Category Archives: brand communication

Brand Ambassadors and Influence Marketing

ba and influ

As social technologies have become a way of life, an interesting outcome has happened. Individuals are speaking up and their word has greater influence on purchase decisions compared to what the actual brand has to say.

Think about it. To what extent do you believe what a brand has to say in their advertisements and corporate communication? If you were looking for great product or service providers, would you be more apt to believe someone you know that has had experience with the product or service?

Pretty straightforward and yet some are still mystified by influence marketing. There may be many definitions out there for influence marketing, but let me give you mine. “Inspiring and motivating objective people to distribute positive word of mouth marketing for a given brand.” It is that simple.

So who might be your influencers? Everyone thinks that you should work to get the person with 1 million followers to speak on behalf of your brand. So if Kim Kardashian actually tweets something about a product, do we actually believe her? Or is it more compelling if your friend mentions accolades for a product?

Do people with a mass following actually influence? A recent marketing study, “found that users with fewer than 1,000 followers received an average of 8.03 ‘likes’ and 0.56 comments per post. Those who had between 1,000 and 10,000 followers garnered an average of 4.04 “likes” and 0.27 comments.” (Source: eMarketer)

I am responsible for audience development for a brand. I will tell you that I look at each person who mentions my brand or mentions a topic relevant to my brand as a potential brand ambassador. Anyone that is talking about something relevant to my brand on social media has the potential power to influence others as it relates to my brand – generate awareness, consideration, and conversion. I look to start a conversation and engage with each and every one of them. Yes, that is a great investment of time and energy. But if I can motivate others to share my product/service with their network, that is the most powerful and compelling marketing that I can achieve. Thus, I view each person behind a relevant mention as a potential brand ambassador that I want to establish a relationship with.

I define influencers slightly different than a brand ambassador. An influencer is someone that is a subject matter expert relevant to a brand’s purpose or mission. They are not necessarily someone with a mass following, but rather an individual that has a strong and compelling voice on a topic relevant to a brand. I work very hard to develop relationships with these individuals. I want to share their voice on my brands’ social and communication channels. I want to find out what these potential influencers look to accomplish with regards to extending their brand. I work to find a win-win – truly. Most often these individuals are bloggers or some other form of content provider. I want to share their content and look for reciprocation. I carry their content on my brand’s digital and social channels so they are apt to share my brand with their audience.

There is no secret here. The way to work and get people to share your brand, become brand ambassadors and advocates is to build a meaningful relationship where both sides get value out of the “partnership.” If you are building a brand ambassador and influence marketing program, you must understand the WIFM (“what’s in it for me”) perspective of the potential partner and make sure you deliver.

This is not theory. It is successful implementation. Know how to develop a successful influence-marketing program.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brand trust, influence marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Successful Marketing – Here It is in a Nutshell

successful marketing in a nutshell

At the end of the year, many bloggers and/or self accredited experts put out their end of the year lists. These lists most often start with titles that entice readers to click through. Titles like, “8 Best Ways to Make Viral Content,” or “5 Biggest Marketing Trends for 2016.” As we have learned from digital marketing data collection, starting a title with a number provokes user behavior. And furthermore, the promise of unveiling information in a list is very compelling to users.

While I question the validity of the content in so many of these articles, I am guilty of producing similar titles (not here but certainly have in the past). But hopefully, you trust that the information I provide you leads to well thought out and proper marketing strategies and implementations. (Trust – we will revisit that issue shortly.)

I’ve looked at the 60 plus articles I have published (here on this blog and elsewhere) and I find particular themes for winning marketing solutions for the new consumer/client –driven world. There are 2 paramount evolutionary characteristics that have caused the need for marketers to morph their approach and tactical executions. 1) The consumers/clients control your brand reputation more so than you do. Brand position is reinforced and rejected by your target audience in full force and outcome. 2) Technology has changed allowing customers/clients to have a dominant role in brand marketing AND allow brands to market to consumer/client behaviors in a most accurate way.

Early in the year, I penned an article “5 Characteristics That Define The Future of Successful Marketing.” Successful marketing lies in a brand’s ability and commitment to

• Listen (to the target audience)
• Understand (their needs)
• Engage (on a personal and broad scale level)
• Deliver a great user experience
• Build trust

Listen, Understand, Engage

The key to marketing success is to truly know your audience. What turns them on, turns them off, and motivates them to take action. Think about it – your audience’s behavior literally says “Marketers – Be There When I Need You.” If you are there when your audience needs you, there is a very strong likelihood that the audience will support your brand with both purchase decisions and advocacy. You can only be there for your audience when they need you if you listen to them (by monitoring what they say about your brand and topics important to your brand), understanding their wants, needs, desires, and then engaging with them.

It is extremely important that your marketing communications are not old school broadcasting. You need to engage with people directly. Consider the recommendations defined in the article “Mastering and Scaling Personalized Marketing.”

Great User Experience

One aspect that truly makes a brand standout and win audience, customers, and advocacy is a great user experience. We look to create an emotional attachment between brand and target audience. The best way to accomplish this is to create an awesome user experience. Think about extending your product/service differentiation by providing an absolute stellar user experience. The user experience should consider every aspect of consumer/client – brand interaction. Interactions online, offline, experiential. Digital and experiential marketing should intersect. This is touched upon in the article “Here is Why Social Marketing is such a Vital Part of Experiential Marketing.”

If you are not convinced of the importance of a great user experience checkout “ROI (Return on Investment) of a Great User Experience and Social Marketing.”

Trust

Marketers can no longer make bogus claims. The general public is now the judge and jury via their communication proliferation using reviews and social conversation. In this past year, I really emphasized “Successful Marketing is a Matter of Trust.” In the referenced article, I highlighted ten ways to build trust. The end result becomes “In Brands We Trust, Or Maybe Not.” If you want to increase trust:

• Review regularly
• Show empathy
• Talk naturally
• Act fast
• Become the hub of the issue

Learn more about this.

Ultimately, you want “Magnifying Business Integrity to Market Brand Trust.”

Building an Audience

Remember, there is a slight nuance between sales and marketing. Marketing is really about building an audience. An audience that is queued up for sales conversion. An audience that continues to value your brand. An audience that becomes an advocate for your brand. There are “5 Keys to Audience Development” :

1) Monitor and listen
2) Engage
3) Find influencers
4) Have a content strategy
5) Use paid media

Social marketing is a key to audience development and “Understanding Social Marketing Means Understanding Audience Development.” But if you implement social marketing to build your audience, “Digital Marketers Should Start to Build Relationships Off of Their Home Court.” In this referenced article, I highlight the importance of engagement and audience development on social channels, forums, and blogs that are not your brands digital assets. Go where the conversation is happening and engage. Do not expect to have all conversations on your brand’s digital assets.

But marketing should go beyond audience development. Audience development is step one. Step two means developing something a bit deeper than an audience. Work to build a community. Community is a deeper connection than an audience. If you want to learn more about this see “In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience.” Here are some suggestions on “Building a Strong Community.”

Two other points I think you should consider to up your marketing game. The first deals with connecting with influencers to strengthen your marketing reach, perception, and overall reputation. Many think they can just find subject matter experts with a large audience to get them to push their brand. Wrong. My recommendation – “Stop Looking for Influencers, Find Great Partners.”

The second key point I want to make is that “Great Marketers are Perpetual Students.” Are you doing what is required to stay on top of changing audience behaviors and new technology? If you want to be successful, this is a must.

