Influencer Marketing From an Expert

tahoe shotOkay, okay, I know I have been talking a lot about next week’s panel on influencer marketing.  Well, tough.  I’m not even close to done. Trust me, this is a hot topic and there are experts to be consulted.  Case in point, Teresa Caro, SVP, Social and Content Marketing at Engauge (just acquired by Publicis) who suggested the panel topic to MediaPost in the first place.  But before we get to Teresa’s insights, here for the record is the official description of our panel which is taking place near beauteous Lake Tahoe:

Your Biggest Fans: Best Practices for Engaging Influencers
Building and maintaining relationships with influencers can be difficult and sometimes time-consuming. But, when done right, the relationships can be rewarding for both brands and for the influencers. How do you identify the key influencers for your brand? How do you maintain those relationships and what type of monetization is required to keep those influencers engaged? Join our panel of brands, agencies and social media specialists as they take you through the best practices behind influencer marketing.

Now onto the interview which I for one found particularly interesting.  After all, how often does one get to use the phrase “influencer porosity” in a discussion?

Drew: How do companies begin to implement an influencer outreach program?
First off, don’t allow a tactic such as social influence marketing drive your strategies. Objectives and strategies should drive your tactics. So, the first thing to do is to define your objectives and the strategies you will use to achieve those objectives. This is especially important with influence marketing because there are so many different types of programs.

Drew: How should companies approach an influencer? Should all potential influencer relationships be thought of as a long-term commitment? 
The answer to these questions all depends on your strategic framework and which social influence marketing programs you choose to deploy. And yes, because it is time intensive to identify and ramp up your influencers, we always recommend a long-term commitment, yet we understand this is not always feasible and again, depends on the program you choose to deploy based on certain objectives and strategies.

A few examples of the many approaches include:

  • Surprise and Delight: You already have social influencers out there talking about your brand. Why not put a program together that surprises them with samples to share with their fans or a simple gift to say thanks. This is a good way to get a sense for how an social influence marketing program would work for your brand. For several of our brands, we start here and then evolve to the next bullet.
  • Advocacy/Social Loyalty Program: Are you looking to evolve to more of a social loyalty program, identify your most valuable advocates and reward them appropriately? Chances are you already have a strong relationship with your Tier 1 and Tier 2 consumers and can simply reach out to them directly to ask if they are interested. It can be positioned initially as an unpublished loyalty program and a test. Once you get it right you can role it out.
  • 3rd Party Influencers: For those brands who are looking to launch a new product or need to hit their numbers during certain seasons, incorporating paid influencers into a campaign helps to extend the reach and increase brand resonance. In this case, we spend the time to find the right influencer through organic search with the occasional 3rd party provider.

Drew: What are some best practices for understanding the influencer-fan relationship?
Let’s face it, we want to reach the influencer’s fans. An influencer’s success depends on audience satisfaction and, by proxy, so does the success of the brand within those audiences. Understand what the audience expects from the influencer. If the influencer is passionate about pure bread dogs, will a message about Rachel Ray Nutrish resonate with them? Unlikely, since this brand is focused on dog rescue. If the fans are looking to be entertained, is providing the influencer with information (which may be useful to some) going to work with this audience? Know what the influencer values and what the fans expect.

Drew: How should brands approach “influencer porosity” in terms of shaping content, building relationships, and simply starting the conversation? 
It means when brands work with influencers directly they need to understand their primary and secondary channels, their role and purpose, how they flow and how they can be leveraged by the brand. The more effort you take to understand the more effective the results. When brands are working with 3rd parties, it again depends on what you are looking to achieve and through what kind of medium. If you want an influencer to review a product, you need to work with the 3rd party to let them know the type of influencer and the type of content you want. What’s fantastic about influencers now (it’ll probably evolve) is if they love your brand and they’re excited about the experience, they’ll meet their commitment and do more. We just finished up one influencer program and were excited to see the abundant number of Instagram photos… something we did not include in the contract.

