Making Your Brand Approachable with Influencer Marketing

  • July 18th, 2018

Ever had a friend that got rich and famous? You used to hang out all the time, lots of text conversations and funny email chains. Sure, people get busy and life happens, but now your texts and invitations to go out seem to get fewer and fewer responses. True, you’re happy for their success, but you miss the good old days when they were always around.

Like friendships, relationships with brands can become distant and somewhat sterile. Typically, the bigger they get, the less likely you are to connect, and you can start wondering if believing in this brand is worth it. Large corporations and international brands tend to be viewed as impersonal and unapproachable, and that’s just bad for business. How do stay away from this situation? There’s a few ways, and influencer marketing is a great option to help personalize your brand.

Friend of a Friend

Influencer marketing, at least on smaller scales, is all about authenticity. These professional content creators have worked long and hard to establish trusted relationships and have thousands of loyal followers, and they have done that with consistent messaging, great content, and engagement with their audience. Point is, they can do that for you, also. Once you’ve vetted and identified influencers who fit your niche and tone, give them all the assets they’ll need to showcase the best part of your brand. This includes high-quality images, positive messaging, and enough stories about your business to make the content they create feel personal—especially if they are geographically distant. Make them feel like a part of the company, and they’ll write and post like they are.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

Working off what we said above, your influencers need authentic connections to your brand. If there’s  product, software, or any other aspect of your brand that one would need to be able to give a detailed endorsement or review, make certain that they have all the time and instruction they need. If any of the influencers you are working with happen to be local, invite them out to your store, office or factory and give them the inside scoop on how your operation works. Let them make appetizers with the chef, stitch up some vests, or debug some code with one of your developers. Not only will they get a good idea of your quality and attention to detail, they can also get great content through interviews and pictures that no one else can get. Giving readers a glimpse of how things really work and the people who make it happen is a great way to remind readers that your employees (like the readers) are the heart of your company.

Turn Over the Reins

You probably have some sort of social media presence…maybe you post daily, or perhaps you only get to it once in a while. Great influencers are professionals at making their social media posts engaging, interesting, and entertaining; it’s their stock in trade, and they work hard to keep them active. While most influencers will link back to their blog post about your brand to get higher reach, you might be able to additionally use individuals or crowdsourcing to give these experts a day representing your brand on a social channel. With some guidance, extra access, and a few suggestions on what to focus on, a talented influencer can give your brand a whole new look, all while humanizing and telling the stories you’d want everyone to hear. This is a wonderful opportunity to show off your workplace, highlight your ideals, and, most importantly, give some inside looks on how your customers use your product or service. American Express let a few of their cardholders take over, and brilliant content ensued:

It’s slick, entertaining, and, most of all, real. Think creatively and talk to a few influencers about how they’d do it. It exposes your social media audience to theirs, and vice versa, so both parties can benefit if done well. You can also crowdsource content…not only with influencers, but any numbers of active social media personalities. Surveys, challenges, or trivia questions are all fun ways to gamify your social posts, all resulting in valuable information about your consumers and getting that brand awareness out there as well.

Step Up and Own It

Now, there’s opportunity around every corner, and missteps and mistakes are no exception. If you send out a defective product or goof up on an order, come out and own it. Send the influencer double the goods, for example…but make it self-deprecating, self-aware, and even humorous if you can. Obviously, people appreciate a brand that admits mistakes, so be sure to make it public so everyone sees how you handle adversity. On a bigger scale, brands who face accusations of poor behavior or practices should get in front of it before hazy reports go viral.

Recently, Airbnb was facing reports of discriminatory practices from its members. And while this wasn’t directly Airbnb’s practices that were in question, they took the opportunity to launch a new campaign and hashtag: #weaccept . This affirmed their commitment to equality among its members, struck on a hot-button topic, and earned themselves well-deserved praise for doing the right thing.

There are lots of ways to make your brand approachable and friendly…did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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How Influencers Can Power The Food Industry

  • July 6th, 2018

Marketing the food industry, from massive franchise chains to Mom and Pop businesses, can be a tricky thing. Like many other markets, brand-produced advertisements and marketing can be a bit of a turn-off…we are all aware that you believe your burgers or energy bars are the best in town. And in the current climate of Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Amazon reviews, everyone’s a professional food critic, like it or not. Competition is as stiff as ever, and the margin of error is slim. So how can you stand out in the crowd, get your potential customers to trust that they’ll purchase quality eats, and keep your integrity and sense of humor intact? You should consider going the influencer marketing route…and here’s why.

Delicious Relationships

Here’s the thing: we all gotta eat. Not only that, but we derive an enormous amount of pleasure from the ritual. Celebratory dinner with family and friends, Happy Hour with work buddies, or a quiet energy bar at the summit of a mountain…the act of going to a store or restaurant and carefully selecting your next meal borders on the sacred for many of us. It’s social, and we love to share our experience with others. Sound familiar? It mirrors our obsession with social media and being connected. Our feeds are filled with, well, food; from an Instagram shot of your morning smoothie to a YouTube clip of your late night munchies, we see it everywhere. So, it follows that a true influencer, who has thousands of loyal and trusted followers, would be someone you’d want representing your brand. Whether it’s a true reviewer or just a funny, interesting personality, a well-done post with clever hashtags can bring a lot of eyes on your goods.

