Andrew Kamphey is the publisher of Influence Weekly and a prolific creator. He thinks (and moves) quickly. Andrew has produced several products for newsletter publishers and worked with both sides of the influencer market. In this issue of the Letterlist interviews, Andrew shares his insights into the newsletter economy and what publishers can learn from the modern influencer space.

Tell me about Andrew. Where are you? Where did you grow up?

I’m currently in Bali. Born and Raised in Florida but still not climatized to the humidity and heat. Worked in Chicago as a Santa. Worked on Cruise Ships for 5 years, then moved to LA and worked at a startup broadcast TV network that worked with youtubers and video creators. We also did Influencer Marketing campaigns which is where I worked in that industry for 3 years.

How did Influencer Weekly come about?

Influence Weekly started when I was working in an Influencer Marketing agency and couldn’t find specific resources to learn more about the stats and analytics behind campaigns.

I went out and searched for reports, surveys, case studies and ended up finding more than 70 resources that spanned Analytics Firms, Agency Blogs, Forums, Facebook Groups, Platform blogs like newsroom.fb.com and business.instagram.com but no real way to filter the good interesting stuff from the opinion except for actually reading everything.

While I was researching, I kept finding great gems of stats that went into pitch decks and helped us pitch Influencer Marketing to companies. I was sending almost 3 emails a day to my boss and colleagues. It was annoying them. I thought why can’t I just put this into one email once a week. And because it was publicly available info, I thought that everyone in our industry could learn.

This could be a great resource for anyone… beginners who need to learn, and veterans who want to keep up with the updates and also find new leads, new angles. More than 95% didn’t relate at all to my day job and I found myself one weekend just putting together a landing page, emailing about a thousand people asking if this would be interesting.

I said I would send an email if there was 1. I got 50 signups in the first week. My best friend and a big shot entertainment lawyer in the creator / influencer world, signed up within 30 minutes of me sending him an email about it. It almost didn’t matter who those 49 other people were.

I’ve been releasing the newsletter every Friday morning since then. On issue #104 this week.

Some highlights to see what kinds of interesting analytics I curate:
What Actually Counts As Good Engagement For Influencer Marketing? A look at different sized creators on different platforms and averages for each.
2019 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report: Metrics across 12 top industries
Meet The Glow Up: Who Are Helping Minority Influencers Negotiate And Secure Five Figure Brand Deals
TikTok Case Study: How Chipotle used David Dobrik to launch both their TikTok channels

Hard to beat grinding it out. Can you share the details of you actually went about emailing 1000 people?

I got my linkedin connections emails (download from LinkedIn), as well as used my past relationships in the industry, plus used hunter.io if I wanted to connect with people. I created a list of over 300 agencies, so that’s 300 people minimum, many have multiple people. If your industry has 500 companies, write them all down and contact 1 to 2 people at each company. “CEO + Company Name” brings up their linkedin easily, and you’ll see their connections.

What else are you working on?

I built an analytics app for instagram creators this year. Shuttered that recently. Last year I did a bit of consulting and was still working the day job of data management. Left that Dec 2018. Recently joined forces with another newsletter writer and we are selling ads on behalf of other newsletters now. It’s called HypeLetter and we’re imparting our experience on others while also learning very fast what works and what doesn’t work.

Unpack… what works and what doesn’t? what do publishers / media buyers get wrong and how can they fix it?

Publishers aren’t making a mistake by only doing inbound, but they are leaving money on the table. Meaning: Outbound sales just works. I’m choosing the companies I want to exist in my newsletter and filtering them myself before reaching out. Meaning there’s no friction between what that company does and my mission. Marketplaces get this wrong because they put the onus on both the media buyer and the newsletter publisher to choose. The top two concerns from publishers are “it takes a lot of time to do outreach” and “I don’t want to run ads that I don’t like.” We can solve both of those by A: Choosing which companies/advertisers to reach out and B: Reaching out to them.

Love your cadence and experimental approach. How do you think through your experiments? How do you decide what to keep working on and what to shut down?

I choose a combination of “money and passion”, but those two go hand in hand many times. If I feel like something should exist, I try to make it, after doing an exhaustive search for it. I wanted a database of accounts that regram. I couldn’t find it, so I made it. I wanted a database of agencies searchable by the brands they work with. I couldn’t find it so I made it. If it makes money it usually can drive passion for a while. Hence why I’m doing sales for newsletter ads. I found it works, and it makes me money and I’m happily helping others make more money.

What have you done so far to grow Influence Weekly? What worked? what didn’t?

I’ve tried so many things. Content Marketing on LinkedIn has been by far the #1 thing that worked. In April 2018, I made a list of 100 of the most influential people in Influencer Marketing. That doubled by subscriber count. Got 300 subscribers over a week or two. Word of Mouth keeps steady. CEO’s and decision makers make sure to tell their employees about the newsletter because it keeps everyone on the same page, and updated. I have just recently started a Referral Program to stoke that fire. It’s meant to help word of mouth go a bit faster and give back to those who help spread the word the most. It’s going well. One person wrote a very nice LinkedIn Post about why he reads the newsletter and within a week I grew 1% just from referrals from that one post.

