I’m proud to say I’m a member of a rather exclusive online club known as “Only Influencers.” This list/site/community focuses on email marketing, but also discusses other channels such as social and further expansion is planned. Over the past year I’ve been a member, it has repeatedly provided me with great information and insight marketing leaders and visionaries.
I wanted to share this great resource with you and so I emailed Bill McCloskey, the founder, and asked him a few questions.
Can you give us a quick history of Only Influencers?
Bill: Back around 2001 I started a small listserv for people in the digital marketing community called the One Hundred Club. It was really a who’s who of digital marketing at the time. When I founded and launched Email Data Source (now eDataSource), it made sense to create a separate list that focused on email marketing, so in 2005 I started The Inbox Insiders, which was an invitation only list, again, for the who’s who of email marketing.
I’ve always been interested in the idea of community and The Inbox Insiders really became the go to community for professionals in the email marketing industry. For instance, the EEC (Email Experience Council now run by the DMA) had its origins on the Inbox Insiders via member Jeanniey Mullin.
In August of 2010, I was itchy to start a new venture and I wanted to explore some of the ideas I had on community building and I decided to launch Only Influencers, a private invitation only network for digital marketers. I started building the site in the fall of 2010 and by February 2011 I was ready to flick the switch and OI became a full time membership funded organization. It was important to me that, as part of the business model, I NOT take any advertising or sponsorship money, which I feel eventually corrupts any type of trade organization. OI is 100% membership funded. The members pay a small fee (currently $20 a month or $200 a year) to participate. I work full time on behalf of the members and their needs.
Can you give us a snapshot of your members?
Bill: Well, I think the best way to answer that question is to direct you to our testimonials page where you can see that snapshot and read what the members think. You’ll find member testimonials here.
What’s in it for paying members? What kind of features and information will they get out of it?
Bill: When we evolved from The Inbox Insiders to Only Influencers, I added multiple lists so besides the dedicated Only Email list, we have lists that act as an early warning system for systemic ISP outages (Only Delivery), lists with a social media focus (Only Social), meetup lists for all the major industry trade shows (Only EEC, etc), and we have a website were we archive the last 6 years of discussions, archive white papers, reports, case studies. I’ve started something called The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing that I’m using as an organizing construct for all the discussions that have happened and the things the Insiders and now The Influencers are interested in on a daily basis.
We also run a job placement service (at no cost to the employer or employee) and we post new jobs each Monday in a newsletter (Jobs Monday). And every Tuesday and Thursday I send out a newsletter called The 411 which is a listing of all the articles written that week that are worth reading, along with a summary of each article and my personal rating on whether it is a “must read”, “worthwhile”, or for newbies only. In addition we provide a salary guide that is drawn from polls of the Influencers themselves.
We are about to launch local chapters around the world for monthly meetings and meetups focused on education and networking. We’ll shortly be announcing chapters in New York, Atlanta, Boston, Boulder, and San Diego.
Is it suited for beginners or strictly for seasoned vets of the marketing industry?
Bill: It was important to me that, in launching Only Influencers, it not become a list for just the people who are currently Influencers in the industry, but for those who want to be Influencers and are just starting out. I wanted it to be a place to educate the next generation of digital marketers and provide a safe haven and a mentoring environment for those coming up. Besides the superstars who are part of the list, we have many people who have come from other disciplines and are suddenly thrust into email and social media responsibilities and need to get up to speed fast. They can ask their questions, behind closed doors, to the largest brain trust of email marketers ever assembled.
Does it focus primarily on email marketing? Do you cover content marketing in general and social marketing?
Bill: Coming off the Inbox Insiders, there is a decidedly email focus currently, but that will change as we expand. I’m a big believer in the crossing the chasm idea of creating value for a select niche before expanding elsewhere, so I wanted to make sure that the email marketers were taken care of first and that OI worked for them. But we are expanding into social media more directly and mobile, both of which are strongly connected to email marketing.
What sets Only Influencers apart from free groups on sites such as LinkedIn or Yahoo for example?
Bill: The free groups are great and serve a good function. But I’m a big believer that people treasure the things they pay for. OI is a “curated” list in the sense that every member has to be approved by me and that I’m 100% focused on the membership. The members also know and trust me to only bring on the right people to the list: those that are serious about the future of digital marketing and making it better. There is a lot of behind the scenes work done to help each member succeed in their careers and I spend a good part of my time helping individual members with whatever they need: finding a new job, questions about their careers, or just a sympathetic ear to listen to. And I think the proof is in the pudding; people talk about issues they would not talk about in more public forums. And they talk a lot: 60-70 posts a day are not uncommon when there is a hot topic to discuss like the recent data breaches that occurred. It is a very active community.
Is membership limited only to North America? Will European marketers get value from being members?
Bill: We currently have members from around the world: England, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Poland, and Sweden. Europeans are a big part of the OI mix and provide unique insights into worldwide digital marketing. This benefits both North American professionals who are expanding into Europe, and Europeans who want to be more connected to a worldwide community of peers. I have one member in very remote part of the world and OI is his main connection with the industry since he does not have a strong network locally.
Can you tell us about any future plans you have for Only Influencers?
Bill: The big areas of growth are expansion into related industries (social and mobile) and development of local chapters around the world for peers to meet each other, share ideas, and drive the digital marketing profession forward.
Where can people sign up?
Bill: You can apply for membership at www.onlyinfluencers.com. Each application is reviewed personally by me. Almost 90% of all new members are referred and nominated by current members, but if someone wants to join and doesn’t have a recommendation they can reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will review your application and research your background. Once accepted, you can join the various lists available and start searching the website. As I mentioned, no salespeople are allowed, but those with a sincere desire to contribute to the digital marketing industry and its growth are welcome to join.