A Feast for the Eyes

Looking at beautiful food is almost as pleasurable as eating it. From an elegant Michelin-starred amuse bouche, the sloppiest mega-burger ever, or the time-lapsed video of your recipe coming to life, images of meals are a constant; at the time this post is being written, there are almost 280 million #food entries on Instagram. It’s widely known that content with images is far more absorbed and shared than plain text alone. Many enterprises will hire professional photographers, and that’s great (if you can afford them) for your website. But tapping into the wide world of social media food images has endless possibilities, and, with a little encouragement, you can get a virtual army posting your brand on every social channel. Having a popular influencer start the trend in their local restaurant is a great way to kickstart a trend, especially if there’s a signature dish you’re looking to promote. If they challenge their audience to drop in and post their pictures as well, the range and breadth of those posts will spread far and wide. Also, timely use of geofilters can bring throngs of followers to the spot that will best feature your brand…think idyllic picnic spots, fun run finish lines, or farmer’s markets to promote your products.

For example, the above geofilter was used 346 times in a weekend in a college town, and that led to over 22,000 views and shares. That’s a lot of brand exposure for a simple geofilter.

How It’s Made

The big appeal regarding influencer marketing is always the storytelling. These professional writers earn their living explaining the details, ups and downs, and humor of their subjects. And you probably won’t find more entertaining and enlightening stories anywhere else like you will in a restaurant or a production facility. It’s a place where people of all different backgrounds and personalities all ply their craft under busy, high-pressure conditions daily. Telling their story is a great way to humanize your place and staff, and to let the readers know why your spot is as special as you know it is, as shown here. Don’t only invite your influencers to eat a meal or meet the founder; bring them back behind the grill to make an appetizer with the chef or down to the factory floor to mix up ingredients. The organic content that results, both in word and image, will not only make that first post great, but is content you can use in multiple ways for a long time to come.

That Pairs Nicely

As with all other influencer marketing campaigns, finding the right fit between influencer and brand is absolutely essential. If you have a high-end fine dining establishment, you’ll want to ask someone with experience and a history of fine dining reviews to try your fare. In contrast, if you’re offering the city’s hottest wings or a “bet you can’t finish it” mega-steak, look for a content creator with humor and a lowbrow sensibility that would appreciate an off-color joke from the server. Be absolutely clear on what sort of exposure you want, and have a conversation to make sure you’re both on the same page. Check out this interview about how working with a student who truly loved the restaurant was a win, even with a limited social reach. This establishment has also taken storytelling a step further by having fun and creative influencers take over their official Instagram account during their time there, lending authenticity and a fresh perspective to your channel. Looking back through various popular feeds and case studies to get a feel for great ideas and themes is a must, and conversations with your potential influencers can go a long way.

The Final Course

If all this sounds appetizing, here’s a menu of next steps to choose from (see what I did there?):

  • First, take stock of the assets you have in place: the décor, the staff and their personalities, the story of how you started, and, of course, the food. Do you also source from local farmers/ranchers/brewers? If you do, their stories contribute to yours also.
  • A talented influencer can showcase these people with interviews and images to show all their readers how special what you do really is. Locating this type of influencer can be tricky, so consider talking to an experienced agency for help.
  • Engage your customers to follow your social channels, and ask for their input on everything…sometimes, the perfect influencer will come straight to you. Keep an eye on what’s happening in your neighborhood and industry on social media, and take note of what’s working.
  • Last, make it fun. Your food is a reason for celebration, conversation, and the simple human act of enjoying a meal. Everyone should share that with you.

Does your brand fall in the food industry? Let us know if you have any questions or comments about working with influencers!

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4 Influencer Marketing Case Studies that Made a Splash

  • June 22nd, 2018

Nothing highlights the versatility, reach, and all-around efficacy of influencer marketing like reviewing a few recent and successful case studies. We can get new ideas, see how specific strategies fare, and try to match up with like-minded brands. Let’s examine why these clever campaigns did so well, and how you might be able to use a similar path to success.