I’ve tried Facebook Ads a few weeks ago. After 1 fast signup based on a FB pixel I’ve had on my site for a year… nothing else. So it’s getting wildly expensive to run FB ads. We’re trying a new tactic with some fresh content. Which is also bolstering my content that I can release on LinkedIn.

One tactic that I don’t hear often used, I email each person referred to in the newsletter. I curate 15 to 20 articles so there’s sometimes 20 to 30 people named in an edition. I’ll email or try to contact most of them and let them know they are in it. I’ve done that on and off over the years. More in the beginning and now in the past month a lot. It not only helps grow the list, because they sign up, but also I’m getting a lot more submissions from people who know that I curate great work.

One more thing I did to create more word-of-mouth, is to have a podcast that is guest hosted each week by a different company. They record their thoughts and analysis of the news. So each week I get a different agency to talk for 30 minutes to each other and record it. I send it out, they post about it on LinkedIn. I’m surprised because it works… but not phenomenally well. for some reason my expectation was a lot higher that it would drive more subscribers. I’m sure it’s driving a few, and I do see a handful of subscribers come through that, but it’s not as many as I thought.

LinkedIn seems to be having a moment. With your influencer hat on, what is it about LinkedIn that makes it effective for growing a newsletter?

LinkedIn, provides a layer to find and target people who would specifically want to opt in to your newsletter. Combining the keyword targeting and role or title, along with network. “2nd and 3rd level connection”. It not only gives you insight to people but gives the receiver of the message insight into you. You get a “he’s with me” kind of feeling when someone sees your name/profile and a list of 1 or 2 people they already know.

What’s your business model?

My business model is diversified. I run ads, sell info products, and I have subscriptions plus donations. The Ads make up the large percentage of revenue but not all. The info products I sell are varied: Currently: A list of 300 journalists and publications that cover influencer marketing and to Influencers I sell an influencer’s guide to Bali. I’ll build more info products as I see a need for them while talking to subscribers.

The subscriptions and donations don’t make a large part at all, probably less than 5% of my revenue in total, but they are nice. And I’ll be creating a new membership soon. I’m using Substack but I want to offer more static pages and databases for members to utilize. As well as a forum. I hope to build a membership model that is more robust and get monthly members. My goal for 2020 is that by the end of the year, memberships make up a larger percentage of revenue than ads.

I believe a hybrid model works best instead of just picking one or the other. I also want to both support industry players, such as marketers and agencies. As well as creators and influencers. It’s hard to super serve such distinctly different needs but I’m trying. My mistake earlier this year thinking that I could superserve creators with an App.

Can you elaborate a bit on revenue split? What would be the perfect balance for you?

Percentage revenue splits will be dictated by what the creator is interested in and what the market can handle. If you create a $300 report but only 1 person buys it a quarter, that’s not a great business model. But if 1,000 people buy a quarterly report then you have $1.2 Million in sales a year. If you’re building a community and want to be available 5 days a week, talking and communicating and community managing, then a subscription model will be a high percentage.

I myself like to work on a project for 1 to 2 weeks at a time, spend 1 to 2 weeks marketing that and then move on to the next project. So I’ve had a high percentage of high value single buys. Ad packages and Info products. These take a long gestation period but have a higher upfront per deal value than $5/month subscription. Yet LTV (lifetime value) of a $5/month subscribe could be $300+ if they subscribe for 5 years+.

I do understand that not all consumers want to nor have the means to buy $300 products every quarter. I’d like to provide the market with a way to get daily or weekly value for $1 a week. around $50 a year is a number that seems to be doable for most people working in any particular industry that wants to have a community to gain knowledge and potentially find a better, higher paying job. And with that model I only need to find 20,000 people total, in all the world to pay $50 a year to have a Million dollar a year business.

Total open jobs right now for Influencer Marketing hovers around 2k. And in all of marketing there’s 286,800 (2018) jobs. Most of those jobs will need to understand influencer or influencer marketing. I have to meet the market in the middle, and be able to offer weekly or daily value to those who want to pay it, if I were trying to extract as much monetary value as possible. But in reality I’d rather give more than I get.

The newsletter is free, 99% of what I do I give for free and I’d really like to keep doing that. But I may hire a community manager or someone who is more adept at socializing than I am. Someone who lives and breathes to communicate with the industry each and every day.

Ideally I’d have no more than 20% of my revenue coming from any one source. But short-term I’d like to just push ad revenue to less than 50%.

It seems to me like we’ve always had influencers (celebrity endorsements, royal warrants etc). What’s different about the modern definition of influencer and what’s the impact of that? Is it more than a rebrand of something that already existed?

