chamber of commerce, chambers of commerce, momentum, networking, membership, influencer marketing, marketing

Is your chamber using influencer marketing to grow? You should be.

At the beginning of March, I had the great opportunity to serve as a judge for the Distributive Education Clubs of America’s (DECA) New York State competition.

If you’re unfamiliar with DECA, it’s a national business education program where high school students compete with written testing, role plays and in case competition across various industries and categories – from quick serve restaurant management to human resources to merchandising.

Students compete at the local level, then advance to the state, and then, hopefully, get the chance to compete in the national finals.

I am a DECA graduate, getting to represent New York at the nationals in my junior year of high school in 1990, so I was honored to be asked to judge this year – the organization had a huge impact on me and my career.

I had the opportunity to judge two marketing sessions – one for teams, one for individuals.

The kids knocked it out of the park… They’re so creative.

But I found it interesting that in almost every presentation, the chosen strategy was influencer marketing.

Their arguments were compelling, and I learned a lot from them, to the point that now I’ve got influencer marketing on the brain – and I believe there’s a great, real-world relevance to chambers of commerce.

Influencer Marketing Isn’t New (But Now Anyone Can Play)

While the term “influencer marketing” might be pretty new, the concept isn’t.

You don’t have to think hard to find examples…


Fun fact: Widely acknowledged as one of the first “influencer” collaborations, Wedgwood first made a tea set for the wife of King George III back in 1760. Understanding that the true influences of the time were royalty, Wedgwood quickly marketed their brand as having “Royal” approval. The strategy was so successful that even today, that the brand carries the reputation of being “considered fit for a King or Queen.”

So, yes, influencer marketing is nothing new.

But… The way it’s delivered is new. The way it is received is new. And the way it’s paid for is new.

Those are all opportunities.

As I was listening to the students’ presentations, it occurred to me that there are some realities about influencer marketing that are incredibly useful in the chamber world.

Yes, many of them swung for the fences, and suggested that the best marketing program for their products was to have Lebron James or Kylie Jenner post for them.

But the reality is that, with social media, any single one of us have the opportunity and ability to create our own online audience.

You don’t need 10 million followers if you have a niche market.

If you have 500 engaged followers, and those 500 engaged followers are not only perfectly aligned with your target market – but are an attractive market to other people… Guess what you can be?

There are now technical terms for influencer levels (e.g. Micro, Macro, Nano and Mega Influencers, based on follower count), but the bottom line is that there is a value to the work someone does to build a following – and there may be someone willing to pay to access that value.

The Value of a Following

Now, does that mean cash?

In many cases, it does – and I won’t get too much into that here, because a quick Google search will tell you that influencer marketing can cost you anywhere from $10 per post to more than $1 million per post.

Most chambers of commerce we work with are not looking for that kind of influencer marketing (“I’m Cristiano Renaldo, and I’m looking forward to Tuesday night’s Business Cards and Brews mixer at the Lakeside Chamber of Commerce!”… That’d be nice, huh?).

No, what I’m talking about is understanding who among your membership is an influencer in the region or city that you represent.

Not all influencers are relevant to what you need to accomplish as an organization.

But you do work with influential people and/or companies in your territory that are good at social media.

Take the macro science behind influencer marketing, and tailor it to your chamber’s needs: paying someone with a following, who people trust, to promote your product – in this case, membership and engagement in your chamber.

Why wouldn’t it work?

But does it have to be cash? Is there a financial relationship that needs to make this kind of influencer/brand relationship work?

We would argue no. Check out these examples:

  • Forever, chambers of commerce have done annual awards ceremonies, and part of the strategy for giving those awards is, of course, who’s going to buy tables for the event. They go hand-in-hand. Let me throw this at you… Next time you’re looking for awardees for your dinner, take a look through your membership to see who is rocking it on social media. We would argue that the long-term exposure that you’ll get from highlighting a regional influencer will far exceed the $800 they’ll spend on a table. (Plus, it opens up a whole new array of candidates for tired awards – but that’s a different topic).
  • You have a newsletter that you put out regularly, and are consistently searching for meaningful, relevant, timely content to include. It’s easy to get cute, with people sponsoring in order to include their content… Who do you really want writing content for you, though? You want people who are going to write something of quality for you, that provides tangible benefits to your members – and then share it with their networks, as well. The good thing is… In general, the people who have amassed a worthwhile following are usually pretty good at creating content, as well.
  • Are you tired of having a full-scale social media program, and maybe even a full-time social media person, and getting three likes on your posts? Why not go out of your way to highlight people who are social media powerhouses among your membership – who will not only appreciate the shout-out, but understand the importance of sharing it with their audiences?

Are you paying these folks?

In a way, but not with money. There are many, many tools you have in the chamber’s tool chest to show value to members – including understanding that you have your own influencer capabilities.

If it’s not necessarily on social media (and we can help you get better at that), you can snap your fingers and put 100, 200, 500 people in a room. That’s influence.

Your newsletter hits 1,500 people with a 30% open rate? That’s influence.

Can that influence be traded to help you grow via social media? Absolutely it can.

How Do You Find Influencers Among Your Membership?

To some degree, you know who these folks are, because you see them active on social media.

But, it’s worth spending some time getting to know your members better on social media.

That’s a reality that chambers must face – in all actuality, all networkers must face – is that your most valuable and engaged contacts in real life are not necessarily your most valuable and engaged contacts on social media.

Sometimes it lines up, but it’s very possible that some of your most non-existent members, or the mousiest ones sitting at the end of the bar at your events talking exclusively to co-workers, are the brightest stars on social media.

You’ve been looking for a way to engage them? To “get deeper” into your member companies’ employee roster? Assigning one of your staff or interns to do a deep dive into your members’ follower numbers and social media activity is most definitely a worthwhile activity.

In fact, we think it’s a good practice to capture your members’ social media numbers in your CRM.

You want to understand who within your membership shines – and you want to know that across platforms.

So you can tap into their success.

Influencer Marketing is Long-Term Sustainability

Let’s go back to where I started – who’s teaching these lessons… It was a group of high school juniors and seniors… Every single one of them focused on influencer marketing to pitch their marketing plans to me.

These are your future members, and this is how they make buying decisions.

Entrepreneurs coming out of this generation are not going to purchase a new CRM, or their office supplies, or their chamber membership because they’re presented with a one-pager of features and benefits.

No, they’re going to buy those things because someone they trust, admire or care about told them it was the way to go.

Who among your membership is going to be the influencer to help people see your value?

Find them, and give them plenty of reason to become your biggest champions.


Want to get to know your members better? Our Diligence Leads member benefit program, created in partnership with Rel8ed, a Coface Company – puts the power of “Big Data” into your and your members’ hands (while providing you expansive non-dues revenue opportunities). Let’s talk about how to bring Diligence Leads to your members!