Flipping the Script

Every brand can benefit from influencer marketing…it just takes some creative strategy to make it work for you. Whole Foods has a great reputation for all-natural quality ingredients, and one might expect they would go after food bloggers that create tasty recipes and a lavish spread. Yet, for their recent Easter campaign, they opted to target overwhelmed hosts by offering their order and pick-up service. They used a variety of lifestyle bloggers, including several mid-level influencers, to show off their table-ready and Instagram-worthy spreads that emphasized amazing food, saving time, and spending more time with family and friends. The smaller reach sparked higher engagement rates, which is always a plus, and sharing identifiable problems with easy (and tasty) solutions led to huge brand awareness and web traffic swings for a relatively unknown service that Whole Foods offered.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

When you’ve established your brand as a quirky and funny advertising presence, your social feeds and influencer programs need to follow suit. Old Spice has set the bar with their off-the-wall commercials, so you’d expect nothing less from their strategy. They designed an app where runners can map their routes, and try to track a design that resembles a gift they desire. They employed a few celebrity influencers to kickstart the action, and gave the average fun-loving runner the ability to be creative and crack a few jokes…all in the name of the brand. It produced some hilarious entries and interpretations, like an inflatable shark and a turkey helmet, and subtly promoted its new deodorant amid all the giggles. Crowd-sourced content that can be used in a variety of ways while generating brand awareness all along…cue the laugh track!

Old Spice: Dream Runner from MediaMonks on Vimeo.

No Showroom? No Problem!

One of the best parts of using influencers is the ability to address specific marketing issues and limitations in an organic and natural way. Leesa, a direct sale online mattress brand, wanted the world to know how incredible its luxury mattresses were…all without any showrooms for potential customers to try them out. Mattress buying is difficult; you, of course, want to lie on and test out the product you’ll be spending all of your sleeping hours on, but showrooms can be awkward and salesmen can be pushy. The challenge was to get trustworthy reviews out to readers who are ready to buy, which is challenging indeed. They went after smaller market bloggers with high engagement, big conversion rates, SEO-savvy content, and a history of genuine brand affinity. Tall order, but with expert agency assistance, a few YouTube sponsorships and unboxing videos, and a limited customer email campaign, Leesa found the right influencers for the job. Plus, they pledged to donate one mattress to a shelter for every ten sold, providing the company with some social proof. Over 100,000 clicks on website links and 400 mattress purchases shows the power of the campaign, and there’s no limit on how long this content will continue to convert.

A Good Cause

We’ve talked before here about how effective and powerful cause marketing can be. Here’s a case study that combines it with influencers, and it’s easier than you think. Boxed Water is a simple concept: pure water in an environmentally conscious package. To promote themselves and to give back to the causes they believe in, they offered to plant two trees in national forests for every Instagram post that promoted them and shared their hashtag. This offers a simple and free way for everyday users to help out and feel good about their actions. It also appeals to a younger, more socially conscious generation that also happens to spend a lot more time on Instagram. As for the influencers, they did enlist a few celebrities to start the movement…but, as with many social causes, many will elect to promote for free if it aligns with their own personal beliefs. There’s a lot of attention on the global effect of discarded plastic, so this brand stepped in at a time where awareness is at an all-time high. To date, they report well over 75,000 trees planted. Good news, and better marketing; reporting progress and hitting various goals gives everyone who participated a good feeling, and, due to their three month campaign, gives others a chance to get on board as well. It’s a win-win all around.

Did one of these case studies make sense for your brand? Got any others you’d like to share? Leave a comment, and let’s chat!

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4 Goals Brands are Hitting with Influencer Marketing

  • June 8th, 2018

Every department in your company starts the year by mapping out crucial goals to hit, and marketing is no exception. Lots of research and discussion goes into setting these benchmarks; after all, you have a set budget to allocate and multiple marketing tactics to use over the next 12 months. Make sure to add influencer marketing to the discussion, as it can reach many different kinds of consumers that can be tough to find with older techniques. Let’s go through a few of these and see how you can get your message out.

Appealing to Niches

We’ll tackle the tricky one first. When you produce a very particular product or service, both big and little brands have issues. The big guys likely have a catalog of wide, diversified products, and are trying to feature their new product among the variety of everyday items they’ve been selling for years. In contrast, the small independent brand is just trying to get its quality niche product noticed in a giant sea of competition. Either way, both situations can benefit from the versatility of influencer marketing. From knitting to kayaking, from high-tech gadgets to handmade cutlery, there’s a way to get your message out. Content creators are story tellers, and, given the proper assets, they can craft an experiential message that gets you noticed. Evaluate your target audience, and find those influencers who cater to them. If you can’t find them, you’re not looking hard enough. Get your product in their hands, let them relate their experience with it, and have them link back to your web page or retail site with a discount code. Your SEO-savvy creators will help your customers find you in a search, their review will reinforce buying confidence, and web traffic and brand awareness will grow exponentially. Suddenly, that custom knitting needle or chef’s knife is not just noticed, but sought after.

All About the Millenials

Millenials (and the subsequent Generations Z and Alpha) are the darlings of the market these days. Buying power, digital savvy, and well-researched purchases makes them both sought after and tricky to connect with. The days of catchy radio spots and magazine print ads are fading away, at least for the younger consumers, so it’s wise to try to grab them where they are most often: the Internet. Check out this graph from a Nielsen survey:

Now, this is an older graph, so you’d probably want to guess that it would skew even farther towards online presences. The real grab here is the overwhelming majority that trust opinions or endorsements from “people I (they) know” and “consumer opinions posted online”. Sure, that can be friends and family, and often is. But great influencers establish and nurture relationships with their audience to such an extent that they end up “knowing” them, and that’s important. Consistent engagement and messaging leads to loyalty and faith that they’ll never mislead their readers, and that extends to the “consumer opinions” section also. Most everyone checks out Amazon ratings and reviews before finally buying something, so consulting an expert or fan online is a natural step.