So there you have it – The Social Steve yearly summary. A summary that should help you to be most successful in the coming year. Not a list of unfounded trends. Recommendations you need to consider and implement. Make it a great year. Make it a successful year.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under audience development, behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brand trust, brands, community, experiential marketing, influence marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve, user experience, Word of Mouth Marketing

5 Keys to Audience Development

audience developmentMarketing must change because audience behavior has changed. Customers and clients are skeptical of brand claims. They no longer accept brand advertisement and most of their communication. Brands must build strong relationships with their audience in order to build emotional connections, convert customers/clients, and motivate advocacy.

Recently I suggested that “Companies Should Eliminate Marketing Positions.” I emphasized that marketing communication aimed at the push of brand messages is obsolete. “Marketing” (as it is practiced by an overwhelming number of companies today) must change. A marketing approach must now be aimed at audience development. Commitment to audience development yields winning long-term brand success.

Audience development takes time. Everyone wants to have a million followers that connect with their brand on multiple social channels and convert (sign up or purchase) on their brand site. The reality is that people are not going to just connect on the channels that you want; they will connect on the channels they want. Thus, you must be active on all the key channels that your audience participates in. And audience development will not happen over night. (That is why it is called “development” as opposed to “conversion.”)

There are five key elements to audience development. Invest and stay committed to the following:

1) Monitor and listen. We have two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as much as we communicate. Monitor all digital platforms, channels, and forums for keywords within your brand category. Listen to what people say. Learn about their needs. Make sure you monitor for your brand name. When people mention you in a positive light, make sure to thank them. If someone says something negative, take the high road. Apologize and whatever you do, do not try to win a debate. There comes a time to just let it go.

2) Engage. When you find someone that mentions a topic applicable to your brand category, reach out to him or her. Offer help, information, and/or inspiration. Be congenial; do not push your brand agenda. Make a friend.

3) Find influencers. It is great when you have others helping you to build your audience. But remember, influencers are not compelled to build your audience; they are compelled to build their audience. Thus you need to find a reason that influencers would want to work with you. For more on this see “Stop Looking for Influencers; Find Great Partners.”

4) Have a content strategy. Content helps to get the word out of your brand. Brand content serves a number of winning purposes:

a. It helps to establish the brand as an authority in a specific category.
b. With the use of social marketing it is a way to proliferate valuable information that gets associated with your brand.
c. It allows others to share your brand.

Get more information on setting up a content marketing strategy and plan here. Consider the different types of content you need to manage here.

5) Use paid media. Consider using digital paid media such as Facebook ads and SEM (search engine marketing – Google ads). These types of digital ads integrate well with your organic audience development endeavors. They are low cost ad vehicles that can be implemented in a non-user-intrusive manner.

I believe that marketing communication has reached its useful end. While brand communication remains important, it must be executed with the objective of audience development. Not as a method to pound brand position. Customers/clients behaviors drive the need to change this mentality. Brands need to change and have a build audience mentality, strategy, plan, and execution.

Make it Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, content marketing, influence marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

There Are Only Two Things People Want from Your Brand’s Social Presence

brand social presence

How many brands’ posts’ get added to social channels in a given day? Some massive number close to a gazillion. (Now that is some empirical data for you :)) But how many of those posts actually resonate with the intended target audience and get shared. Unfortunately, the number is the inverse of a gazillion. That is because only a small minuscule percent actual gain traction. If you stop to think about it, you might get appalled at how much time, money, and effort are meaningless for brand social marketing.

So stop. Get back to basics. And at a high level reflect on why anyone would give any care to your brand’s social presence. It comes down to two simple mentalities. They want compelling content and they want a connection that makes sense for them, not you. Lets break these down a bit.

Compelling Content
Compelling content (from the audience’s perspective, not yours) must consists of educational and/or entertaining information. That is it. Forget all the other junk. Your audience wants to learn something important. And when I say your audience wants to learn something from you that does not mean product/service features. Give your audience something that enlightens them.

Content need not always be informational. It can be entertaining. If you go this route, think of your brand as a media company as part of a billion other media companies in a market. How is your entertaining content really going to stick out in a very crowded field?

It is worth noting that content can be both informative and entertaining. If you want more information on producing stellar content for your audience, I have written a number of articles on this topic. Some suggested pieces are:

Think of Content Marketing as Gift Giving All Year Round
4 Tips for Winning Content
Delivering the Content You Audience Wants
A Content Marketing Approach That Works

Connection
Yes, some people really value connections with brands. But that is only the case if you make it worth their while, not yours. Forget about connecting with customers. Your mentality should be to connect with friends that happen to patronize your business. Friendship mentality. Not customer mentality. If you connect with people in this approach, I guarantee that you will build strong relationships that pay dividends. Friendship means being there when someone needs you. This is how brands must treat their customers. Put your agenda on the back burner and the needs, wants, and desires of your target audience at the forefront. Have empathy for your target audience and be proactive to their wishes. Stay engaged.

You need both a winning content and connection strategy, plan, and execution.

I have painted a very competitive and crowded environment where it is tough to stick out. But the fact is I am still most bullish on social brands. Nothing can build stronger brand love than a great social presence. It is just a matter of doing it right or not doing it at all. Right by your audiences’ terms. Not your agenda.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, community, content marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Key Issue Making Technology Work for Your Marketing Efforts

digital communication

A few weeks ago I crafted an article that got a very strong positive response – “Great Marketers Are Perpetual Students.” Having your antennae up and looking at human behavior is part of being one who is constantly learning. This week, I saw something very interesting play out in my own family.

I witnessed two very different ways of communication by my daughter, a freshman finishing up her first year of high school. Maya was preparing for final exams; more specifically she was studying for a math final. She was confused about finding the angle size of a shape. To no surprise my wife and I were not able to help her, so she texted a question to a friend. The answer she got back added more confusion. She asked me what she should text back. I said, just pick up the phone and talk it through, that will be much faster than a million texts going back and forth. She would not oblige. She only felt comfortable texting with this “friend.”

In a second interesting instance, she was doing extra credit for a history project. She was video conferencing with a close friend. What actually surprised me most was that she let me witness the entire call as I was in the same room. (Well actually she did not invite me to watch, but the fact that she did not run off to her room and shut the door is surprising from a teenage daughter.) Anyway, her and her friend spent the conversation in a typical teen-like multitask way … part casual conversation, part sharing ideas and advice on the project, and part doing their own thing in their own physical environment. I was quite impressed how the two got so much accomplished and at the same time demonstrated a caring, bonding relationship.

Now I know you are probably wondering what this has to do with marketing, the subject I usually address in my writings. Well it has everything to do with marketing. In the first scenario, my daughter contacted someone she did not have a strong a relationship with. Someone that was not part of her everyday care. The communication between the two was poor. My daughter half-heartedly threw the first friend a question only to look to get back what SHE wanted out of the communication. In the second scenario, my daughter and the other friend had a very strong relationship. The communication was strong and they accomplished much. They got the assigned task completed and at the same time continued to build on their relationship.

So ask yourself as a marketer, are you just throwing something up on the fast moving digital marketing train without really knowing your audience and having no concern for their interests? Or are you using digital marketing technology to strengthen relationships and to drive brand objectives at the same time? An overwhelming number of digital marketing serves no value, no brand marketing success. And this is due to two main factors. First, not understanding the audience that you are speaking to and lack of empathy for that group. Second, I ask a very decisive question to you. Now be honest with yourselves … Do you really care about the audiences’ needs like they are in fact a true friend or are you only looking to satisfy your objectives?

Let me state something that is likely obvious, but yet often gets ignored in practice. You will only be successful using technologies if you really work to build strong meaningful relationships at the same time. You cannot simply post and expect people to react in a favorable way unless you are putting up your end of a relationship and reinforcing thoughtfulness for them.

