Tag 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

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

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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

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

4 Musts for Your Social Marketing This Year

It is the beginning of the year and you want to make sure you kick off your marketing to drive success in your company. With this in mind, let me give you four musts for your brand social marketing.

must do social marketing

Throughout my entire marketing career, I have continuously examined brands’ audiences to drive strategy, plan, and execution. I label marketing as the “psychology of business.” And with this in mind, I have identified four areas that you need to focus on with regards to your social marketing efforts to drive audience adoption, brand preference, loyalty, and advocacy.

1. Listening and Responding

There are three types of social marketing listening that are required.

a) People talking to your brand – there are going to be people that use your brand’s social channels and other channels to talk directly to your brand.
b) People talking about your brand – while not directly speaking to your brand people will mention your brand in the vast digital world.
c) People talk about a subject relevant to your brand – while not mentioning your brand, people touch on a subject area that speaks directly to a topic that is relevant to your brand.

You must monitor for all the cases listed above. In the first two cases, you must monitor and respond. The best way to tell your audience you don’t care about them is to not listen to them, or not respond to them. Only respond to mentions if you care about their business … that should include every mention. In the third case, you have an opportunity to expose a new audience to your brand. Do not respond with product information, but rather valuable information. Gain awareness and start to build a great reputation by delivering unexpected help.

2. Content

The way to keep your brand in the minds and hearts of your target audience is produce content they value. The way to prove you are worthy of people’s business (beyond having a truly valued product/service) is to be helpful and entertaining. Brands are often shared between people via content. Thus your brand needs to think like a publisher and produce weekly content (at a minimum). But your content plan should not be limited to original content. Consider how your content strategy will include curation from other sources as well as UGC (user generated content). Your content strategy should also include a plan to capture earned media. This leads to the third focus area …

3. Influence Marketing

In influence marketing, first you identify those individuals and publications that influence your target market. Once you identify the influencers, you work to build a relationship with them by providing them information that is valued by THEIR audience. It is not about pushing your agenda, but finding the intersection of what your brand represents and the information that identified influencers want to deliver to their audience. Influence marketing will continue to gain importance because objective advocacy is much more compelling than subjective brand communication.

4. Personalization

I touched on personalization when discussing “listening and responding.” But personalization needs to go beyond listening and responding. Users are tiring of email blasts and other brand communications that are nothing more than an extension of advertorial programs. What if the brand communication was driven by consumer intelligence? What if you integrated digital behavior and purchase history to deliver contextual relevant communication to your audience? Certainly your audience will feel “special” if you deliver communication and content relevant to their history, interests, and behavior. Personalization means that brands deliver contextual relevant communication and content. Look into tools that allow you to correlate and integrate different data points to produce a data driven view of your consumers.

The four areas of focus I suggested above are not driven by technology or marketing hype, but rather by examining user behavior spawned by new digital technological advancements. Far too often predictions are driven by technology hype rather than user behavior driven by new technology advancements. If marketing is the psychology of business, understand your target audience behavior and implement social marketing accordingly.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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A Real Look at Social Media Influence

We talk about influence as if it is something new. Actually the definition has not changed in the past 1000 years or so, but tactics for influence engagement certainly have changed due to the digital revolution. And while many might consider my use of the term “digital revolution” trite, I think it deserves the entire superfluous connotation as I intended it to be. The fact is that the digital world, and even more importantly, the related behavior changes that have transpired are extremely important. Thus, we must look at “influence” as it relates to digital behaviors.

Let’s start with a couple basic definitions to ground us on the same plane …

Influence is “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.” For marketers, influence is only valuable if it produces actions or changes behavior or opinions of others. This distinctive point is often missed. So as marketers, we want to focus on those individuals that do something to cause an action or behavior change in a significant number of people that favors the brand we represent. “Influence marketing focus on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole.”

So before we have the “Klout (popular social influence scoring platform) should we care debate”, let’s make sure we understand why influence is important to brands. And second to that, let’s make sure we understand the types of influencers that are valuable to brands. I break this down in three groups:

1) Traditional influencers – these are the individuals that traditional PR agencies court. They are pinnacle media establishments (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post) and celebrity-like figures (Mario Batali, Roger Ebert, Tim Gunn) in a specific area of subject expertise.
2) Emerging (digital) influencers – bloggers that have established a large audience following and drive thought leadership in a specific space. The poster child of emerging digital influencers is Robert Scoble. Scoble is a tech blogger whose rise to vast influence started from strong participation and guidance in Microsoft’s NetMeeting support newsgroups, and for maintaining a NetMeeting information website. Another example of an influential blogger emergence from nowhere is Tavi Gevinson who commanded quite a following for her fashion blog. At the prime age of 13, she was a special guest at New York Fashion week. (It still astounds me how she came up in conversations at ELLE Magazine when I worked with them.) Emerging digital influencers could also be blogs (PitchFork, Mashable, Gizmodo) rather than individuals by name.
3) Influencers by connection – here we have your everyday “Max” and “Maya.” People who have hundreds of friends … no let me correct that … hundreds of Fac book friends and Twitter followers. These people make posts and tweets and their connected friends react. “Saw a great movie.” “New sports drink was killer.” Their posts create response and action. If you represent a brand, you want to court these people to produce brand action.