B2B Coming On Strong

Influencer marketing isn’t just a review service of products by everyday moms and travelers. Selling business services and products to other businesses is, well, big business. Anyone in the sales and purchasing departments better be very certain of the services or products they are vouching for, so they do the same thing we all do: research. Opinions from industry experts used to only consist of water cooler banter, phone calls, or an article in a trade magazine. Now, experts in every field (including yours!) recommend all manner of B2B and SaaS items, and you can get a rundown on exactly what you’re looking for in a variety of articles and videos; they are legitimate influencers, and they not only help your buyers choose wisely, but they can also represent your brand with the same enthusiasm and expertise they give to other brands they endorse.

Standing Out in the Crowd

Face it…sales and conversions are the bottom line, and it’s what every marketing and sales department wants most of all. But, getting to the point where you’re even getting noticed can be a challenge. You can have a slick website, amazing customer support, and a great story to tell. If they don’t get to your website or blog, though, it’s all for naught. This is why many large brands hire celebrities to hawk their wares to their millions of followers…the resulting brand awareness can be game-changing, albeit at a steep price. If you can afford that, great…but you might want to consider finding a mid-level influencer, defined as a content creator with a 10,000 to 100,000 social reach. They are more engaged and in touch with their audience, have easily identifiable and targetable demographics following them, and cost a lot less than Rihanna. Be sure to use a tracking tool to see which influencers are getting the shares and likes, as well as how your web traffic is picking up. Want that information up front? Consider hiring an agency, who can locate and engage these influencers, as well as give you loads of data before and after the campaign to see what (and who) works the best for your brand.

What goals have you achieved with influencer marketing? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Meet the Swiss Army Knife of Marketing: The Travel Influencer

  • June 4th, 2018

Picture this: You’ve got an influencer representing your brand. Descriptive writer, incredible photographer, even makes gorgeous videos. They shoot from breathtaking locales around the world, engage with thousands of followers, and more seem to join every week. And the best part? Versatility. Activewear? Sure. New tech gadget? Love to. Vitamin supplement? Gotta keep the immune system up. Laptop case? Use one every day, no problem. Meet the travel influencer…or become reacquainted quickly, because they’re arguably the most valuable voices in the influencer marketing world.

Everyday People in Extraordinary Places

There’s a broad appeal to travel writing, and it’s been around for decades. Exotic places, foreign food and cultures…it’s all very exciting and informative. And watching actresses and professional athletes posing on a yacht in the south of France can be enjoyable. But, for most of us, it’s the relatable nature of watching someone a lot like you navigate language barriers, airport crises, and unrecognizable meals, and this is where the marketing magic begins. In truth, you may or may not drink the bubbly water that said celebrity is toasting with at sunset; but, if your travel influencer gets a rash in the jungle, photographs it, and then tells you how a product helped get rid of it, that’s a personality you can relate to. Trust is the gold of the marketing world, and being honest, self-deprecating and conversational about your experiences is the best way to get that. If you can see yourself in another’s shoes, you can see yourself using what they use. Mission accomplished.

What Don’t They Use?

As we talked about above, these travel influencers can represent a wide variety of brands. Obviously, hotels, cruise ships, and other travel and hospitality brands would be a natural fit, and they have seen great success using influencer marketing. Other things like translation and mapping apps, various luggage options, and comfortable socks might fall under the same umbrella. Consider, though, all the everyday items you use at home and in your daily life. Chances are, they’d be useful while travelling. Tweezers, shampoo, air fresheners, restaurant review sites…these are all applicable for showcasing on a traveler blog. Even home-based items like lawn fertilizer or artificial plants might seem strange, but several savvy travel influencers even talk about the things they are happy to come home to, and a healthy lawn might fall on that list.

Content Is King

One of the truly powerful aspects of influencer marketing is the content they produce. It can be repurposed and featured in lots of different ways for years after the initial post. Influencers are content creators…professional writers and photographers who not only excel at their craft, but absorb and incorporate your specific messaging into their work. That means you get a big spark after the post goes live, and a slow but steady burn on your brand awareness. Additionally, hiring freelance content creators and photographers can cost a fortune. Do your research, and find these professionals who do all that plus have thousands of loyal followers who read them everyday. That’s a whole lot of value for one marketing campaign.

Here’s a few tips for identifying and engaging with travel influencers:

  • Messaging: Before you start searching, get a good idea of the basics of your campaign. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but general concepts like tone, mood, and the way you’d like to see your brand represented are good starts. Try to get a good feel for what you’re looking for before you start your search.
  • Research: Find a few sites where the images and writing fit your brand. Make sure to check out their blog and all the linked social channels while you’re at it, and check on other brands they’ve represented before.
  • Outreach: If you’re able to find a good contact, construct a short, concise email. Remember, these folks get lots of emails every day, so get right to the point. Remember to inquire about a fee, also; most influencers do this for a living, and you may not get much of a response rate if you don’t offer compensation. And always use their name, and maybe even reference a specific post that you really liked…it should be a personal relationship.
  • Be Realistic: Once you’ve found a great match, be sure to be clear about what you expect and when. Many travelers end up “off the grid” for weeks and have a fairly rigid editorial calendar, so last-minute changes or requests for extensions can’t always be possible.
  • Hire a Pro: Yes, this type of marketing can be done yourself, but be prepared to spend a lot of time on it. It can feel uncertain at times, and a lot of trial and error is normal. You might want to consider an agency; they have the experience, contacts and relationships in place to get you going in the right direction.

Have questions about how to find the best and brightest travel influencers who would fit perfectly with your brand? Ask us in the comments below, we’re a friendly bunch!

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3 Next Level Tips to Market to Generation Alpha

  • May 29th, 2018

Are you wondering where the next giant vertical lies? One that will have billions in spending power for years to come and can direct and influence others to do their bidding pretty much at will? Want to know where to find them? Your best bet is to catch them between the end of kindergarten and before their afternoon nap.

Yes, the newest and potentially strongest market to emerge on the scene is Generation Alpha…kids that are born from 2010 and after. Sounds crazy, but consider it. A digitally savvy, on-demand, diverse and socially conscious group that is already inured to traditional advertising. Three year old children that can swipe and touch their way through the iPhone that you had to watch a tutorial for. Second graders who can tell you the merits and pitfalls of a certain toy brand gleaned from several YouTube reviews. Gone are the days of picking out your Christmas list based on Saturday morning cartoon commercials and the Sears and Roebuck Wish List catalog. They still want toys and games, of course…but the landscape on how to find and choose them has changed dramatically.

Let’s look at some facts that can show how unique this situation is. First, the average family size is shrinking. Well-educated women are having fewer children at a later age than ever before, and that’s important. First, we’re talking about Gen X’ers and Millennials, who are well-known to be very attentive, or even slightly obsessive, about their children’s needs and wants, and check reviews and influencers’ opinions before making any purchases. We’re also talking about largely dual-income families with confident buying power, from everything from cars to strollers, and that’s likely going to focused on less children, probably one or two. And with thousands of this generation born daily, that adds up quick.

Next, consider the kids. They have been fluent in all things digital since birth. They’ve never been without the Internet or cell phones. Even before they can read, they can visually command a tablet by touch, and can use their voice to change the music or the TV channel. They are used to the same ad blockers that we are, and have little patience for traditional advertising. So, there’s a few things to consider when trying to connect with them:

  1. Most kids in this younger generation use YouTube regularly, in numbers up to 87%, and increasingly prefer it to regular television as they get older. They also own tablets and phones younger and younger. Bottom line? If you want to connect to this generation, get your video production up to speed.
  2. There are lots of influencers who speak to this age group, but they typically have a common theme that makes them popular and successful: tell a story, make it entertaining, keep it consistent. Ryan from RyanToysReview unboxes, plays with, and reviews toys to millions of subscribers…his latest post has had 5 million views and counting. He (and his parents) have been doing it the same way for a few years, and toy companies are lined up to have him review their next product.
  3. Google as a verb is something these kids have always known. So, countless sources can answer questions instantly, give directions and even give advice. They are also smart enough to know when a banner ad or in-app purchase is bothering them. Many kids use this wealth of content to teach themselves how to play music or code a video game, and if your brand is involved in this process, they’ll know it. Just keep it subtle!

The takeaway here is that there’s plenty of ways to connect to these kids (and their parents), and brand-produced content that barrels head-on through traditional advertising is not one of them. Entertaining content presented through trusted influencers to an increasingly mobile and discerning audience seems to be one of the best ways to do this…have you evaluated your influencer program yet?

 

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That Valuable Space Where Content and Influencer Marketing Meet

  • May 14th, 2018

Let’s face it, traditional outbound marketing is losing ground at a rapid pace. Older and well-established brands who have a firm foothold in the market can expect better returns for banner ads, print ads, and email campaigns. But, a new brand trying to find its way into the market should be looking into more effective ways to market. We talk a lot about influencer marketing here, and that will be integrated in this post as well, but now we’ll discuss the importance of content and content marketing.

What is Content?

Really, anything that is produced or published counts as content. For the sake of what we’re talking about, though, we’ll set funny memes and selfies aside for now. The content we’ll focus on is the type that’ll really help drive brand awareness and bring traffic your way. Blog posts, white papers, infographics, e-books, informative videos…these are the formats where you can really get your message out. Most brands have someone on their team that can and should produce content on a regular, consistent basis, and that’s big. Making sure the subject is relevant and timely is an important part of this, so stay abreast of current topics and news, and check your facts twice (we all know how the “news” can be these days).

Make It Work for You

As digital marketing whiz Lee Odden said,” Content is the reason search engines exist and it’s the cornerstone of what people share on the social web. A quantity of quality content that answers readers’ questions in a useful and entertaining way serves everything from demand generation to lead generation.”

Now, Mr. Odden has been around a long time, and had a lot of success. So, it’s instructive to pull this statement apart to examine the value of its parts. It’s true, what else would search engines search for? And you want to be at the top of those searches, so do your research regarding SEO and the terms that  might be searched for when someone is trying to find your type of product or service. Don’t be afraid to be super specific either; long-tail searches (i.e. “running shoes” vs. “trail running shoes with arch support”) are quite valuable, so make sure to consider niche words and phrases as part of your content.

Next, yes, people share. In astounding volume. Often, it’s a bit of a reflex, like the aforementioned funny memes. Your friends share your sense of humor, goofy or dark as it is, and so you figure they’ll appreciate what you send. Now, take that theory and apply it to entertaining and knowledgeable content. Read a clever blog post about property values skyrocketing around highly rated schools? You’ll likely pop on Facebook and LinkedIn and share it with realtors, parents, builders, and everyone else in your network that might also find it interesting. It’s easy, free and lots of those folks will appreciate the gesture. That’s the personal and professional value of relevant content…it does a lot of the work for you.

Bring in the Influencers

Don’t forget, good content also informs and educates. You certainly want some of it to extoll the value of your brand, but don’t be afraid to venture into other relevant topics. Well-written posts that make people laugh, think, or get all the feels is valuable…it brings traffic and is shared just as often, if not more. Here’s a good place to bring in some of those influencers, also. They can share your juicy content and get it in front of many new potential consumers or brand fans. Aside from having influencers share your brand’s content, many influencers are experts and having these industry experts write a white paper or e-book for you does it all: informs, entertains, praises your brand, and is seen by all of the influencer’s loyal audience. That’s a big win for your brand.

In short, get your content out there, whether you write it yourself or hire a professional to do it. Influencers and freelancers who write long-form content should be a constant part of your team. Who is doing it for you?

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Are You for Real?: The Danger of Fake Influencers

  • May 2nd, 2018

Think about it…what are the good fake things in life? Fake nails? Sure, they can look good. Fake ID? Hopefully you don’t currently have one, but they were nice when you needed it.  Fake news? Don’t think anyone digs that. So, how does it feel when you are committed to an influencer marketing campaign—both financially and creatively and it turns out a major portion (either influencers or followers) were fake? You don’t even want to know. Here are a few stories to scare you and more importantly, ways to avoid getting duped.

Horror Stories

When it comes to luxury, one name that comes to mind is Ritz Carlton. Service and quality are their top priorities and their customers always expect it. Ritz Carlton expected the best from their influencer marketing campaign, but what they got was fleabag motel status. According to analytics from Points North, an influencer marketing analytics group, an astounding 78% of the Instagram “followers” of the influencers Ritz Carlton hired were fake. And they aren’t alone. Giant brands like Proctor & Gamble and Neiman Marcus fell victim to the same situation. What exactly does that mean? Well, the era of the social bots is upon us, and it’s no joke.

In a shocking expose, the New York Times published this report that found that as many as 48 million Twitter accounts—almost 15% of total users—were automated to resemble actual people. Facebook has subtly admitted to similar numbers of bots on their platform also. So, yes, this amounts to fraud, and a lot of well-intentioned money down the drain.

This however, is no reason to abandon your entire marketing strategy nor to distrust all influencers. To be fair, many of these content creators have an enormous number of followers on multiple platforms. One popular post can result in hundreds or even thousands of new likes, follows and shares. Just as vetting new team members can be a thorough and laborious process for you, the same applies to vetting influencers. Do some go out and “buy” bots to increase their reach? Most certainly. And that falls squarely under the fraud umbrella. But the value that honest influencers can provide should far outweigh the concern over dishonest ones.

Do Your Homework

These influencers are savvy, smart and discerning. If they can’t spot fake followers, how on earth should you be expected to? It’s a challenge, to be sure, and one that could take up valuable time and resources. One way is to hire the experts…they have powerful software and teams dedicated to vetting influencers and their followers. If you’re more of a DIY person, there are a few basic steps you can take to try to spot a bot.