Influencers have been around forever. The current craze of “Micro-Influencers” really just means “Brand ambassadors”. Even “Nano-Influencers” are just “Word of Mouth”. There are a lot of traces of where this “influencer” term and craze came from. Some point to Kim K. I actually know a few earlier signs than Kim K and well before Instagram.

One: Influencer is a term adopted by Bloggers when they weren’t being taken seriously. Their initial claim to fame is “page views” and this was a shady enterprise because nobody could really tell if they were telling the truth. Early social media platforms showed follower count. So there’s no faking it. At least early on. And follower count was easily tied to “reach”. You don’t measure what you know, you know what you measure. So the measurements or metrics that we could all see were not easily fungible. Social media metrics were used as a proof of “Social Proof”.

Two: The best way to do influencer marketing is not to focus on the people and then figure out what to do with them. It’s to figure out the trend, or topic, that you want to influence and find the people who are most influential there. It just so happens that the biggest industries are Beauty and Fashion on Instagram so those influencers get an outsized portion of coverage, good and bad. Hence you have Kim K and Kylie Jenner on top. Fashion and Beauty.

Meet the Creative Who Claims to Have Coined the Term “Influencer Marketing” is an excellent article to get a flavor of what influencer marketing really is and could be. Michal Blatter ran successful “Trend Influence Marketing” campaigns for Camel cigarettes and Coca-Cola. By looking back at the origins of what’s now called “Influencer Marketing” I think we can see that it’s A) a marketing tactic and B) needs to get back to it’s roots to be sustainable.

“Brands really need to do their homework on culture,” Blatter says. “They need to understand who the real influencers are and how they can support culture. Winning favor is a complicated game and consumers are getting smart to influencers that sell their reach for a fat check.”

Anything new or unique that email publishers learn from the influencer economy and the way that world operates?

Email publishers should absolutely understand the machinations of Influencer Marketing. There will be individuals in any and every industry that have an outsized impact on that industry. Understanding how to create relationships with them and enable those individuals to carry on your own message, that does take work but it’s got an incredible upside. Endorsement by a major figure in an industry can get you in front of the right people at the right time. Tactics that help, 1) Give them a platform to share their opinion. 2) Give them insider information about the industry, or unknown information that they can use to show off themselves. 3) Be a great member of their community.

I’m obsesssed with other peoples’ workflows. Can you share your process, from coming up with an idea through to hitting send?

Projects each take on a life of their own but usually start in google sheets. My newsletter has a stable process: I find an article I like through google alerts, linkedin, emailed to me, etc… I built a bookmarklet that adds it to a google sheet. on Thursday I make sure I have 15 to 20 articles in the past week, I transfer them to a new tab, sort them into the categories: Great Reads, Interesting People, Industry News. Then copy/paste the text into a Mailchimp template. check, check, recheck, and check everything again, then schedule it.

Where do you see the current newsletter renaissance ending up?

For some it feels like a renaissance, like Vinyl, but I think it’s a new thing now. Email is a protocol and will be around for another 49 years. Email is 49 years old. First email was sent 1971. I think in 10 years though, email will be different, not like in an institutional way, but there will be a different set of tools, I hope. Email startups are interesting right now: Front (redefining group emails), Substack (paid newsletters), Superhuman (fast and fresh UI of email). So many interesting gmail plugins and integrations have made it possible to do things other than reverse chronological order of emails. Drag makes your gmail into a trello board. Streak and Pigeon offer in-gmail CRMs. We’re not close to getting rid of email at all.

Do you see any other interesting trends or ideas under the radar?

Online communities are popping up faster and faster and growing faster than ever. A few years ago you could only go on Reddit, but it seems just like the great unbundling of Craigslist, there will be an unbundling of Reddit. And Reddit can still thrive even if individual communities popup. In the developer world there’s Hacker News and IndieHackers. There’s Fishbrain for fishermen. Cruise Critic for Cruise Ship enthusiasts. There’s even a new newsletter community called IndieMailer.

What big idea would you love to work on if you had unlimited time and money?

If I had all the time and money in the world I’d create remote video studios all around the world in the most marginalized communities. Remote villages of South East Asia, South America, Africa. I’d trek out to the far reaches of the earth and create impossible to imagine studios for creators. Podcast Studios in Antarctica, the sahara, Mongolia. A drone workshop on an island in the South Pacific (Tuvalu) A youtube studio in the slums of India. I’d invite the best and brightest and newest creators on those spaces on a fully funded trip, do whatever you want, just teach a class each day that you’re there. Partly to entice creators to go further and farther, but also to give them a space to create whatever they want in solitude. 7 days, or 10 days… or 7 weeks.

It’s not about technology anymore, I can record a podcast on my phone and get it to a million people within a day. I can create a video and upload it to youtube which has 2 Billion viewers. What we need now is more creators doing the most impossible to imagine things.

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