Category Archives: influence marketing

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

1 Comment

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

4 Comments

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

3 Comments

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

Stop Looking for Influencers, Find Great Partners

business partners

It is ironic … my blog is listed as number twenty-three on the “50 of the Best Global Influencer Marketing Blogs” and in this article I am going to tell you to stop looking for influencers. Well sort of …

Many people think they can just contact a leading subject matter and ask them to write something about their product/service (or whatever they are pushing) on their blog. If you have ever tried this, you are likely to know it does not work. And at the same time, just about every marketing leader knows that advocacy and word of mouth are the strongest marketing actions to drive measured results. So it makes total sense that when you look for advocacy, you would love to have someone that is viewed as the authority on the subject your product/service represents and has a large audience (the influencer) to speak well of your offering.

Now I ask you, “Why the heck would anyone want to do something for you?” Unfortunately, this question usually gets twisted and is answered from the subjective viewpoint of the one looking for product/service support. Wrong. This question must be honestly answered from the point of the influencer. Invariably the influencer is going to ask “What is in it for me?”

So let me share with you my real life scenario that addresses the issue. This coming week, the company I just joined, DivorceForce (an online network for people affected by divorce), will launch its website, divorceforce.com. I am responsible for social marketing and audience development so it is my responsibility, among other things, to deliver traffic to the site. Yes, I want to find divorce experts. People that offer great financial, legal, and emotional support for divorce. People that have established audiences. People that have authority and will say “you should visit DivorceForce” to their audience. But what is in it for them? I am not looking to pay someone off. You know what really matters to them? An opportunity to grow their audience.

I worked with one of the co-founders of the business and provided for him a simple grid as shown below.

partner grid

In column one, I identified three different types of influencers. In column two, I stated what we want them to do for us. And in column three the “what is it in for me” (from their perspective) is defined. There must be synergy between what we are asking for and what is in it for them. This is a key attribute of all partnerships. You see, I am not doing “influence marketing” but rather “partnership marketing with influencers.” There is a significant difference and the grid above punctuates this difference.

Without getting into too much detail, I will share with you one essence of our partnership marketing. As the divorceforce.com site is about to launch, I am looking for select divorce subject matter experts to host conversations in our forums. That is what I want from them. When I ask myself, what is in it for them, I recognize that they likely want to use DivorceForce to expand their audience and deepen their reputation as an expert in their field. I have developed numerous ways I can promote them which include use of DivorceForce social channels, paid social media highlighting their contributions, and offering them participation in our videos to be produced.

What I want you to take away is that you need to truly craft something that excites influencers to work with you. Build a true partnership. Partnerships are only strong if both sides get strong value from the relationship. Work both sides of the opportunity.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

1 Comment

Filed under community, influence marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

The Power of Audience Trumps the Power of Your Marketing

It is a reality all brands and marketers must come to. Who has stronger influence on the awareness, consideration, purchase, and loyalty of your brand? You the marketer or others telling friends, family, and colleagues about the positives and negatives of your product or service? It is time to stop drinking your own Kool-Aid and recognize that the greatest power of brand conversion lies in the hands of the audience you target. The power comes from them advocating on your behalf.

audience power

More than ever, the entire user experience shapes the value and “goodness” (or lack there of) of your brand as perceived by the audience you wish to capture. All the elements of a user experience (corporate positioning, product positioning, product/service value, sales process, brand engagement, and customer support and service) must be integrated and orchestrated.

The next contributing factor to the power of your audience is their (not your) use of digital and social platforms. People talk about brands without being prompted by the brand to do so. This sharing and word of mouth marketing is usually instigated by user experience – either a positive one or a negative one.

All of this change in customer behavior does not mean that marketing is any less important than the days prior to the Internet, digital technologies, and smart mobile devices. It just means that marketers need to form strategies and plans differently. First off, the responsibilities of the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) need to expand to that of a Chief Engagement Officer (as I have written about before).

Second, marketers need to have strong empathy and complete understanding of their audiences’ needs, wants, desires, motivations, and turn offs. Social media monitoring tools enable much greater listening to individuals, but most companies use monitoring merely for sales opportunities as opposed to shaping their product position, roadmap, and go-to-market strategy.

The last point I will make is that marketing approaches must change due to audience behavior and their influence of brand reputation. You can no longer simply develop Hollywood-like advertisement and be content that will grab your audience. Marketers need to pre-plan how the creative will support and enhance the entire user experience. You need to think about how the content will be shared in a positive light. You need to think about activating your audience to become a brand advocate. And this brand advocacy and activation should be the pinnacle results you aim for. Remember – the power of your audience trumps the power of your marketing. So motivate and activate your audience to do your marketing. Think audience first.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Leave a comment

Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, influence marketing, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

3 Motivators for Interaction in Social Marketing

How many times have you discussed a social marketing program that asks your audience to where you look for your audience to take a picture or make a video to rally some UGC (user generated content) and sharing? If you are in marketing, I will bet this is suggested (and maybe attempted) many times. And then you do it and the outcome is poor … so few participate. I am sure And now I’ll bet everyone is looking at the ALS Cold Bucket Challenge and wishing they could have the success of would be thrilled to capture even 10% ALS’ results.

social interaction

Before you try to do a social marketing program and aim for even a fraction of the success of the ALS Cold Bucket Challenge, you need to understand three motivators of interaction that has made this so productive from your audience.

1) WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) – In order for someone to actively participate in your social marketing program, they need to believe something is in it for them. No matter how much someone loves your brand; they need to believe there is a compelling reason for them to act.

2) Passion – There are few brands that people get passionate about. But certainly there is an opportunity to create a reason to be passionate about what a brand stands for. A great example of this is Dove. It is pretty hard to get people excited about a cleansing soap, but if you look at the various programs they have developed for women’s self esteem, you can see how a social movement creates brand passion.

3) Make People Feel Good About Themselves – This area could actually fall under the WIIFM umbrella, but I explicitly separate it out because this is more of a subconscious user action.

There are a couple more attributes of social interaction that the ALS Challenge highlights. First off, the ALS challenge has been extremely successful because it was designed it in a way that they (the brand) did not ask people to participate, but rather had friends challenge others to act. This not only motivated people but shines light on the second important attribute. That is social pressure. When challenged to do something by someone you know, there is a societal pressure that you must act upon.

Look how emotions drive desired marketing behavior. Tech Crunch ran great article this week titled “Startup Marketing And How Emotion Drives Customer Action” by Kobie Fuller () that has some very interesting psychological information for marketing for all companies. I quote …

Psychologist Robert Plutchik discovered eight basic, primary emotions that guide all behaviors: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger and disgust. These emotions are product-agnostic, and over time, establish brand-to-consumer relationships that transcend traditional boundaries of engagement.

The question is, which emotions should marketers target, and how do they solicit these emotions? Elbert outlines the following correlations in emotion with user behavior:

Intrigue and mystery – creates a curiosity that drives initial exploration and clicks; important for advertising and emails
Desire and aspiration – stokes consideration; helpful for site imagery, product pages and lookbooks
Urgency and fear – provokes a feeling of missing out, which triggers a purchase
Surprise and laughter – drives sharing, as seen on April Fools’ Day

(Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/08/20/startup-marketing-how-emotion-drives-customer-action/)

So when you are thinking about an audience participation program consider ways THEY (the audience) are motivated. There are a few more considerations I suggest:

1) Make sure the task you set up is easy to achieve.
2) Consider share-ability – that is, make it a task that people want to share with others.
3) Audience development – form a task that naturally builds an extended audience beyond your initial targets

The beauty of social marketing is that your marketing comes from objective people as opposed to the brands subjective team. Getting user interaction is an excellent marketing tactic – if you plan accordingly and do it right.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

1 Comment

Filed under behavior, brand marketing, influence marketing, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

The Most Valuable Results of Social Media Marketing

advocate

Why are you doing social media marketing for your brand? If “advocacy” is not in your answer, you are not capturing the value of social media. There should be no argument. The absolute best marketing is when other objective sources market your product. If you were about to buy a new car, a smartphone, or a bicycle, what would influence you more than anything? Would it not be a friend, colleague, or other trusted source that says, “without a doubt, ___ is the best’?

There is nothing more powerful in the purchase path influence than simple objective recommendations … having other people do your marketing. As shown in the diagram below, advocates are almost 5 times more trusted than even category influencers. (Influencers are individuals, who by definition of their job function and/or social following, are in the position to influence others directly through their authoritative or instructive statements.)

Advocate trust

If advocacy is the pinnacle value of social media marketing, why isn’t everyone building an advocacy strategy and plan. The probable answer is that they do not know how. So let’s get to that … how do you build an advocacy strategy?

The place to start is to understand what motivates advocacy. This comes down to three user-inspired feelings:

1 – Great brand and product experiences
2 – Unexpected joy from being surprised and delighted
3 – Feeling special or like a VIP

Now that we have an understanding of how advocates are produced, focus on delivering actions that spawn advocacy. With regards to great experiences, a majority of product and brand experiences happen outside of the digital domain (where social does not play) such as using the product and customer service. BUT digital/social can influence the sharing of positive experiences. Also you need to deal with negative posts and respond. You should actively monitor and reinforce positive statements made on social channels. Amplify posts that speak of your brand in glowing ways. Engage with users that trumpet your brand. Work to keep them as your BFFs (best friend forever). But negative posts also create advocacy opportunities. Carefully answer some of these negative posts. If users call out your brand by using a direct mention of your social channel (like @handle_name on Twitter) this means that the user is looking for some attention from the brand. There could be an opportunity to win back a customer, but respond with care, and avoid all debate.

With regards to surprise and delight, I like Zappos approach of always looking to exceed expectations. In social media, sometimes even a simple acknowledgement of a post is always welcomed and appreciated. Compliments and thank yous in response to a post work well. Consider random giveaways of product upgrades or promotional items to people who advocate for your brand.

And my last suggestion deals with making even one time advocates feel like VIPs. Keep a database of social names that advocate your brand. Proactively feed them breaking news.. This should not be a marketing push, but true valued info. Offer exclusive previews of products to make them feel “in the know” and let them be the first to try new versions.

There are many detailed steps you should take to drive advocacy. An advocate has passion for a brand and it’s products and you can certainly drive this passion. It simply starts by making customers happy (in every user experience). Show reciprocated love by responding to social advocacy. That reinforces continuation. Deal with negative comments, where possible. Surprise and delight customers, and make your advocates feel like they are part of a VIP group.

Social media is so much more than simply posting on Facebook, Twitter, and other channels. The best result of social marketing is when you activate your audience to share their love for your brand on their own social channels to their network. Look to drive advocacy in your social media marketing and see results that truly align to your company’s KPIs.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

1 Comment

Filed under influence marketing, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing