Use Social Influence to Boost Brand Beliefs

(Originally posted in The Business Journals)

Did you know that chocolate milk is a better post-workout drink than a protein drink?

Did you know that chocolate milk is a better post-workout drink than a protein drink?
Image provided by Getty Images

A brand belief like this doesn’t exist in direct-to-consumer advertising — have you ever seen a commercial featuring an athlete furiously chugging chocolate milk? Yet it still exists (See Weber Shandwick’s influencer campaign for “Got Chocolate Milk?”). So where does it come from?

The answer is social influence. In an increasingly advertising-saturated environment, brands are shifting from direct advertising to social influence-based tactics to reach their target audiences.

This practice isn’t new. It’s been around since the 1960s, when Daniel Edelman had a simple idea: Use celebrities to endorse products. You can imagine (and maybe even remember!) how effective those sponsorships were.

But today, consumers are born with devices in their hands. They no longer naïvely believe that Jean-Claude Van Damme actually uses the Total Flex home gym or that Bill Cosby‘s favorite food is Jell-O. Pile on the avalanche of content consumers encounter daily, and it’s clear why the old way of doing things is losing steam.

To the rescue come the influencers — those real people who give your branded content authenticity.

Enter the early adopters

Many large-scale consumer brands already leverage this approach through bloggers and thought leaders. It’s a commitment — recruiting, managing, nurturing and sometimes paying influencers — but in terms of engagement and sales, the ROI can be exponential.

Walmart froze its paid promotions in favor of organic, owned content in an ambitious effort to bolster its brand reputation through influencers. As a result, it garnered an engagement rate of more than 4.5 percent — well above the average.

So, how can you use influencers to boost your brand’s reputation? Start with these steps:

1. Segment your audience

Thanks to social listening and customer insight tools, it’s easy to acquire consumer data. Telling a story with that data is the hard part. Identify your audience’s social media profiles then curate them down to your target markets.

2. Find people who can influence your target segments

This is not as hard as you’d think. If you monitor your audience’s social activity, you can see whom each segment interacts with. Monitoring those social streams will net you their upstream influence path.

3. Tailor your content

A celebrity tweet about your brand may garner thousands of likes, but will it really close a sale? A brand advocate, on the other hand, might talk to 10 friends and convert eight into customers.

Segment your influencers by where they are in the buying cycle — awareness, consideration or open to conversion — then channel the right content to them at the right time, through the person your target market trusts.

With a constant flow of branded content bombarding consumers from every direction, it’s difficult to cut through the noise and highlight your brand. But with the help of influencer marketing, you can build positive brand awareness, connect with customers on an authentic level and strengthen your content overall.

iPhone versus Windows Phone – How Are Their Influencers Different?

You probably know by now that Mattr is big on personality (not ours; your brand’s). Our latest platform extension features influencer marketing and you can filter for values.

This solves the problem of you digging through millions of profiles to look for the 1000 people who are both conservative and early tech adopters – think of launching a new mobile app for Hobby Lobby.

In any event, here’s the quick analysis for people influential about the iPhone and those who impact the conversation around the Windows Phone(s).

Influencer Marketing Values



How We Did It

We looked at micro and mid-level influencers for both phones in our influencer application, looking at their last 10,000 tweets and Instagram posts. We left out the macro influencers, who are primarily media and large verified accounts like young Master Bieber. Mid-level influencers are not Twitter verified and usually have hundreds of thousands of followers. Micro influencers have minimal followers but are real people who post on Instagram or Twitter with some frequency. We like to say that everyone matters at Mattr – so if you’re looking for the people who influence your target audience, you want to see your next door neighbor who only has 100 followers, but a lot of influence over you.


What it Means

The political party affiliation surprised us a bit, as did the environmental analysis. Just goes to show you that stereotypes are often dangerous–but always sloppy and rarely good enough in these days of big data.

For Microsoft, it tells us that they’re close to on par with Apple’s sense of non-conformism, even though 5% of the dataset represents a significant enough difference to call out.

I would definitely play off of the environmental analysis, and appeal to phone and electronics recycling programs. To date, few campaigns come to mind with this message. Certainly, Microsoft should heed the advice of avoiding trying to appeal to conflicting value sets such as Self-Indulgence versus Conservation / Conformity.

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How Apple Bends You To Their Will


Few iPhone users would identify “hedonism” (or the pursuit of pleasure) as a core value in their lives, but when you look at the sentiments behind Apple’s marketing strategy for the past 30 years, you might not be so quick to disagree. This extremely human core value is a key factor in Apple’s success today, despite the fact that the company based its marketing on entirely different values when it first began.

The unmitigated success of Apple’s products and its ability to shift values over the years are clear indicators of what we already know to be true: Apple lives and breathes values-based marketing, and so should your business.

Irresistible Marketing Speaks to Values

If you’re new to values-based marketing, you should familiarize yourself with Schwartz’s circumplex model of values. This model organizes human values into one system that can help you pinpoint the most effective way to market your products. The values outlined in the Schwartz model, such as hedonism, stimulation, and self-direction, make up a new wave of suspiciously successful values-based marketing.

This approach has been adopted by several major brands. Microsoft’s recent “Empowering” campaign tugs at our heartstrings, while Amazon’s promo for the new Kindle Unlimited service appeals to readers’ desire for instant gratification.

Values-based marketing is so effective because values, unlike beliefs, are not just static ideas. Rather, when values are activated, they become infused with deep feeling. Marketing that taps into this relationship between belief and action ignites a powerful desire to act within consumers.

How to Activate Consumers Through Values-based Marketing

Long-lasting, high-profile success isn’t just a matter of creating the perfect product. It’s a matter of speaking to the right values from the get-go and then allowing those values to shift as your target market and company’s products mature.

Here are three powerful lessons from Apple on values-based marketing:

1. Make the unnecessary necessary
What are the top five apps on your iPhone? They aren’t saving lives, that’s for sure. Yet people like you and I account for 150 million iPhones sold in 2013 alone. You don’t need the iPhone 6, but you want it—desperately.

Selling a product that people want is as simple as providing an opportunity for your customers to fulfill their need for stimulation, power, self-direction, or another dominant value. Tap into these values with your branding and advertising, and your market’s “want” for the product will bubble uncontrollably.

2. Make your product a values statement
How you appeal to your target market through values must align with that target market at the right time of your company’s lifecycle. In 1984, Apple believed that non-conformist messages would appeal to its target market. Once Apple’s products were more accepted by the mainstream, the marketing message shifted to more hedonistic values.

This shift in values can be risky. You have to recognize your competition’s approach and comprehensively analyze the macroeconomic environment to be successful.

3. Shift your offering as values shift
Despite its runaway success, there’s a reason Apple isn’t still playing that old “1984” commercial. Today, consumer values are rapidly shifting toward hedonism and stimulation.

Instead of gathering around the table, my family often eats dinner in front of a laptop or tablet, taking the latest BuzzFeed quiz or binge-watching “The Walking Dead” on Netflix. Those who value tradition over non-conformism and hedonism would be horrified, but they aren’t Apple’s target market.

Think about the pleasure you get from downloading a new app or hearing a great new song (curated by Apple’s recent acquisition, Beats Music). Apple’s obsession with hardware, visual design, and simplicity reinforces its dedication to make its product and presentation beautiful to use, look at, and hold, which appeals to the values of its current market.

What do you think are some of the most important consumer values?
What do you think of Apple’s approach?

Who else echoes consumer values?

(Originally posted in the AWESOME Bplans)

Fashion Forward: Why Fashion Brands Belong on Pinterest

Fashion Forward: Why Fashion Brands Belong on Pinterest

Fashion Week in Paris just wrapped up, and like fashion, Pinterest is a visual medium. That’s why 40 million people actively use this booming social network to get visual inspiration each month. So it’s no wonder fashion brands living on visual appeal are creating a Pinterest presence to garner people’s attention and showcase the full spectrum of their aesthetic.

Kate Spade is a fantastic example. Each of the famous fashion label’s pinboards interprets the brand’s message in creative ways and demonstrates exactly what Kate Spade stands for. Although Pinterest isn’t limited to clothes, makeup, and jewelry, it’s an excellent place for fashion brands to interact with their fans in a richer, more authentic way — and build a brand presence that’s even more interactive.

The Advantages of Going Pinterest

Here’s an understatement: Pinterest is extremely popular among young women. In fact, 80 percent of its users are women. According to Pinterest, thousands of brands and businesses are using the social network to showcase their products and reach their customers where they’re already spending time.

Here are a few reasons marketers and brands are choosing Pinterest as their social media platform of choice:

  • People buy more on Pinterest. On average, Pinterest shoppers spend nearly$170 per session, much more than Facebook shoppers (who spend $95 per session) and Twitter shoppers (who spend $70).
  • Engagement is already high. Anthropologie and lululemon athletica have tracked engagement rates of 99 and 97 percent, respectively. Top fashion and retail brands are averaging 46 repins for each individual pin, which means people go to Pinterest to discover new fashion and repin items along the way.

Tapping Into Audience Behaviors

Just because Pinterest boasts high engagement doesn’t mean it’s the ideal place to focus your efforts. Conduct research before you create a campaign to ensure your customers actively use the platform. If you find most of your consumers use Facebook regularly, consider going there.

Here are a few other preliminary steps you should take before launching a Pinterest campaign:

  • See what people are already saying. Monitoring conversations around your brand can help you discover brand influencers who are naturally passionate about your brand and can help spread the love. Often, these conversations also reveal new trends and hot topics within your audience. They reveal what people want to see from your brand — and how you can give it to them in your Pinterest content marketing strategy.
  • Find influencers. Search for influencers based on factors including reach (how many people see their posts) and relevance (how often they post about certain topics). Look at Pinterest boards for events such as Fashion Week 2013, for example. Determine who was influential then, and see if they’ll be attending again this year. Then, add them to your influencer list.
  • Create an editorial calendar. What will you use to create your brand identity on Pinterest? Will you make the content or simply curate it? Make sure you have a plan. If you’re strapped for time, hands-on services such as Curalatecan help schedule pins for you.
  • Make your site pinnable. It should be easy for your website visitors to pin the designs or products they love. Putting Pinterest buttons on your site lets fans choose their favorite products and spread buzz organically.
  • Don’t just pin products. Fashion brands shouldn’t feel limited to simply posting clothing. You can post makeup, travel, weddings and events, or DIY styles, like how to fade a pair of new Converse shoes. You can also promote events and special collections.

For example, last year Pinterest created a New York Fashion Week hub with curated Pinterest boards from designers, brands, publishers, and bloggers participating in Fashion Week. Create boards that speak to your label’s aesthetics, the meaning behind your designs, and what inspires your brand.

Beyond Just Pins

Fashion shows are all about the visual thrill — models on the catwalk, flashing lights, and front-row celebrities, right? That’s why fashion brands should consider taking advantage of Pinterest’s video feature. Whether you’re giving a peek at a new line or a backstage exclusive at Fashion Week, Pinterest can give your customers an insider view.

Here are a few tips for making your video appealing:

  • Mix media. Combine videos and regular pins on your pinboards. You can also post videos on your website and other places, such as YouTube, and include a pin button next to them.
  • Keep it short. Longer videos aren’t as engaging as shorter ones, so make them brief but compelling.
  • Make it visually appealing. Pay attention to your video thumbnails on Pinterest; they’ll attract people just as much as your descriptions. By the same logic, it’s important to write good descriptions for all of your videos. Use plenty of hashtags and relevant search terms in your description. (Be sure to specify that it’s a video, too.)

Remember: For most women, Pinterest isn’t just a shopping cart. It’s a source of inspiration and aspiration, too. Women go there to find new, exciting ways to style, enliven, and reorganize their lives. And the faster your brand establishes a presence that’s focused holistically on connecting lifestyle and fashion, the faster you’ll start interacting with your customers in new, more meaningful ways.

Image courtesy of Bloomua /

Prepare a Visual Social Feast and Consumers Will Bite

Prepare a Visual Social Feast and Consumers Will Bite

(Originally posted in Spin Sucks)

For this year’s back-to-school season, TOMS launched a contest aimed at increasing visual engagement on Pinterest.

#TOMS Give Back-to-School encouraged people to create a pinboard and pin their favorite outfits using only items found on the TOMS website.

While primarily known for shoes, TOMS wanted people to see they could wear the brand from head to toe.

To compete for the $500 TOMS gift certificate, pinners created a special board for the contest and tagged every pin with “#TOMS Give Back-to-School.”

TOMS scored huge brand awareness and sales during the contest as pinners posted beautiful pictures that spread across their personal networks.

The TOMS campaign shows the expanding influence of visual social media sites, and in the coming years, more brands will take part in this growing trend.

Why Visual Social Media Takes the Cake

Pinterest has more than 70 million users, which may not seem like a lot compared to the billions at Facebook, but, unlike users of other social media sites, Pinterest users become more active over time, not less.

This makes sense when you think about the draw of pictures.

The Internet is overloaded with text, with every company in the world creating text-heavy blog posts.

With so much to read, people are looking for simpler media to consume.

Pictures are processed more quickly and remembered longer. They can also tell your brand’s story more effectively than 1,000-word blog posts.

(Hence: A picture is worth more than 1,000 words.)

When it comes to social media, posts with images get 39 percent more engagement than other posts.

And, in some inexplicable way, it’s been proven that users will not only remember your picture, but they’ll also associate your brand with similar pictures in a different context.

That’s reach you could never get with words alone.

Customers also love images because they’re editable. Everyone wants to express himself, and when users can share a brand’s content but also make it their own, it’s a win-win.

The beauty of visual strategy is that consumers can’t help but be drawn to the visual feast.

How Brands Can Get Visual

So, how do you make like TOMS and take advantage of the benefits of visual?

Like all other content, visual sites such as Instagram and Pinterest require some strategic thinking and a well-executed plan.

One of the worst things brands can do is throw up mediocre images, hoping to draw attention.

Here are some important steps for brands to take when crafting a visual social media strategy.

Define your brand visually. Don’t just think about your products. What colors, patterns, and images represent who you are as a brand? Make sure the images you use tell a story of either the brand or the user.

Think broadly about your visuals. Not every pin or Instagram photo has to be (or should be) focused on your brand. Capital One and American Express both maintain pinboards for brides, world travelers, and bucket-list creators. These images are inherently shareable, regardless of a user’s affiliation with the companies, which makes it easier for the brands to spread organically.

Use segmentation to your advantage. Segment your audience by demographics, interests, and values. Each of these categories can provide insight into the types of visuals your audience prefers and where it likes to see them. For example, users who are into “beauty” might also follow certain celebrities that you can incorporate into your campaign. Users who are “green” might appreciate holistic health advice or eco-friendly gift ideas. Use segmentation to branch out and go broad, as mentioned above.

Pay attention to top content for your audience. Through content tracking, you can also discover what kind of content your audience is sharing and publishing most, then create visuals around that content. Infographics are a great option here, putting information into an easy-to-understand yet still visually appealing format.

Know your grassroots influencers. Also called brand ambassadors, these are the people who are naturally spreading the word about your brand. Target these influencers by creating more of the content and visuals they love, but also by engaging with them personally. These people are the ones who will convince less enthusiastic users to love your brand, so make sure you love them.

The rise of Pinterest and Instagram is undeniable, and more brands are beginning to realize the power of images in marketing.

Winning brands will be the ones that create the best and most compelling visual social media strategies that engage all kinds of users.