Modern Influencer Strategy: These Ain’t Your Mom’s Influencers

We’ve Moved Beyond Journalism

In my first post, I summarised the shift currently taking place in corporate communications. We’re now ready to delve more deeply into the digital communications landscape, starting with the rise of the influencer. In today’s world, setting a solid influencer strategy means that we need to understand…

  1. Who and where the influencers are
  2. What they do for a living
  3. What they’re interested in
  4. How to measure and understand their influence

Remember the prediction that traditional press as we know it would die? Or the debate as to whether bloggers were “real” journalists?

In the latter part of the past decade, social media emerged. And while it was at first pigeonholed by most of my peers as college students posting messages about drinking, there was a minority in marketing that recognised social media as a growing influence channel. As with any medium, the creator/consumer dynamic stayed true to typical norms. The majority of users were consumers, and the minority were creators. And within the creator community were a growing set of influencers.

Who Are These People, Anyway?

Today, we live in a world where influencers often reach audiences through multiple channels. Walt Mossberg is a great example of a traditional journalist (in his case, at “The Wall Street Journal”), who is amazingly active on blogs (e.g., All Things D, re/code) and is a solid Twitter personality with close to 1M followers.

Walt is an outlier that illustrates an important trend: most influencers either don’t look like they used to, or don’t act like they used to. The most important influencers often aren’t journalists, but rather people who are simply taking advantage of multiple channels to reach a wider audience. Mark Cuban has 2.4M Twitter followers and is likely as or more influential in both sports and business than most journalists covering these two topics. If he says something interesting about a product or brand, his opinion wields influence. Heather Armstrong, 13 years after being fired from her job for insulting her coworkers on her blog (Dooce.com), is a professional mom blogger and social media personality with 1.5M followers – and most those followers include a critical demographic for any brand trying to influence the folks making 80% of household purchasing decisions.

So, this brings us back to the questions that we, in today’s interconnected communications landscape, have to answer in order to craft a well-reasoned influencer strategy:

Q: Where do my influencers influence?
A: They exist on digital media and often in multiple channels. Your “press” list isn’t good enough anymore.

Q: What do my influencers do for a living?
A: They may be journalists, but for your area of focus they may be influencing out of pure interest. They may be moms at home or a software engineers working for big technology companies

Q: What are my influencers interested in?
A: Social networks are fueled by conversation, and that conversation tells us what our influencers like to talk about – and what they like to share.

Q: How do I measure their influence?
A: We used to look at the reach or readership for a newspaper or magazine. Then we added blog page views. Add next, social media followers and page likes. Now we are talking about engagement, the social echo and message amplification, which translates to the propensity of an influencer’s audience to re-post content (e.g., retweet).

A Good Influencer Strategy Leads to Earned Media

What’s exciting to me, as someone who’s spent 20 years in marketing and technology roles, is being on the front lines of the data science that drives sophisticated media intelligence solutions that answer these questions (so that you don’ t have to). Companies like Meltwater (and my team in particular) have been working on influencer scores that span multiple channels and weigh the various components of influence.

When I watch the most successful corporate communications organisations—those that don’t depend on their brand alone to get coverage (e.g., Apple)—I see a strong focus on deliberately influencing specific influencers. They don’t just blast press releases to a long list of journalists. Instead, they target a very small set of key influencers, many of them self-referencing.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the process they use to identify and engage with critical influencers for top effect.

 

The Rise of Emoji Marketing: Using Visuals to Boost Brand Engagement

Emoji: we either know someone addicted to them, or we are that someone. I definitely fall in the latter category, but I’m not alone. Over the past 5 years the little yellow men and their army of friends have taken the world by storm. Following this trend, brands have woken up and seen the pixels: several well-known companies are now using the visuals to increase brand engagement.

Brands using emoji marketing

emoji marketingA recent study by telecoms company TalkTalk Mobile found that 8 in 10 of us emoji to communicate. The size, influence and digitally savvy characteristics of the millennial market prove very attractive to brands wanting a piece of this pie. (Mmm pie.)

Speaking of pie, did we mention that it’s now possible to order pizza through the use of an emoji? Thanks Domino’s!

Disney is another company who has benefited from increased brand engagement from the use of emoji. Disney licensed its characters to Facebook as part of their personalisation efforts, as such; we can now send cute little Nemos via the platform. But there is way more to emoji then just adding some extra cuteness into our lives. Now, when the next big film is released, emoji plays a big part of the marketing push and has a clear role in increasing awareness of the film and brand engagement for its makers.

Why use emoji marketing?

Love or loathe Twitter’s character limit, it serves its purpose. But with the use of the photographic emoji, brands now have the option of telling their brand story in a thousand words – and one character count. Emoji increase brand engagement as they engage the audience emotionally, encouraging them to care more about the post than without the visual.

emoji marketingLet’s take a step back and look at the wider picture (excuse the pun). Emoji fits into this cultural shift towards more visual communication and using them can help humanise the brand and increase brand engagement whilst doing so. But what is extra special about emoji is that they do not interrupt our life to increase brand engagement, nor do they try and persuade a change in behaviour. Emoji are something the audience naturally uses (and expects to see), thus when brands create their own images they can be used to organically insert the brand into the conversation and raise brand awareness by doing so.

!Caution! Danger

emoji marketingAlthough we’ve spent the past 400 words singing emoji praises and explaining how they can be used to increase brand engagement, it’s worth mentioning that emoji marketing should be handled with care. As a spokeswoman for Oreo points out, “It’s important to speak the language of our fans.” Whilst 18-24 year olds are emoji advocates, the older demographic are still adapting to this trend. Be sure to test the waters if the audience falls into this category. Use  widely used emoji such as the smiley face or a coffee cup to avoid the message becoming lost, as this can cause a negative knock on effect on brand engagement. Remember that the use of emoji can help to set the tone of our brand’s voice and if that tone is off peak in the eyes of our audience then the use of emoji will do more damage than good.

Now we’ve explained the pros and cons of this quick tactic to increase brand engagement, it’s time to play and see for yourself! Don’t forget to come back to us with the findings; we’d love to hear how it worked out!

Get the Edge in EdgeRank: 5 Facebook Marketing Tips

What’s Facebook Edgerank?

Put simply, Edgerank is the algorithm that Facebook applies to our content to determine what’s going to show up for users in their Newsfeed. Facebook continually tweaks this algorithm for one purpose, and that’s to spur quality engagement from its community.

Over the past few years, Facebook has made a lot of changes to both its policies (e.g. banning fan-gating) and to Edgerank that have made it harder for brands to get in front of the folks that matter to them. With that in mind, here are 5 tips to keeping your edge:

facebook marketing tips

1) Avoid Click-baiting Titles

Click-baiting is when a post provides a link to click without any real context as to why that person should be clicking on the link. You might notice that Facebook article shares provide a blurb that lets the reader know what they’re about to read, and for good reason: Facebook has noted that both text and context are a better user experience (read: more successful at encouraging engagement).

2) Go for Comments and Shares

That thumbs-up just isn’t what it used to be: virality is going down for post likes. Facebook will give more weight to weightier engagement, and in Facebook real estate that means comments and shares. But how? Read on…

3) Share, Don’t Sell

The overall trend with Facebook’s algorithm and policy changes are to penalise brands for being too overtly promotional in their posts. Facebook users aren’t generally amenable to seeing “buy this” CTA’s in their newsfeed – and Facebook itself doesn’t have anything to gain from brands making sales from free real estate. With that in mind, sticking to a good content marketing strategy of being entertaining, useful or otherwise engaging is the way to go here.

It’s important to note that you don’t just have to post your own original content. Sharing content from your target influencers, for example, is a great way to engage them and engage your community in one post.

4) Go Multimedia

People like to watch videos; this, like cats and bacon, is a consistent internet theme and probably not going to change anytime soon. Remember, you don’t have to just share your own videos; Facebook is chock full of videos being shared, so finding the ones that are already trending and sharing them with your community is a great way to leverage multimedia content without the heavy lifting of creating it.

TIP: if you’re posting your own video, consider putting subtitles on the screen. Facebook auto-play means that some folks will turn their volume down in the workplace, so you may need to hook them with a catchy title and the subtitles.

5) Use Trending Topics Wisely

Edgerank takes note of both what trending topics are, and when they’re trending. This means that content written about those topics in a timely manner will be prioritised – as long as the posts are actually adding value to the conversation (read: not committing any Facebook content sins). Some folks might call this “headline jacking,” but I’m not a huge fan of that concept: it’s much more me-focused than community-focused. If you have something interesting to say about the topic, and your post is adding a unique perspective to the conversation, go for it. If you’re posting for the sake of hitching your wagon to a shooting star, forget it: it’ll annoy your community and be severely penalised in reach.

Below is a screenshot that shows you how to find those trending topics when you’re logged in as yourself.

facebook marketing tips

At the end of the day, a good Facebook marketing strategy is one that just has people acting like real people. When in doubt, thinking about how we share on our personal feeds is a great way to keep ourselves honest.

Any other Facebook marketing tips? Feel free to share in the comment field.

 

Crisis Management: Look for Early Warning Signs

Modern media intelligence tools allow us to measure our performance based on exposure, reach, quality of coverage, and quality of influencers, among other key benchmarks. These metrics are still relatively new, and we love them because they enable us to quantify our effectiveness and justify the value of our programs.

The same types of searches that help us keep track of brand mentions can also help us spot trouble when it’s heading our way. Given how fast news travels on social media, the speed with which we respond is critical in influencing the message and minimising damage to our brand.

Crisis Management Starts Before the Crisis Hits

A sophisticated alert system can help mitigate the impact of a crisis. A good place to start is with a list of messages that have triggered negative feedback in the past. At any point, this same resistance might come back, get amplified, and take on a life of its own. You’ll also want to talk with your sales reps, customer support, and legal counsel on issues that they’ve encountered. Once you’ve made a list of potential crisis triggers, create news and social searches for them.

To help you get started, here are some examples:

  • Executives: Journalists, analysts, and sometimes customers pay attention to what high-ranking executives say and do. And so should you. Keep on top of their Twitter and Facebook feeds, what videos and blogs they post, and how everything they are putting out into the world is received and amplified.
  • Competitors: Pay as much attention to competitor brand mentions as you do your own. Their crisis could easily become yours. And if a competitor decides to come after you, you’ll want to know about it first and respond before others have a chance to amplify their message.
  • Industry news: Sometimes a crisis will hit you by association. By keeping track of how your industry is perceived and any events that might impact it (such as natural disasters or newly introduced legislation) you are prepared to address these issues as an industry leader.
  • Geography: Keep tabs on news and trends regarding places you operate. When a global crisis takes place, global companies will sometimes stop all activity on their social channels as a show of respect and solidarity (even when this crisis has nothing to do with them, such as a devastating earthquake that draws global support and headlines). If you’re a smaller brand you may want to do the same for crises that affect where you live and operate.
  • Events: Keep track of trending topics related to an event your are participating in to help prevent speakers and reps from getting caught with their guards down.
  • Controversy: Keep current on any number of business and political keywords that are associated with your company’s operations. You’ll know when hot-button topics are trending and get ready to explain your position on them before you are equated with the fallout they’ve generated.
  • Complaints: Make a list of customer complaints and keep an eye out for them in your search results. Once an influencer amplifies customer concerns, they can be cemented as “expert opinion,” and your credibility can suffer longstanding damage.

Be Strategic, Not Just Tactical

Now that we know what’s coming, we need to have crisis-specific contingency plans in place that define next steps and keep us organised when all hell breaks loose. Create a workflow. Establish an internal notification system. Draft key messages and get them approved. And identify the channels you’ll use to get them out.

Remember, just because we have a social media manager who can push messages out in 140 characters or less several times a day, doesn’t mean that we’re ready for a full blown crisis on social media. In fact, preparing for a crisis requires getting out of the mindset that keeps us busy all day executing and measuring our tactical goals. While old-fashioned contingency planning lacks the immediate sense of accomplishment we get when we see share numbers rising on our latest post, it will prevent those share numbers from rising for all the wrong reasons.

As for measuring our effectiveness and proving our value, it’s a good idea to add crisis management contingency planning to our list of measurable quarterly goals—and pace ourselves. Map out two or three crisis protocols per quarter—starting with early warning signs—and make sure that accomplishing this goal is part of your performance review.

Brand Equity Series: Connect the Dots to Build Brand Loyalty

Building Brand Equity: Is this True Loyalty or Repeat Purchase?

Firstly, let’s not get confused with the differences between brand loyalty and repeat purchase. Humans are typically creatures of habit and so continue to purchase from a brand if that brand has kept its promise. Fear of the unknown can hold people back from looking elsewhere; better the devil you know, right? But this type of customer will probably not jump to our defense if ever there was a crisis, nor will this person tell their friends about how much they love the brand. A true brand advocate will.

Monitoring habitual consumers reassures us that we will maintain a predictable level of sales. However, to identify a brand advocates, we need a media intelligence tool. The simplest way to uncover our superfans is to filter social mentions by positive sentiment; we can also sort by most engaged audience members or impressions to identify advocates who are also social media influencers.

Because brand loyalty isn’t about being loyal to a product, it shouldn’t just be measured by the amount that a customer buys. Rather, we should be analysing the odds of customers switching to a competitor if we were to change a product feature, the price, or distribution method? If the answer is low, they’re a keeper (or more like they’ll keep us!)

The Brand Equity Domino Effect

Brand Equity- Brand Loyalty domino effectBrand loyalty is both an input and output of brand equity. The truth is that all of the dimensions of brand equity are connected to each other. Without brand awareness, it’s difficult to form a brand image and attach associations to a brand such as credibility; and without associations, brand loyalty doesn’t exist. For example, one may be loyal to Fendi due to the status of owning one of their bags; here brand image influences brand loyalty. If we flip it and reverse it, brand loyalty can also increase awareness through heightened word of mouth coming from a brand’s army of fans. Therefore, in order to improve brand loyalty we have to connect the dots and look at the wider picture. This is when brand equity evaluation becomes important.

Read our previous posts on brand equity, brand image, brand credibility, and brand awareness to connect the dots and improve brand loyalty through the brand equity dimensions listed above. This will also improve the chances of sustained brand equity, thus killing two birds with one stone!