People want their brands to care. They do not just want to be sold to. Are you executing in a way that demonstrates to your audience that you really care?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, digital media, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience

community

Throughout my marketing career, I have been focused on the target audience of the brands I represent. I have been working with many companies to make them more vigilant to their audiences’ wants, needs, desires, and motivations as opposed to simply espousing product communication and advertisement.

For example, I worked with a company that had strong SSL (secure socket layer) technology. They would talk about how their SSL solution was superior using technological terminology. One segment of the target audience was the financial services industry. But they were not buying SSL technology, they were buying payment card authorization solutions. Yes, SSL is a key part of that solution. But successful marketers speak in the vernacular of their audience. Not their own language.

So yes, target audience focus is essential. But as brand representatives, don’t we want more than an audience of customers and potential customers? Wouldn’t we love to have “members” and advocates? A community member is a deeper relationship? What if we created a community of like-minded people that support one another? What if this was accomplished under the moniker of a brand? Not using the community as a place for brand agenda, but a community focused on some kind of an alignment with the brand category. That is something people would gravitate to.

How do you actually develop community? It starts by providing outstanding original content that helps your audience in an area that is relevant to the brand category. Augment that original content with curated content that reinforces what your brand stands for and is valued by your audience. Then provide an area for people to discuss topics. Engage with people and give them a platform and opportunity to converse amongst themselves. Seed conversations. Set up subgroups for various topics.

When you build a community, you naturally assent to a leadership role in your brand category. When you build a community, you naturally build relationships that spawn advocates for your brand. People share the content you develop and conversations that are happening in your community.

Yes, building a community is hard work. People are not going to suddenly flock to your nest. A community will be a small subset of your target audience. But look at it this way … wouldn’t you be happy to have five new people sharing your brand; standing up for your brand? Five people are a start. Then it becomes 15; 40; and 100. Even if you developed a community of 100 active people – that is 100 more people to advocate for your brand content and solutions.

I stress building a community. Not only does it produce deeper relationships with your audience, but it forces marketers to truly think and act upon audiences’ needs and engagement. Even if a small set of your target audience becomes part of your community, the marketing efforts to build a community are effective for the entire audience. People want brands to help them. Be there for them. They don’t want advertorial content pushed upon them.

Think of your audience as a potential community. Act as you would as a leader of a community instead of an advertorial spinster. Your target audience will most certainly be more receptive to your brand presence and exposure.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

PS – If you are interested in building a brand community, also see “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”

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ROI (Return on Investment) of a Great User Experience and Social Marketing

This past week, I actually was looking forward to running an errand to pick up food at the market. How many of you can actually say that? I needed to go to Trader Joe’s for some fill in items. I always like going there for a quick short cup of fresh brewed coffee – free. It is a small cup so I treat myself to the half and half they have out.

Yes – this is a great example of a customer or user experience. Now I wonder … did anyone in the Trader Joe’s Executive Team sit and wonder, “Well if we give out free coffee to our shoppers, it cost us X dollars, but we will see an increase of Y dollars.” I highly doubt it. It would be near impossible to track.

Customer experience – how important is it to individuals’ purchase decisions? Doesn’t a user experience help to define the persona of a brand? How vital is a brand persona to our purchase decisions?

user experience

Now, let’s relate this same scenario to social marketing. Social marketing should be used as a brand tool to strengthen user experiences. Use it to understand your audience by monitoring them. Use it to engage with your audience. Make them feel comfortable with your brand. Win trust. Build relationships. There is no doubt that social marketing can optimize your audience’s user experience.

So lets stop and ask the same question as in the Trader Joe’s example. What is the ROI of a great user experience? What is the ROI of social marketing? Shouldn’t every brand look to make their customer experience fantastic? So fantastic they win customers. So fantastic that get customer emotional bond to their brand. Fantastic such that the customers want to share their experiences with their family, friends, and colleagues.

As the use of digital technologies and mobile devices continues to increase, social marketing is another imperative touch point for target audiences. Think about how you can enrich user experiences with social marketing.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve