One of the most powerful concepts in marketing is the voice of the customer. Today, the customers’ voices are projected through giant megaphones provided through social media platforms. According to a McKinsey Study, marketing-inspired word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising, and those customers have a 37 percent higher retention rate.
Let’s start with framework.
Influencer marketing can be loosely defined as a form of marketing that identifies and targets individuals who have influence over potential buyers. It isn’t just characterized by having a lot of followers or fans. It’s also driven by expertise on subject matters and the relationship between the influencer and their followers.
It happens when marketers create a list of influencers: regular people – not movie stars – who have blogged, videoed or podcasted themselves into a social celebrity status. Those influencers have proven credibility and sometimes sales to specific target audiences.
It’s not only Lipstick and High Heels.
Most statistics about social influencers taught fashionista and makeup artists there is a large space for entrepreneurs. Many of those influencers have grown so big that they actually get advertisers to put ads on their content; they also act as influencers for others in their industries. These social influencers aren’t paid for their comments from the advertiser’s brand—they look for and share information their audiences want.
In a poll conducted by Tomoson and reported in AdWeek, marketers rated influencer marketing as the fastest-growing online customer acquisition tactic, beating organic search, paid search, and email marketing. (See graphic at right).
The same study reported 59 percent of marketers plan to increase influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months. The buzz around influencer marketing continues to intensify, but more robust studies about its effectiveness and appeal are needed.
In a world that seems flooded with celebrities, teenagers, and mommy bloggers, why is it important for you to contribute to the web? By creating and contributing valuable content, you highlight yourself as a subject matter expert, which builds trust and then sales or deals. Consider it an overall career enhancement.
What’s the plan?
Playing a role in social media through blogs, awesome e-zine articles such as those found in Private Lender, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the plethora of similar channels takes timeout of your day. Effective posts by efficient bloggers can be created in twenty minutes. Don’t start off thinking that you will be effective or efficient and not leave enough time for yourself to develop your voice. In many cases, it could take an hour or more. You need time. Take it.
Create a “tool box” that includes: familiarity with SEO/SEM, other influencers who can act as role models to draw on, and positive, supportive people around you. In the days where you are just starting to get your feet wet, you have no audience, enough interest in a topic to keep deepening your knowledge base, and are working on building your initial presence—you will need a state of mind that prioritizes your contribution to build a community on.
You know that you’re a gifted expert in what you do but are there enough people writing about what you’re writing about already? Do they cover your viewpoints? Is there really scope for a new voice? Do your research…or due diligence! Good contributions come from people who feel there is a certain spirit missing from the crowdsourcing pool.
When networking with other writers they might claim that they write simply for their own benefit and a community “accidently” grew. Well, that is possible—but it’s more likely that those people set out with the objective of having an influence. Discovering your point of view allows you to stand out from the crowd.
When you are reading an article or blog post, do you think that author is a born writer? Honestly, some people are. Now, they have so many opportunities to exploit that talent. But, just like everyone else, those people need to practice – every day. Our elementary, junior high, and even high school teachers won’t be disappointed that we don’t all carry an understanding on everything that can go wrong in a sentence. It’s a lifetime’s work. Some social platforms don’t help much, either. We are all guilty of hanging or fragmented sentences at some point. Say it: Dangling Participle. Fun to say, right?
Just a little bit ago finding your voice was alluded to. What is your voice? Do you need to be a voice of your employer’s brand? Is that authoritative, infused with detail, descriptive (with dangling participles), or conversational? The quickness of which people grab information on the web continues to increase, so there is importance in finding a style that is to the point and clearly states the vital information of your post. Try different approaches early on – while your community is still on the small side.
Headlines can be daunting, but are the most important piece of your blog – you will need to grab attention and evoke emotion. Doing a simple Google search on how to write a headline makes it seem like a skill that you need to go to the World’s best vocational school to learn appropriately – maybe there should be a MBA in Headline Writing? One of the best practices to follow in your writing is to make your title and the first paragraph reflect what your post is really about—Bonus! That will also contribute to your SEO.
Let’s say you are writing like Hemingway, Orwell, Plath, Capote, or Seuss now. Where are you putting all this expert information you have created? In a marketing world, most traffic should be driven back to your website to help you with sales or deal conversion. Do you have a content driven website? You could set up a blog on several platforms if you don’t have a website created (slap on the wrist if you are running a business without one), or are just looking for a better home on the web. In the past couple of years, the blogging platforms have changed dramatically; be sure to do some research to find the platform that covers your needs the best. Consider things like integration with an existing website, ability to post video, ad placement, custom plugins, the ability to schedule posts, storage capabilities, level of customizable CSS & HTML required, availability to your own domain, etc.
It pays to find professional platforms, like an online magazine in your industry. (Hint. Hint.) It can be tough to get on some platforms if your approach doesn’t include writing experience. Be prepared with some samples of your writing and a great pitch. It may be that you need to spend a few months blogging and then start to pitch platform editors to see if they’ll take some of your work. Remember, if you don’t at least ask, you will never hear “yes!”
“On a Platform I’m Gonna Stand and Say”
There is no natural community building mechanism around blogging. Don’t let that discourage you. There are a variety of community building social channels that shouldn’t be underestimated. Look at channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and even Tumblr to build your fan base. You can repost your work to LinkedIn and Twitter to help distribute your creative, yet informative writings.
When you do score the opportunity to be a guest writer, always find a way to draw people back to your other work. Powerful influencers are visible on multiple platforms. Be cautious as a guest writer, you may be agreeing to provide “exclusive” content to the professional platform. Ask what the parameters are for exclusivity. Those running the platforms also want to be influencers and should be willing to work with you.
Recommendations have always been the heart of any buying or deal process, much more than traditional media and advertising ever could be.
Social Media makes this even truer.
In the earlier days of blogging or guest writing the comments were used as an indicator of influence. Marketers and writers alike believed that it was a sign that people were listening and engaged. Makes sense, right? Today, people are happy if their work is retweeted or shared, so the skill lies more in the building of followers on the chosen platforms or social channels so that you can share your work and let it be shared.
Those who do leave comments and engage with you and your writing shouldn’t be ignored. Interacting with your community is just as important as the original writing you posted. In many cases, negative comments will be “policed” by your existing community. As the virtual leader, you will want a plan or strategy for the best approach to cultivating your online community. It could be as simple as acknowledging a post, “Thank you!” Pay attention to your audience and respond appropriately.
You can’t ever stop learning what your audience(s) value. Set yourself some metrics around your audience, repeat visitors, and find writers who can be role models and benchmarks, too.
The very nature of the internet in the past few years has increased collaboration and sharing. 2014 signaled a power shift in terms of influence, from brands to content creators. 2015 was about personalization and specialization, developing much better systems for brand loyalty and ways for consumers to experience your brand.
With the emphasis on the interest communities, content creators become more important, and brands should seek ways to create mutually beneficial and genuine relationships with brand advocates, who will create value for them.
As the consumers increase their confidence in user recommendations versus brand advertising, users themselves should be entered in the marketing mix, at least as content producers.
Remember, people have always counted on recommendations from their peers when they have a decision to make. In fact, recommendations from parents, friends, and colleagues have always been the heart of any buying or deal process, much more than traditional media and advertising ever could be. Social Media makes this even truer.
Social influencers create brand endorsements; their audience (online community) drive endorsements through engagement with influencer content. So much so that higher levels of brand social engagement are now being linked to increased sales.
What are you waiting for?
Get out there and provide your followers with your phenomenal, premium content. Reward them with unique experiences, and of course, don’t forget to provide unique viewpoints so they will talk about you on and offline!