Now we are ready to talk about social media influence and break through all the nonsense being thrown about. Start by answering these questions. What do you want to accomplish? (Actually, this question should be the start of every social media and marketing endeavor.) Are you looking for earned media (mentions of your brand on an influential blog) or people to share your brand with all their friends/connections? Is the influencer expecting or will they be motivated by receiving something in return? These are the sort of things you should determine first.

And before we get into the influence tool and platform discussion, let me say this right off the bat (to set the record straight, maybe raise some controversy) … a Klout score, by itself, is meaningless. Giving Mari Smith a free test drive on a new Chevy because she has a Klout score of 78 (very high) is down right stupid. Mari is a strong social media and relationship marketing thought leader. She is not an automotive influencer. If awarding her a free test drive for a week would even lead to a tweet like “Love the new Chevy,” I think her followers could smell something fishy.

Once you have YOUR influence marketing plan defined, then you are ready to talk about tools and platforms to assist you. Think about the types of influencers you want to work with as defined above. Probably you want a mix of the different types, but think about how you are going to connect with each to build a relationship. Think about the action you want to motivate them to do. Think about the bandwidth you are willing to allocate for each.

Now a bit about the influence tools. First off, it is important to remember that digital influence is new and emerging so I am certain that we will see much greater advancements over the next 18 months. The minds behind influencer platforms realize that it is not just about accurately scoring influence, but more importantly to allow brands to determine the influencer in their market space AND to make it easier to connect with these people. When both of these functions become easier for brand marketers to execute, then we will see the true value of digital influence tools come to fruition.

Let’s start with Klout since it is probably the best known influence tool. It is good to see Klout moving from a generic influence score and starting to score on topics. After all, if you are a wine and spirits company and you are about to launch a new line, do you really care about Mashable’s high influence score or are you more likely to want to identify nightlife and alcoholic beverage influencers. Personally, I do think there is too much focus on one’s Klout score for making important decisions. I do not think it tells enough of a story and individual’s specific influence capabilities to spawn brand action. At least not yet.

Kred is an emerging influence platform that is grounded in technical innovation from PeopleBrowser. They provide an influence index much like Klout, but they also produce an Outreach score. So not only is it important to score influence from a reach and subject matter expert perspective, but it is also valuable to understand a scoring for the degree of outbound engagement the individual performs. Kred also has “community” or topical social scoring. One of Kred’s differentiators is that they are transparent with regards to their scoring attributes. They literally show you how points are accumulated.

Appinions takes a slightly different approach. Appinions is a query based influence tool. If I want to understand who the influencers are of automotive or any other area, you can form a specific query to do so. Appinions does contextual scoring versus individual scoring. Contextual scoring measures the degree of action taken by others (quote you/blog about you, link to you, retweet you) based on what you say.

Klout, Kred, and Appinions pretty much provide you a list of emerging digital influencers. If you want to know who are the people talking about your brand and having strong influence on their connections, you can use a social media monitoring tool such as Radian6, Sysomos, and others to 1) find who mentions your brand, and then 2) evaluate their influence or authority level. Having used both Radian6 and Sysomos, I can tell you this approach is very labor intensive. I am looking for a better solution. I do not think anyone is there yet, but SocialChorus is in the right direction. They offer a way to identify “influencer by connections” and reach out to them to attempt to create brand ambassadors. This is often done on a rewards basis, so I throw some caution there. Sometimes your actions might be perceived a “bought influence” and if that is the perception, your influence marketing can backfire on you.

Moving forward, all of these platforms are opening up their APIs. This means that one company can do the influence scoring and provide another platform the data. I think what we will see going forward is integrated solutions among platform providers such that some will do the scoring and other will handle the engagement activities. This will be a power combined solution.

One of the things that none of these tools do well, is to cross correlate an individual on all the channels. For instance, the blogging I do here has no contribution to an influence score. If you are reading my post (or anyone else’s) there is a chance that I have some influence due to my social media guidance. But there is no correlation between the SocialSteve Blog, the @SocialSteve twitter account, and my quotes as Steve Goldner that show up in some marketing industry online trade blogs and news sites. This does not play into the algorithm of the influence tool.
There are a handful of key points you should consider in making influence marketing part of your strategy:

1) From a marketer’s perspective, not everyone is equal. Those that have a strong reach and following AND can drive brand action deserve greater attention and TLC (tender, loving care) from brand marketers as opposed to the general public.
2) There are different types of influencers that you want to engage with and build strong relationships with.
3) A platform or tool should not determine how you go about influence marketing. You should determine who you want to reach, how you plan to engage and go about building a relationship, and then determine the platform(s) to help you get there.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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