more subtle than people realise. The idea that only 'influencers' influence people is nonsense.”
Holly Brockwell is a freelance journalist, blogger, social media strategist and copywriter. Having had almost a decade's experience in copywriting, working with brands like Honda and O2, Holly moved into technology journalism for publications including Techradar, Gizmodo, the Guardian and the Evening Standard. She also offers blogging and social media services, corporate copywriting and - as a result of a home menagerie - bird advice.
How do you define influence?
Influence is far, far more subtle than people realise. For instance, we often think we're just 'craving' a pizza, without realising that earlier we heard a song on the radio that used to be on a pizza ad.
The idea that only 'influencers' influence people is nonsense – everyone influences their friends, family and peers. The one-to-many model isn't always the most effective – yesterday a friend was looking for a new bread bin, I recommended one I liked, and she bought it. You don't need thousands of fans to be able to do that. If I tweeted about bread bins to my 128k Twitter followers, I doubt anyone would have clicked.
What trends are changing the landscape of influence?
Increasingly, everyone's becoming aware that people with a large following post things they've been paid to say, without necessarily marking it as 'sponsored'. It's usually easy to figure them out, and regard for both the brand and the influencer falls as a result. I respect a brand less if I see them allowing an influencer to post their brand with no disclosure.
Personally, I don't mind my influencer friends posting paid content as long as it's stuff they genuinely like, and they're upfront about it.
I do think we need some kind of #NotSponsored tag for posts that are just genuinely enthusiastic about a brand, though, because I constantly get accused of posting SponCon when I just really liked something and wanted to tell people.
What should brands consider in their influence strategy?
A surprising number of brands don't get the difference between placing an ad and working with an influencer. The whole point of collaborating with an influencer is to borrow some of their energy, to get the halo effect for your brand – not to just post a premade ad on their feed.
So many brands ask influencers to post pre-written copy, so it doesn't sound like them at all, and include a load of terrible branded hashtags that make the whole thing a turn-off to the audience. That won't result in the engagement you want, so for goodness' sake, actually ask the person you're working with how they'd like to present your product and message. They know what works for their fans.
If you could be any fictional superhero, who would you be and why?
I'm not sure if he counts as a superhero exactly, but when I was a kid there was a TV programme called Bernard's Watch where this kid had a watch that could stop time. That's all I've ever wanted in terms of superpowers – to be able to pause time. When I was younger, I wanted to use it for important things like studying more for exams, but these days I mostly want to fit in more naps.
What was your first job?
My big sister and I used to deliver newspapers around the neighbourhood when I was about 14. I used to take my cassette Walkman with me (yes, I'm old) with a tape inside that my Geography teacher gave me – Aerosmith on one side and Def Leppard on the other. I still listen to both those albums, I should track down Mr. Blair and say thanks.
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