Frenemy Influencer Marketing: The Ultimate Guide

Frenemy Influencer MarketingFreaked out over Facebook’s announced changes?

 Worried you’ll never get your marketing messages into your audience’s NewsFeed again?

I bet that you didn’t realize that there’s an easy work around:

Influencers, the real people that other people trust and pay attention to.

So it’s a no-brainer that influencers’ social media shares will not only get featured, but also be actively sought.

In fact, Altimeter research found that influencers had the biggest impact on content marketing and social media.

Influencer Relations Marketing Impact on Marketing


Influencer marketing breaks into 3 major categories:

You may be scratching your head since you’ve never heard of frenemy influencers.

No surprise, I just made up the term but please keep reading since these influencers will work for most marketers. That said, many marketers use this approach, they just haven’t given it a fancy title.

As a result frenemy influencers are an overlooked, under-utilized digital marketing opportunity.

But don’t worry—we’ll explain everything you need to know about frenemy influencers.


Frenemy Influencer Marketing Guide

Frenemy Influencer Marketing


Frenemy Influencer Marketing Definition

A frenemy influencer is a lot like other types of frenemies. They’re people you want to like but, despite your shared interests, there’s a stated or unstated competitive element to your relationship.

Frenemy influencer marketing consists of thought leaders from businesses that target similar audiences to yours but are not direct competitors. Your frenemy and you have at least one point of overlap. Your marketing objective is to create a win-win relationship where both businesses get measurable results by working together.

Frenemy influencer marketing consists of thought leaders from businesses that target similar audiences to yours but are not direct competitors.Click To Tweet


Frenemy influencer marketing is a lot like affiliate marketing where you recommend products and services you use to your audience. Instead of a fee per email acquisition, you’re sharing the information with a peer, namely a similar business.

Visual of Frenemy Influencer Marketing – Heidi Cohen


What Pain Points Does Frenemy Influencer Marketing Solve?

Frenemy influencer marketing helps you expand your marketing reach and warm leads.

3 Ways Frenmey Influencers Help Your Marketing

  • Works without paid investment in social media or third party advertising. Instead, frenemy influencer marketing works through reciprocity over direct payments.
  • Extends your reach by giving you access to your frenemy’s audience. This works best when both partners have similar size audiences. As a result, you don’t need to deal with Facebook, Google or Amazon or ad-filters.
  • Eliminates concerns over the social media rented land approach. Both parties provide in-kind services such as promotion and/or co-creation.


Frenemy Influencer marketing: Benefits and Challenges

Like any other form of marketing, there are trade-offs to using frenemy influencers. How they work specifically for your business depends on your resources and goals.

Frenemy Influencer Marketing: Benefits and Challenges – Chart

Frenemy benefits include:

  • Invests employee time rather than direct monetary payments. This makes frenemy marketing more attractive to small and medium size businesses.
  • Supports building inbound links. Through cross-promotion, frenemies build links that help search results longer term.
  • Grows email list. By co-creating webinars and cross-promoting content, you attract new readers to your content.
  • Avoids content overload. Since both partners work together to create and distribute content, it reduces the pressure to continually create fresh content.
  • Builds influence for both parties. Working together the two businesses share each other’s content as well as co-create work.

Frenemy challenges include:

  • Can potentially hurt your email list. If you over-email or irritate your subscribers, they’ll unsubscribe. To avoid this problem, keep your communications consistent and integrate the messages into your on-going emailings.
  • May not receive same level of exchanged promotion or reach. To the extent possible, you should check list size and reach before entering an agreement. Also, be willing to test different partners.
  • Can have incompatible systems. This shouldn’t be a show-stopper. Instead work out how each partner will handle their part of the workflow.
  • Encounter concerns about internal secret Before proposing a frenemy exchange, get management buy-in. Also, understand that you’re not giving another business your email list. You’re sending their emails to your list and they’re sending your emails to their list. No customer data is exchanged directly.
  • Only work with people and businesses you trust to avoid lack of action by a partner. Before jumping into a deal, negotiate how you’ll handle different challenges.


5 Places to Find Frenemy Influencers

Like any other form of influencer marketing, the best way to determine who will resonate with your target audience is to do your homework.

Here are 5 places to help you find and vet your initial list of potential influencers. It’s up to your marketing team to vet the ones that are best for your business.

  • Ask your audience. Use a survey (such as SurveyMonkey or Google Forms) to get their direct input. Among the questions to ask are: Which other email newsletter do you read? Where else do you get business and product information online?
  • Get input from suppliers and distributors. By their nature, these businesses deal with business that target audiences similar to yours. Why not ask for introductions and/or input from them.
  • Examine conferences for themes, speakers and sponsors. Conferences provide a lot of marketing information for astute marketers who know how to use them.
  • Perform a competitive analysis. Don’t just use an old analysis—take the time to examine related businesses. It’s not only good to get ideas for frenemy influencers but also can expose other marketing tips.
  • Use roundup lists, and category blogs. Examine how the names were vetted. Look for people who don’t show up on every list. Your objective is to stand out. (BTW—once you’ve done this legwork, you can use this information to create a round up or list post!)


5 Ways to Use Frenemy Influencer Marketing

Here are 5 actionable ways to incorporate frenemy influencer marketing into your plans.

  • Co-present a webinar. Webinars are a great way to build email lists and provide quality content for attendees. As part of the promotion process, both parties send emails and share content on social media.
  • Exchange guest blog posts. This gets your content distributed to another audience and builds links. You must include a relevant off-ramp to your email registration within the content.
  • Cross promote each other in your newsletters. Understand that this implies that the sender has vetted and recommends the content. I prefer this approach over list exchange since that feels like promotion and can be viewed as spam.
  • Co-locate your businesses. For example, recently at Vogue Knitting New York City, a number of Brooklyn based yarn stores rented a single booth. They couldn’t have afforded it alone and it may not have yielded sufficient revenue.
  • Use post-email registration recommendations. After new registrations sign up for your email newsletter, include a peer recommendation for a related business newsletter on the confirmation page. (Note: Some marketers do this for affiliate marketing opportunities. If you do, I recommend not mixing affiliate with frenemy marketing.)


The Frenemy Influencer Marketing Conclusion


The secret power behind frenemy influencer marketing is that you’re stronger working with another business than you are separately.

While the term is new, at its core, it’s not that different from other types of influencer marketing, advertising or affiliate marketing.

Your business benefits from another business’s relationship with its audience without the need for direct financial investment.

It’s a win-win for both businesses.

So what’s holding you back from expanding your marketing options?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and Google+.


Photo Credit: cc zero

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