  • Odd/incorrect/foreign language: Creating bots overseas is big business, and most have at least a basic grasp on English language and grammar. Plus, many real followers make occasional spelling and punctuation errors. That said, strange capitalizations, incorrect tenses, and generally awkward phrasing should be a red flag.
  • Single followers saying the same thing across many accounts: They might be careful, but need to be prolific. Slapping the same phrase/comment on many comment threads is a good indicator of automated activity.
  • Generic or default uploaded profile pics: Many bots don’t even have a profile pic…or sometimes use stock photos, or even celebrity shots.
  • Social activity: Poke around any given follower’s activity. If they don’t have evidence of regular social engagement, and are always on various brand/ad pages, you might have a bot on your hands…

Now, any actual user could do these things…but any combination makes it more likely. Want another way to reduce the likelihood of bot followers? Consider using micro-influencers. These content creators typically have a smaller reach, which makes it more likely that they have engaged and loyal audiences. Not only can you trust these people in terms of authenticity, but they also have a much better connection with their followers…bots would stick out like a sore thumb. If you want a more secure relationship with an audience that can truly resonate with your brand, think smaller and mightier.

Thoughts on bots? What would you do to prevent this from happening? Let us know your ideas below!

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Being a Good Influence: How to Use Influencer Marketing for Just Causes

  • April 26th, 2018

Everywhere you look, there’s a worthy cause that could use some help. Animal shelters, clean water, cancer research, hurricane relief…really, too many to list. Many of us identify with efforts near and dear to our hearts and contribute what we can when we can. And when we see a brand that’s making an effort to donate and help, we’ll often consider choosing it over another. Today, we’re going to go over how this can relate to influencer marketing. Whether you work for one of these charities or non-profits that needs a boost, or you’re a brand that could both help and benefit from being associated with a certain cause, there’s something in this post for you.

Sweet Charity

Face it…every business could use some positive marketing strategies. And if you work for a charity or non-profit, you’re not an exception. In fact, influencer marketing may be the one tactic that helps you hit your goal. People want authenticity and honesty, and nowhere is this more true than social cause. Donors want to know what situation needs help, where their dollars will be going, and how it winds up helping those in need.

Step 1: Choosing an influencer who is already familiar or involved with your cause is the first step. Sure, a celebrity holding a puppy may boost donations to a local shelter, but, working with an expert or authority that has experience in your specific field will have an audience already focused on your cause, and likely ready to help however they can. It may be a smaller reach, but targeted and devoted quality should always outperform random quantity.

Step 2: Vet your potential partners for relevant content, consistent messaging and regular engagement with their audience. Have them share some of your messaging on their social networks to gauge responses…if there’s a gap in authenticity or relevance, it’ll likely show in the reaction to these posts.

Step 3: Include them in your cause when applicable, and have the influencers document it for their own content—a firsthand look at pick-up day at a local food bank or visit to a children’s hospital will not only provide content, but will likely deliver an emotional impact that you can’t make up. Have them interview some of those in need, and some who are delivering the help, also.

Step 4: To wrap up the experience, put them in touch with those who have received and benefitted from the help. This may involve retaining these influencers for the long-term, but that’s a good thing. Documenting the good work your company does from beginning to end, in their own organic way, should increase awareness and donations in a way that your own content can’t.

Give and You Shall Receive

It’s just as likely that you work for a for-profit brand or marketing agency, and would like to see how getting involved in a social cause would impact your business. In this survey, we get to know the belief-driven buyer: consumers who will support a brand that stands up for or supports causes, political beliefs, or other issues that align with that consumer. Over half of each of the coveted generational buying groups (Gen X, Millennial, Gen Z) self-identify as belief-driven buyers, with 66% of Millennials in the U.S. buying based on shared beliefs. That’s a huge number, and, depending on where you’re located and the type of cause you back, it could easily be higher. There’s a couple ways to interpret this, however.

Safe Causes

There are plenty of “safe” causes that almost anyone of any group will support and becoming involved with these would be generally favorable. Donating a percentage of certain sales or matching pledges are generally accepted ways to help. Raising money for children’s causes, fighting widespread diseases like cancer, or combatting hunger will likely be viewed favorably, and it shouldn’t be hard to identify influencers who would leverage their reach to help.

Understand, however, that there’s probably lots of other companies participating in a similar campaign for the same thing. Hosting or sponsoring an event, like a road race or benefit concert, can help you stand out…especially if it involves your employees (who, quite often, have a fair bit of influence and reach themselves).

Like we discussed above, having influencers on the ground floor participating in an event, interviewing participants or keeping a running total of donations really helps with exposure. Be careful with your tone, however; coming across as preachy, demanding, or insistent can be a huge turnoff. Also, make sure you announce a report on your final effort, as everyone wants to know how much difference they made.

Controversial Causes

Other causes are more controversial, such as immigration, gun control, or various equality stances. These stances can swing radically in either direction, and it’s likely that you’ll lose more than a few consumers by affirming your beliefs publicly. That said, the ones who do share your beliefs will support and defend your brand fiercely. 67% of those surveyed have purchased from a brand for the first time because of their public stance on a hot-button issue, 51% will buy that brand exclusively and more often, and 48% will publicly advocate for and defend that brand against critics. That’s a lot of influence, not to mention brand awareness.

