Everyone’s an Influencer: How Brand Loyalty Affects Holiday Shopping

Cultivate the same kind of loyalty as Apple this holiday.

 

(Originally posted in Business2Community)

We all know the stereotype of the Apple fanboy (or girl). It almost doesn’t matter what problems arise with Apple products — or if the competition’s technology is better — Apple fans remain loyal. And, more importantly, they remain rabid defenders and promoters for their favorite brand.

Your company may not be the next Apple, but that’s not to say you can’t cultivate the same kind of loyalty. In fact, it’s crucial that you do, especially during the holidays.

This holiday season, an estimated 66 percent of consumers will shop at their favorite retailers as opposed to branching out to try new stores. Forty-four percent will purchase gifts from brands they’re loyal to, and 42 percent will go even further and use loyalty points to make purchases. With those kinds of numbers, it’s obvious why building brand loyalty is important.

Luckily, it’s not too late — even this far into the holiday season.

How to Build Brand Loyalty Right Now

It may be halfway through December, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on building brand loyalty this season. While tons of people shop at their favorite stores during the holidays, plenty are looking for unique gifts they may not consider buying at other times throughout the year. This is the perfect time to motivate your current customers to start promoting your brand to their friends and family.

Loyal customers can be your holiday brand advocates. In fact, they’re the people who might be the most successful at encouraging others to spend their holiday budgets on your products. So it only makes sense to target these people by adding some influencer marketing strategies to your holiday marketing campaign. By starting the relationships now, you’re encouraging these customers to stay loyal throughout the new year.

Here’s how you can maximize your influencers this holiday season:

1. Know your influencers. Just like you need to know your target customer, you must know your target influencers. Look at the people who are already talking about you on social media or blogs. Who are they? What else do they like, and what influences them? Then, determine what kind of influencers you hope to recruit for your campaign.

Figure out their personalities so you can better understand what would motivate them to advocate for you. One way to achieve this is to monitor their sentiments and personality through persona segmentation, which breaks down influencer characteristics, similar to the sample analysis below. For example, one influencer might value green living, while another is daring and nonconformist. You can then segment your influencer messages based on those unique characteristics.

Monitor your brand influencers' sentiments and personality through persona segmentation.

2. Develop a theme. The holidays are a great time to create fun and exciting themes to help spread your promotions. For example, a common holiday-themed hashtag is #stockingstuffers. If you’re a brand that sells a product that would be a great stocking stuffer, you might consider making this your campaign theme and targeting influencers who use the hashtag regularly.

The everyday influencer below is a good example: a stay-at-home mom with a large social following who loves social media and consistently promotes #stockingstuffers. Companies that sell small, unique gadgets or holiday goodies might look for similar micro influencers to help promote their products as stocking stuffers through the holidays.

This everyday influencer below is a good example of a holiday influencer.

 

Last year, Topshop created a “personalized gift guide” theme during its “Dear Topshop” campaign. Users pinned Topshop products on Pinterest as a way to help others find the perfect holiday gift or party outfit while earning a chance to win a great prize. The retailer’s products ended up all over Pinterest, garnering more followers and regular customers.

3. Think outside your vertical. Anyone can be an influencer. With that in mind, why not reach outside your core vertical and target people you may not normally consider?

For example, if you’re in the food industry, you might target influencers in wine, cooking, recipes, or restaurants. Once again, you might discover some really influential people with loyal audiences who would be more than willing to mention your brand.

4. Make it worthwhile. While some brands already have loyal followers who will buy and promote products without much incentive, this isn’t the time to assume that you fall under that category. Like Topshop did in 2013, you should make the act of promoting your brand fun and intuitive. Women were already pinning beautiful clothes to Pinterest, but Topshop made it valuable to pin their clothes over competitors’ by hosting a fun contest that rewarded the influencers.

When you reward those who promote your brand — through the use of both tangible and intangible rewards — your influencers will provide you more value in return.

5. Create a tracking system for your influencers. Data should drive every decision you make this holiday season. The more you know about your campaigns, the more accurately you can judge your ROI. So figure out who your favorite influencers are or who can offer the most value to your brand based on your objectives, then consistently nurture those relationships and measure your results.

The holidays are one of the most beneficial times to build brand loyalty — whether that’s through a unique shopping experience, good customer service, or loyalty programs. But the best way to differentiate your brand and build a loyal year-round following is through influencer marketing. Believe me, it’s never too late.

Start your Influencer campaign now using the Mattr app.

 

(Photo credit: Cult of Mac)

 

 

3 Tips To Keep Your Brand Healthy in 2015

(originally published in Entrepreneur)

Determine who influences your buyer persona.

 

“Sorry. I won’t even consider that brand.”

