As we gather around the Thanksgiving table this year, digital marketers have a long list of things to be thankful for: family, pumpkin pie, Black Friday sales, and…social media influencers?
If your social media influencers aren’t on your list, they should be. They’ve been driving traffic, leads, and sales for your business all year, and they’ll continue to spread the love throughout the holidays.
One brand in the “thankful” spirit is Lexar. The memory card and flash drive company’s social media campaign asks users to use the hashtag #LexarThankfulTweet to describe what they’re thankful for this season. In exchange, participants are entered for a chance to win a GoPro HERO4 Silver and a high-performance Lexar memory card.
Is Lexar utilizing its influencers to spread brand awareness even further?
If brands don’t have an influencer campaign built into their holiday marketing strategy, they’re missing out on the season’s power. The spirit of the holidays gives your influencer marketing efforts a special boost: You’re able to thank influencers at a time when being thanked is well-received, you’re more likely to be perceived as authentic, and your efforts are more likely to be reciprocated.
Build a Network of Social Media Influencers
If you’re looking to incorporate social media influencers into your marketing strategy, it’s important to build a well-rounded campaign that includes a combination of micro, mid-level, and macro influencer segments.
Micro influencers have smaller audiences built around trust; they might include happy customers or Average Joe bloggers. In Lexar’s case, a micro influencer might include a tech-savvy social media user or a blogger who publishes content on memory cards and jump drives. Although they have small audiences, they’ve already earned their trust and can easily convince them to take action on your behalf.
Mid-level influencers are similar but provide a bit more reach. For example, Lexar might identify a niche tech blog, like TechEBlog, that has a significant current following of over 170,000 Twitter followers. Though its reach doesn’t compare to established tech blogs with a million followers, its published content might be more relevant to Lexar’s brand.
Macro influencers include publisher-level contacts that command very wide followings; they’re kings at promoting brand awareness. However, trust to take action isn’t guaranteed with this audience. An obvious macro influencer for Lexar might include the Gizmodo blog, which reaches millions of readers.
How to Thank Your Brand Influencers
If you’ve been cultivating any of these types of influencer relationships this year, now is your opportunity to say thanks. Not only is being openly thankful the right thing to do during this time of year, but it can also create powerfully reciprocal influencer relationships.
1. Go beyond a tweet whenever possible. Don’t just thank your influencers with an uncreative tweet. It’s often more meaningful to get to know your influencers and thank them in tangible, unique ways.
For example, we can identify several personal interests of the mid-level Lexar campaign influencer below by simply analyzing her Twitter profile. Lexar might show her some love during the holidays by sending her a Laura Mercier gift card to acknowledge her beauty and fashion sense or free tickets to “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” one of her top interests on social media.
2. Think frequency over size. However, don’t assume you have to use grand gestures every time. The problem with a simple “thank you” tweet is that its effects are temporary and one-sided — neither you nor the influencer will get much mileage out of it. Instead, thank influencers consistently with small, meaningful gestures that encourage them to continue the relationship.
For instance, you could promote an influencer’s blog posts each month to show that your relationship is mutual, send her a handwritten note to thank her for specific times she shared your content over the year, or publicly share a complimentary quote that highlights her knowledge in a particular field.
Influencer marketing can be a powerful tool to build brand authenticity and spread brand awareness to new audiences. This holiday season, express your genuine thanks to your influencers, and sit back while they lead your brand into the New Year.
Facebook’s recent newsfeed algorithm changes might feel like yet another twist of the ear for brands. The changes mean that brands’ purely promotional updates won’t be seen by as many consumers. Although Facebook is doing this to improve the consumer experience, it’s actually a good thing for brands. Facebook is taxing these “brand cigarettes” out of your reach, saving your brand’s vital organs from a slow and painful death. All this while making the marketing world a nicer place to live.
The rationale for metering these posts is a nanny state done right, in my opinion, and would have been welcome early in my career.
I had this crazy idea: include voice minutes for free in a bundled plan. My boss, a slight, quietly competent guy about my age, asked me to develop the market and product requirements with help from people throughout our $2 billion telecom.
It was a complete bust. You see, this was 1996 and the market hadn’t heard of bundled products. My boss offered me some solace:
“It’s not a bad idea. It’s just that no one is ready for it.”
There’s a clinical reason why you hate such posts at some times, while at other times you’ll happily click.
Mini Case Study
Let’s see how this story fits Facebook’s latest change by analyzing a recent cancerous post. This advert disguised as a status update from Gilt was in my newsfeed a few days ago. If you’re the project lead who coordinated this post with the relevant departments would you be happy with one share? I hope not.
It’s nice looking content and is probably a compelling offer, like my free voice minutes idea. It just didn’t pop. Because I just wasn’t ready for it.
So what would have made me click? There is a formula which Facebook is now forcing you to adhere to that can significantly improve your engagement and conversion rates. Read on.
Mind the Buying Decision Formula
Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella talk about the consumer buying cycle in their best-selling how-to for influencer marketing, Influence Marketing.
The context is influencer marketing but the concept for all marketing is the same in abstract: 1) the audience needs to know you exist; 2) they need to react to your message and ask questions; and, 3) only then do you give them the call to action.
In traditional marketing you might hear these three steps as:
- Consideration, i.e., “the Story”
Armed with this context, think about your brand and its content marketing. If your posts commonly draw an unsatisfying point-zero-something percent engagement, ask yourself the following set of questions:
1. Does your target audience know you exist? If so, do they really know what you offer and why they should pay attention to you? In the Gilt example, I just know that they appear to have swanky men’s clothes and gear. Not much else.
