Influencer marketing, or using key personalities to spread the message of your brand to your target market, is on the rise – and for good reason. It delivers high ROI for your brand, helps you dial in your strategy by really understanding your audience, and expands the reach potential for your message. In short, it helps you connect with your consumers by using the voice and presence of someone they already respect. Here’s how to do it and why it works.
A three-tiered approach
Influencer marketing relies on leverage, as you’re expecting (and often paying) said influencer to use his/her presence to persuade followers, family, and friends. It isn’t, however, a lone wolf. Social media marketing and content marketing often go hand-in-hand with influencer marketing, making it a pretty unstoppable trio. It all makes sense if you think about it: What is a great way for influencers to connect with those they, well, influence? Social media. What do they distribute? Those videos, articles, interviews, PSAs – that’s all content. If your brand can create and send content that complements what your influencer is already releasing on those social media outlets, you’ve just expanded your reach without much expansion of your workload.
The key to effective influencer marketing? Be genuine
An effective influencer marketing campaign requires a true, established relationship between the brand and the influencer. If that doesn’t exist, find another influencer or risk losing the one thing that connects your audience to them in the first place – credibility.
As my business partner, Daniel Newman, warned in a piece written for Forbes, “For an influencer marketing campaign to be successful, it needs to have honesty, unbiased views, and transparency as the key ingredients. Take these factors out of the equation and it ceases to be influencer marketing.” Basically, that, my friends, is where marketers start to sink into a gray area and can, if they’re not careful, commit the ultimate, sales-busting sin of appearing disingenuous. You don’t like to feel played or patronized, and your consumers are no different.
So, there are big consequences to getting influencer marketing wrong. The good news? There are substantial rewards for getting it right. Do you remember that Tomoson study I mentioned earlier? It reported that businesses made $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. Talk about ROI! I’d say the risks are worth the reward in this case, so just be mindful of your influencer marketing approach.
Have you had any success with influencer marketing for your brand, or are you still trying to build the right kind of relationships to get there? What is it about your target audience that makes your influencer – or future influencer – so persuasive? Perhaps you could incorporate a little of whatever that secret connection ingredient is into your own brand image in 2016. Here’s what I mean . . . is your influencer super approachable? If so, shouldn’t your brand be that way? Is he/she calm and sophisticated or hip and vibrant? Would you use any of those terms to describe your brand? Take some cues from who is responding to your influencer and incorporate those into your overall presence, and you might see ROI grow in other places, too.
Learn why today’s marketing is no longer just about brand positioning; it’s about binding the different parts of the organization together around the brand promise, in 5 Mandates for the Future of Marketing.
Marketing and public relations’ role within professional organizations has shifted drastically with the advent of the online community. Now there’s a greater emphasis placed on storytelling. Traditionally, organizations would simply broadcast news or channel it through the media – observe the reaction, then respond on a flexible timetable. Today, branding isn’t simply about beaming out a message. It’s about building trust with end users, telling a compelling story, and creating two-way social streams of dialogue.
While the media matrix and consumption patterns have irrevocably shifted, the value of powerful communication strategies has only become more vital. In an online community and multitasking world, companies must first find ways to connect with increasingly fragmented audiences and build empathy and awareness. They must create channels for customers and influencers to help organizations engage with brands and products in exciting new ways.
Customer impressions carry increasing weight, with brand impressions now traveling greater distances in less time. Users increasingly look to their personal networks for expertise and validation as opposed to traditional media channels.
Traditional marketing and public relations principles now play an increased role. Practitioners can excel in the modern world – provided they adapt to changing markets and best practices.
Make it clear to employees what is okay to share online, how and when to do so, and the most appropriate manner in which to conduct outreach efforts. With every employee serving as a brand ambassador, training should begin the first day on the job to reinforce the importance of these organizational values. Detail formal rules of engagement with the online community and explain what’s expected from hires.
Develop an internal program to teach social media literacy and aptitude, provide continued education efforts, and reward employees for successfully practicing these skills. You may wish to consider regular skills refreshes, training sessions, certifications, and gamification-based programs to reinforce these maxims.
Be specific about what’s expected in terms of tone, attitude, end results, and output from your social media pros, and regularly monitor and assess how well they align with and meet these goals. Providing running feedback and commentary to help them grow and improve is vital to bolster performance in these areas. To this extent, you may wish to have team leaders provide sample tweets, posts, or updates to provide a sense of how to better shape these communications efforts.
For sake of clarity and assurance of appropriate conduct, post formal guidelines for communication within your own blogs, communities, and online venues, public-facing or otherwise. Having guidelines in place sets expectations upfront and helps you address any issues that may arise, such as having to ban argumentative users or remove inappropriate posts.
Set clear guidelines for interacting with the online community
Social media’s immediacy allows you to interact with customers without filters. However, policy and protocols set in place beforehand ensure professional and productive interactions. Understanding that some room must be given to operate between formal guidelines, make it clear to employees the appropriate rules of conduct when speaking directly to end users or customers, whether exchanges are B2B or B2C in nature.
Provide ongoing development and training to your team regarding these policies, especially for employees who manage social media efforts, outreach, and campaigns. Pass on learning and knowledge gained from direct frontline interactions with customers and promote positive transfer and enhance best practices.
Marketing campaigns and branding efforts should adhere to consistent guidelines. This ensures the right messages are sent and that your company is portrayed with the image and professionalism you desire. Outside of formal guidelines, practice basic rules of politeness, professionalism, and business etiquette online just as you would when engaging with customers face-to-face.
Identify which influencers to reach out to, and brief employees on the best methods for doing so. Through social media, you will likely also interact not just with individual customers, but also entire communities. As in real life, virtual group dynamics can differ greatly from one-on-one interactions.
Express your brand’s online personality
Be less formal, but adhere to your company’s rules and guidelines about your brand, message, and tone of voice, thus creating value for your online community. When people visit social media sites, they expect exchanges to be more personal, immediate, and engaging.
Be cognizant of post quality, taking care to eliminate grammatical and spelling errors. Note that kindness, courtesy, positivity, and empathy should be reflected in every post. Casual and fun doesn’t equate to flippant, glib, or self-centered. Think about how you or your brand may be perceived, and present yourself as affably and respectfully as possible.
Humor is appropriate to use, depending on context. Consider using only the same sort of humor that is appropriate for use in an office or business casual setting. Unless it is part of your brand’s marketing strategy, proceed with caution when using risqué or controversial statements.
Social media is a constantly evolving medium, from which sites are trending within your industry to the latest Facebook features and Instagram influencers – let alone the development of completely new social media platforms every time you turn on your laptop. How can modern marketers expect to keep up?
The secret is to embrace the change. After all, it is the rapid advancements and constant stream of innovations that have provided digital marketers with so much to work with in the first place. So, no, your social media marketing campaigns this year are not going to look the same as the ones you used in 2016—at least, not if you want to generate more leads and stand a chance against your competitors.
If you want to make an impact with your social media efforts, it is time to give your strategy a refresh. Here is what you need to know to master your social media marketing and to stay ahead of the trends in 2017.
Customize your use of major and niche social media sites
Facebook is still number one, and that isn’t going to change in 2017. In fact, Facebook itself is a world in itself to keep up to date with – in this year alone, it is predicted that Facebook Live will be monetized and that the Call to Action buttons for local business pages will be updated.
While these networks are important, there is also value in niche networks for many businesses. For example, DeviantArt is geared towards illustrators, designers, and other artists, as well as art enthusiasts – and has a huge network of 26,000,000. While this site might be useless for, say, an insurance brokerage, it would be incredibly powerful for a photography school. Other examples include eToro for finance professionals, Wayn for travel and tourism, 43 Things for health and wellness brands—and the list goes on as more networks are created and gain active users.
This year, instead of trying to have your brand on every major site and spreading your resources too thin, create a strategy that makes sense for your industry – and your business.
Start with the biggest. With 1.79 billion monthly active users, Facebook is a wise choice.
Next, choose one or two other major networks. Visual industries like clothing and apparel, food, and travel are well-suited to sites like Pinterest and Instagram, while service-oriented industries may gain more leads from LinkedIn and Twitter.
Finally, consider a niche social media network. Many have several million active users and may offer a unique way for you to reach out to leads and to build brand awareness.
Throughout 2016, the use of video on social media grew, but its impact exploded. A recent survey by Wyzowl found that 84% of consumers said they have been convinced to make a purchase choice after viewing a brand’s video – and 91% claimed to have watched a video to learn about a product or service they were interested in. Now consider that only 63% of businesses taking advantage of video right now.
Videos that engage with viewers tend to be very effective. While customer testimonials and demonstration videos will always have their place, add challenges, puzzles, games, and surveys to your video content, along with informational videos, to keep people interested and talking on social media. Buzzfeed’s Tasty does an excellent job of this.
For some businesses, live streaming can make a strong impact. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all being used by social media savvy brands to engage with consumers in real-time with interviews, Q&A sessions, and brand events.
If you haven’t already branched into video, 2017 is the year. If you are already using promotional videos on your social media channels, then this is the year to make them better. The use of video for social media marketing is no longer new. This year, it’s about coming up with creative, fresh ideas that will capture your audience and inspire leads.
Focus on the influencers
A business could run eleven different social media accounts, with Twitter updates every two hours, Facebook postings twice a day, vibrant Pinterest boards, and an active presence on LinkedIn. But they still would not make the same impact that a couple of mentions by one major social media influencer would create. The big influencers have legions of followers who often look to their voice as a sort of industry guiding force.
While in the past, consistent regular posting was the way to go, make sure you aren’t overextending your marketing efforts with too many platforms – and too many posts. You may not just be draining your resources, but these resources may be better spent with a more concentrated focal point, like an industry influencer.
Furious Pete (TV, food, and fitness) has more than 5 million YouTube followers. Kristina Bazan (fashion) has more than 2.4 million Instagram followers. Jake Paul (millennials) has more than 17 million social media followers. A social media mention from an influencer, or better yet, a video post that mentions your product or service is going to reach a profoundly broad and engaged audience.
Many major companies are now partnering – and paying – the big influencers to promote their product. If you want to master social media, pay attention to who the influencers are in your market.
They don’t have to be the biggest names around, but with a few hundred thousand followers you can make an impact if you can get these people to share, like, tweet, or feature your content in some way. Use resources like BuzzSumo and find the top blogs in your industry to get a better idea of who the influencers are that you may want to connect with.
Examine your social media ads – a lot
Ads continue to be a popular social media marketing tool as they offer marketers a cost-effective way not just to build brand awareness, but also to test their products and messaging and to get important feedback for building future campaigns.
Facebook ads still offer the best ROI by far – 95.8%, compared to 63.5% on Twitter and 2.1% on Snapchat. However, these numbers can shift quickly, especially as the newer networks like Snapchat and Instagram blossom in 2017.
Managing director of Traktek Partners Cyril Lemaire warns that Twitter will see a double-digit decline in active users this year. While this may or may not come to pass, it is important to be agile and to switch gears midstream if your ads aren’t working.
Make sure you are consistently measuring the results of your advertising campaigns, and track changes over time. This will help your team make smart decisions when it comes to social media advertising.
Take a fresh approach to your social media marketing efforts in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are available right now. No longer does it make sense to just chug away with your accounts and follow general trends. Your marketing efforts should be both more sophisticated and much more creative. The brands that can master these qualities will leap ahead in 2017.
Just as once-novel voice recognition technology is now a ubiquitous part of human–machine relationships, so too could mood recognition technology (aka “affective computing”) soon pervade digital interactions.
Through the application of machine learning, Big Data inputs, image recognition, sensors, and in some cases robotics, artificially intelligent systems hunt for affective clues: widened eyes, quickened speech, and crossed arms, as well as heart rate or skin changes.
Emotions are big business
The global affective computing market is estimated to grow from just over US$9.3 billion a year in 2015 to more than $42.5 billion by 2020.
Forrester found that emotion was the number-one factor in determining customer loyalty in 17 out of the 18 industries it surveyed – far more important than the ease or effectiveness of customers’ interactions with a company.
Insurer Humana uses artificial intelligence software that can detect conversational cues to guide call-center workers through difficult customer calls. The system recognizes that a steady rise in the pitch of a customer’s voice or instances of agent and customer talking over one another are causes for concern.
The system has led to hard results: Humana says it has seen an 28% improvement in customer satisfaction, a 63% improvement in agent engagement, and a 6% improvement in first-contact resolution.
Employers could monitor employee moods to make organizational adjustments that increase productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Happy employees are around 12% more productive.
Walking on emotional eggshells
Whether customers and employees will be comfortable having their emotions logged and broadcast by companies is an open question. Customers may find some uses of affective computing creepy or, worse, predatory. Be sure to get their permission.
Other limiting factors
The availability of the data required to infer a person’s emotional state is still limited. Further, it can be difficult to capture all the physical cues that may be relevant to an interaction, such as facial expression, tone of voice, or posture.
Get a head start
Discover the data
Companies should determine what inferences about mental states they want the system to make and how accurately those inferences can be made using the inputs available.
Work with IT
Involve IT and engineering groups to figure out the challenges of integrating with existing systems for collecting, assimilating, and analyzing large volumes of emotional data.
Consider the complexity
Some emotions may be more difficult to discern or respond to. Context is also key. An emotionally aware machine would need to respond differently to frustration in a user in an educational setting than to frustration in a user in a vehicle.
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About Christopher Koch
Christopher Koch is the Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. He is an experienced publishing professional, researcher, editor, and writer in business, technology, and B2B marketing.
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In 2012, Dollar Shave Club burst on the scene with a cheeky viral video that won praise for its creativity and marketing acumen. Less heralded at the time was the startup’s pricing model, which swapped traditional retail for subscriptions.
For as low as $1 a month (for five two-bladed cartridges), consumers got a package in the mail that saved them a trip to the pharmacy or grocery store. Dollar Shave Club received the ultimate vindication for the idea in 2016 when Unilever purchased the company for $1 billion.
As that example shows, new technology creates the possibility for new pricing models that can disrupt existing industries. The same phenomenon has occurred in software, in which the cloud and Web-based interfaces have ushered in Software as a Service (SaaS), which charges users on a monthly basis, like a utility, instead of the typical purchase-and-later-upgrade model.
Pricing, in other words, is a variable that can be used to disrupt industries. Other options include usage-based pricing and freemium.
Products as services, services as products
There are basically two ways that businesses can use pricing to disrupt the status quo: Turn products into services and turn services into products. Dollar Shave Club and SaaS are two examples of turning products into services.
Others include Amazon’s Dash, a bare-bones Internet of Things device that lets consumers reorder items ranging from Campbell’s Soup to Play-Doh. Another example is Rent the Runway, which rents high-end fashion items for a weekend rather than selling the items. Trunk Club offers a twist on this by sending items picked out by a stylist to users every month. Users pay for what they want and send back the rest.
The other option is productizing a service. Restaurant franchising is based on this model. While the restaurant offers food service to consumers, for entrepreneurs the franchise offers guidance and brand equity that can be condensed into a product format. For instance, a global HR firm called Littler has productized its offerings with Littler CaseSmart-Charges, which is designed for in-house attorneys and features software, project management tools, and access to flextime attorneys.
As that example shows, technology offers opportunities to try new revenue models. Another example is APIs, which have become a large source of revenue for companies. The monetization of APIs is often viewed as a side business that encompasses a wholly different pricing model that’s often engineered to create huge user bases with volume discounts.
Not a new idea
Though technology has opened up new vistas for businesses seeking alternate pricing models, Rajkumar Venkatesan, a marketing professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, points out that this isn’t necessarily a new idea. For instance, King Gillette made his fortune in the early part of the 20th Century by realizing that a cheap shaving device would pave the way for a recurring revenue stream via replacement razor blades.
“The new variation was the Keurig,” said Venkatesan, referring to the coffee machine that relies on replaceable cartridges. “It has started becoming more prevalent in the last 10 years, but the fundamental model has been there.” For businesses, this can be an attractive model not only for the recurring revenue but also for the ability to cross-sell new goods to existing customers, Venkatesan said.
Another benefit to a subscription model is that it can also supply first-party data that companies can use to better understand and market to their customers. Some believe that Dollar Shave Club’s close relationship with its young male user base was one reason for Unilever’s purchase, for instance. In such a cut-throat market, such relationships can fetch a high price.