As I finally figured out what the robin’s egg blue tinge on my fingers came from, I recalled my buying journey earlier that day.

And it was an ambitious journey. Buying jeans isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s especially difficult when you’re shopping for cool-guy jeans with a dad-jeans body.

The brands and style choices are staggering. There’s selvage, raw, distressed, boot-cut, straight leg and skinny varieties. The brands have interesting, americana names like The Flat Head, Sugar Cane Co., and Imogene and Willie. But after a 20-minute Internet search I was bombarded with retargeting ads asking me to buy their jeans before I even knew what my choices were. I immediately discounted those brands in my brain then realized how gargantuan my mission was. I needed some kind of shortcut.

I got it. Soon I was teetering under 210 pounds of slippery, oddly metallic-smelling denim in a trendy men’s store in Austin’s South Congress district. To the astonishment of the sales person, I said I wouldn’t even try on one of their fashion brands – I’ve seen it too many times at discounters – it’s dead to me. Anyway, after a couple hours of hopping, cussing, and crashing into fitting rooms made for skinny-jeans people, I found that perfect pair.

As an entrepreneur with an emerging brand, trying to get your name and content trusted can seem like an art form. In your gut you know it’s not just money – after all, the “Will It Blend – iPhone 6 Plus” video has amassed almost 3 million views. But it’s not voodoo – it just takes knowledge, discipline, and a lot of hard work.

Here are some crucial elements (and that shortcut) that can make placing your company’s product in the hands of consumers a lot easier:

1. Distribute with discipline.

“Content is king, but distribution is queen; and she wears the pants.” There are a lot of ways to poison your brand. But incorrect or inconsistent distribution is near the top of the most wanted list. It’s why I wouldn’t even try on one of the brands during my jeans journey.

Joshua Bingaman, founder of HELM Boots, is fiercely disciplined in his company’s branding strategy. He researched all the possible personas of consumers who buy fashionable boots and came up with the one that’s most aligned with his brand’s values.

He determined that his buyers would trust his artisanal boots only if they were excluded from sales sites.

“We’ve worked hard to develop HELM Boots into a brand that is recognized in Esquire or GQ instead of sale sites like Gilt or Fab.” – Joshua Bingaman, founder of Helm Boots

This is Joshua telling the queen which pants to wear.

Look – you work hard on conceiving and creating your brand’s image, products, and marketing content. You’re rightfully proud of them. But your distribution must fit your buyer perfectly or your jeans may be the only ones left on the rack.

How about that shortcut I took to find my perfect pair of jeans?

2. Determine who influences your buyer persona.

Word-of-mouth is an old and established marketing channel. Nielsen Research found that 84% of consumers trust buying advice from friends. So HELM puts its global tribe of brand advocates to work to spread its message; these people know their reputation will be elevated each time they recommend HELM. And it was a similar web of advocates that proved critical to my buying journey.

After I gave up searching for the perfect jeans, I tossed out a Facebook post to my friends.

 

I received some good advice from a fashionable Dane whose opinions I trust. He gave me the name of the men’s shop on South Congress and a few brands to try.

Cultivate your brand advocates, those people who have bought your product and look for opportunities to recommend it. It’s hard, but rewarding work. Your other influencer channel, bloggers, can have a bigger impact that pays off enormously. Of course, I could talk to you for hours about it.

Number one on the most wanted list of most toxic brand poisons is next.

3. Mind where your consumers are in their buying journey.

Mastering timing is critical for ensuring that you’re providing the right content for a particular phase of a buyer’s journey.

Roughly speaking, buyers go through three phases: awareness (do they know your brand exists?), consideration (how does your brand compare to competitors?), and conversion from prospect to customer (Are they ready for a call to action?).

In my cool-guy jeans experience, I went through the journey in a matter of hours. I wasn’t buying a car or a house or looking to move data centers. Usually consumers need time to make up their minds before a company or its influencers bombard them with “buy now” messaging. Retargeted ads are the most ham-fisted example of a premature call to action. If this happens too soon, it’s bad fugu – poisonous to the brand.

Today, getting your product in front of the right buyers isn’t about broadcasting your message to anyone who will listen. It’s about identifying your ideal buyers, finding the influencers who resonate most with them and serving up the appropriate content at the right time, in the right place.

That way, in the chaos of the holiday-shopping season, your customers hopefully won’t be distracted by an overabundance of choices. If they hear about your company’s brand from someone they trust, making a choice will be as easy and comfortable as donning a good pair of jeans.

Be #Thankful for Influencers This Holiday Season

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.

Is Facebook Turning Into a Brand Nanny?

Is Facebook Turning Into a Brand Nanny?

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:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration, i.e., “the Story”
  • Conversion

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.

Sports Fans: The Ultimate Social Influencers

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.

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.

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.