2. Do they have enough information about the benefits of your product and how your competitors compare? I have only a vague knowledge of Ghurka bags but no idea if they last longer, feel better, or how their status level compares with others. With a name like Ghurka there’s probably an interesting story to be told that I’m not hearing, like they’re made from leather that Nepalese Gurkhas used as a strop to hone their battle blades razor sharp. Last, I have no idea why I should buy from Gilt instead of Amazon or my local men’s shop.
3. Does your content have a trigger?
A trigger would be something like Thanksgiving, Throwback Thursday, Happy Hour, Humpday, etc. To quote Jonah Berger, it’s the “jelly” that goes with “peanut butter”. I see no trigger here other than an attempt with the mystifying #ComeTogether hashtag.
Getting the Ratio Right
One brand making us look really bad on Facebook is Williams Sonoma. Their ratio of conversion posts to “story” posts is 9:50 (scrolling through their page today). Notably, their conversion posts are very topically pointed and suggestive, transitioning seamlessly from their lifestyle posts.
You hardly realize some of their calls to action are actually conversion posts. Bravo to Williams Sonoma. Gilt, in contrast, was at 100% conversion or calls to action. No stories, no background, no value, no see.
You may not want Facebook filtering off your promotional “updates”. And they may even prevent some of your non-promo content from being seen by your audience. But until your audience is ready for a call to action, they’re saving you from yourself.
It’s well-known that sports fans are some of the most dedicated, passionate, and — dare we say — shameless fans out there. Any group of people with members who will make a pitcher want to cry or pay $8,000 for used dentures deserves the honor of being called the most passionate, don’t you think?
While these fans are already extremely invested in their favorite teams and athletes in real life, they’re becoming more and more passionate online, too. Research indicates that social media users are most active during sporting events, and 45 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds follow sports teams or athletes online. They engage with and look up to influencers within the sporting world — both journalists and players alike — to inform their brand relationships and purchases.
That being said, sporting events are perhaps the perfect opportunity for marketers to reach their core audience and create buzz around new products and events through popular and influential fans or celebrities. But be careful: The average fan’s fanaticism also translates into suspicion toward branded content. And if you’re disingenuous or choose the wrong sports figure endorser, they won’t think twice before kicking your brand to the curb.
Influence vs. Popularity in Sports Marketing
Influence is one of the hottest trends in social media marketing. But its effectiveness isn’t a simple equation of content or crowds, and fortunately, it isn’t a popularity game, either. The number of followers someone has on Twitter or Facebook isn’t indicative of his influence over the public in general or a particular group. You can put your checkbook away — you don’t have to hire one of the top 10 influencers in the sports business to see results.
Instead, you must connect your content with lesser-known pockets of influence (think micro- to mid-level folks) to actually spread your ideas. To do that, you need to identify and connect with the right influencers for your target audience. Here’s how:
1.) Search for relevance, reach, and resonance. The best fit for your fan base will be the influencer who hits three important criteria: relevance, reach, and resonance. That means this influencer talks the most about your industry, has the most followers listening and being influenced by what he says, and inspires the most discussion around published posts.
These could well be the more popular macro influencers (celebrities, for instance) with loads of followers, but more than likely, you will discover lesser-known influencers who can do just as well or better when it comes to convincing their audience to take note of your brand.
- A snapshot of ‘car racing’ influencers- including those mid-level and micro influencers who aren’t as well-known as celebrities.
2.) Nurture an authentic relationship. When you’ve identified an influencer with the relevance, reach, and resonance you’re looking for, it’s time to foster a genuine relationship. Build trust by promoting the influencer’s companies, books, and brands. Engage with the person on social media to see whether the water is warm. Then, make contact about partnering for a particular campaign or promotion. If you nurture the relationship in the right way, you might not have to ask for anything, and he’ll organically promote your brand on his own (but not before a lot of hard work on your end).
Budweiser pulled off this kind of campaign when it sent two soccer fan influencers to a World Cup match to join the celebration and snap pictures for Instagram. The influencers created a real-life experience for every single one of their Instagram followers (and they had a lot!), generating great exposure for the beer brand.
3.) Look outside your core vertical. Sports fans are complex and have many competing interests and tastes. An interest in Formula 1 might easily lead to an interest in NASCAR, or an interest in rock climbing might cross over into CrossFit. If you try to permanently segment your audience into one vertical, you might inadvertently limit your potential.
For example, the F1 core vertical is car racing. However, the F1 marketing team could look beyond the car vertical and explore other types of racing, such as MotoGP. You could also identify fans who are obsessed with the bands that will be playing during the F1 weekend and offer them a meet-and-greet with the band members, along with front-row seats to the concert. There are many influencers in many verticals. As a marketer, it’s your job to find and nurture them.
4.) Choose your metrics carefully. Rather than taking your social media metrics at face value, do a little digging. Compare tallies of followers and “likes” with more business-related metrics and objectives. Are you getting more blog followers or web traffic since you launched your influencer campaign? Are more people downloading your videos? Is sentiment up or down? Companies like ours are developing algorithms to help standardize social influence by gauging individual social activity and reactions, rather than just likes and follows.
Influencers build excitement and, most importantly, action in people who have not yet been convinced of how great your brand might be, and there’s great potential to yield amazing brand benefits. Simply align your marketing efforts with the most targeted, authentic influencers possible to earn the biggest bang for your marketing buck.