High risk usually means high reward, and this is no exception. Before you make your views known, do a thorough self-inspection of your brand, including stances held by previous owners/management and current employees…one contrary tweet by one of your many workers can send the whole thing crashing down. Do the same research on your influencers; passionate advocates can say all sorts of things that may run contrary to your mission. Make sure to keep messaging in line, as your inevitable critics should be dealt with in direct but polite language. Having a team of influencers who have boundaries that are wide but firm gives a structure to your position and makes it easier for them to comply. Lastly, it’s never a bad idea to find like-minded brands to ally and join forces with; there’s power in numbers and social proof, and there’s plenty of good ideas to learn from.

Whatever the result or cause, make sure you actually care and truly support every aspect of it. Good acts beget more good acts…and your bottom line will likely come along for the ride. Have you ever aligned your brand with a cause? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Knowing What You Don’t Know: Gen Z’s Relationship with Influencers

  • April 20th, 2018

Think you have a pretty good idea of what kids these days are into? Well, think again. These young people have grown up in a radically different way than any other generation before them. Their reality is not yours and if you think being a parent of these kids is difficult, trying to appear relevant or cool as a brand is next to impossible. Traditional tactics for advertising in the past have been bypassed by teens with massive loyal YouTube followings that seem virtually impervious to any conventional marketing trend. Confused? You’re not alone. And, short of completely figuring them out, let’s at least see what’s happening in the world of Generation Z.

Who Are They?

Generation Z members are generally considered to be born between the mid-1990’s to the mid-2000’s. They have never been without easy access to the Internet, and have grown older simultaneously alongside all the various social media platforms out there (including those that have failed)…meaning, they’ve had a way of socializing and gleaning information and opinions throughout their lives that few of us had as children.

Events like 9/11 and the Great Recession aren’t anything they’d remember, yet their lives have been shaped greatly by them. They make up a massive 25% of the U.S. population, and are more diverse in all ways than any other preceding them. They’re at once more sheltered and more globally aware at a young age than most of their teachers in school.

If you think all this information at once unlocks the secrets of Gen Z, then we’ve got a job here waiting for you. If it’s still a little vague, however, let’s try to pull these facts apart a bit more.

Diving Deeper

Understand this: this generation has had unlimited choices. What does that mean? Well, there’s always an alternative. In fact, it’s generally preferred. Gen Z social media influencers are socially aware and savvy, and they’re not afraid of moving away from big corporations…or, in some instances, towards them. They will at once praise and promote their friend’s t-shirt business and Wendy’s in the same breath; anti-establishment can become establishment, and vice versa. And, because their measure of success is the approval and engagement with their generational peers, this can pivot on a dime without any indication that it might.

The takeaway for marketers? Have a clear line of communication with potential influencers and a close eye on their channels. Even talking to kids about what they’re watching is a good way to get a feel for which way the trends are heading. But, be careful with your inevitable judgements (we all have them!)…you don’t want to be dismissive of something that may be red hot right now.

Keep It Rolling

Here, we get back on a point that many experts have been pounding the drum about for quite a while: keeping influencers on for an ongoing campaign, rather than a one-and-done deal. We’ve already established that these trends and loyalties can change quickly; not because they’re young and impetuous, but because their audience is shifting also. That’s just good business, and if your brand is already employed as a part of their everyday musings, you’ll be a part of many of their stories for a long time to come. If not, you might be in yesterday’s trash folder with all the others. Also, as we all well know, authenticity is key and an influencer’s stock in trade. They don’t get thousands of followers for nothing and the good ones will make sure they are able to find a fit for your brand organically. And, as a bonus, Gen Z social stars are well acquainted with all FTC regulations, as are their followers, who are more accustomed to and less put off by sponsorship disclaimers than many older viewers.

All In Motion

In case you haven’t heard, video is king. According to this article, an average teenager goes through an average of 65 videos a day! Before you spit your drink out, try to calculate how many you watch a day going through your normal social media, news and sports routine. It’s probably more than you think…all those short clips and highlights add up. And this is where the future is going, whether it’s YouTube or embedded videos on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Brand-produced content, in any form, continues to decrease in efficacy, where influencer-produced content is capturing more and more of the market…and every Gen Z star is using it. Look at the most viewed videos on YouTube and see for yourself. Video typically costs a bit more to produce, but it’s worth it.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Hire ‘Em

Lastly, if you’ve tried multiple ways to connect and be relevant to this Gen Z and you’re still struggling, look into hiring a member of your target group to advise you. For example, Connor Blakely currently advises huge brands like the NHL and Johnson & Johnson on how to become relevant and accessible to his peers. Even reading an interview can help you figure out a few things out…like the importance of social causes for a brand or the revelation that no one his age really uses Facebook anymore. Short of hiring someone his age, marketing departments would do well to at least do some research and consultation with someone like Blakely.

So, to wrap it up, we can agree there’s a lot we don’t know. But, considering this generation will have billions of buying power in the next few decades, we’d better do the work to figure it out.

Is your brand trying to market to Gen Z? Share your experience in the comments below!

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