Drew: How do you remain attuned to your relationships with influencers and by extension, the fans when social is constantly changing? 
Channels change, people remain the same. If a brand has a long term social loyalty/advocacy program, you are going to evolve that program as you would any relationship marketing program: by asking your audience what they need and expect. With short term programs, we always recommend the 70-20-10 rule: 70% is allocated to those channels/programs that we know will allow us to hit our numbers and get our bonus check. 20% is for those areas you know you need to do. The market has already proven it works, a brand just needs to figure out how best to get it to work for them. We feel influence marketing falls in this bucket. The 10% is for those shiny objects that come by. By having a budget and a process for these channels and tactics, it allows you to test and discard (or optimize) quickly without disrupting the rest of the marketing plan.

Drew: How can brands make sure they “don’t suck” as you suggested in your Slideshare presentation?
This is more of a brand problem, one that can be exasperated by social. I’m always fond of saying that social is like alcohol: the more you drink, the more it enhances your underlying personality. Social is the same way, the more you engage in the social space, the more a brand’s faults come to the surface (and their good features too).

Drew: When setting up an influencer program what are the right metrics for success?
Success is in the eye of the beholder. Before you embark on any program, ensure you know your business objectives and you know the KPIs that align to those business objectives (share of voice, NPS (net promoter score), pre-/post- brand awareness/perception, etc. The metrics for that campaign depend on what you are looking to achieve. We had one client who simply wanted to look more innovative than another brand. We have another who wants to deepen their relationship with their audience. We have another who is media-focused and measures success based on impressions.

Don’t Get Those Summertime Social Media Blues

This article ran on MediaPost earlier this week: As we enter August and our shrinks go on vacation, it would be easy to go crazy over all the dour news related to social media. Fortress Facebook is showing cracks as 170,000 or so 26-34 year-olds defected from the network in June according to Inside Facebook. Fast-growing Foursquare, which reached its 100 millionth check-in milestone in July was doused by a Forrester study that recommended a “wait and see” approach. And 24 hours after the most beautifully orchestrated social media stunt since BK’s Whopper Sacrifice, several respectable publications were asking, “Yeah but did it sell bottles of Old Spice?”

Admittedly I do find the Facebook news a bit troubling because no one seems to know where these young folks are defecting to and if it was a temporary aberration or genuine trend. [Note: Facebook grew again in July.] As for the Forrester’s study that recommends a cautious approach to Foursquare, I’m delighted since this will leave it open for the innovators while the wait and see types sit by the sidelines and lose early adopter advantage. And just in time to restore order in the creative universe, Nielsen reported that Old Spice sales were indeed up 107% in the last month. All this said, I’d like to offer a little pep talk in what otherwise might be the dog days of social media.

Don’t Give Up on Facebook Just Yet

Considering the sheer massiveness of Facebook, it is quite likely your target is still actively engaged on the largest truly global social network. According to Comscore, in June 2010 over 130 million people within the US used Facebook. With that kind of reach, its easy to understand how some brands are using Facebook as their only website while others create ecommerce stores within the network. So the real challenge is figuring out the Facebook strategy that is right for your brand.

Venerable print pub National Geographic has attracted over 1.4 million fans on Facebook by providing a steady stream of interesting factoids. Offering his own pep talk at the Supergenius WOM conference in NYC last month, National Geo’s VP of Marketing Brendon Hart advising having a “fan first” approach specifically for Facebook. Hart advised testing a wide variety of content in order to zero in on what drives the most likes and comments. If this old brand can make hay on Facebook, certainly yours can too.

Innovative Brands Should Be Testing Location-Based Services

While the installed base of Foursquare users is admittedly small at about 2 million, now is the time for innovative brands especially those targeting millennials to be testing this and other location-based services like Gowalla, Loopt, and GetGlue. Not only will experimenting now give you a leg up on your competition when these services are more mainstream, you’ll earn special points with millennials who love the competitive nature of location-based social networking games.

Ramon DeLeon, the owner of six Domino’s Pizza restaurants in Chicago, is a legend in the social media world and an early adopter of Foursquare. Speaking at the Supergenius conference, DeLeon explained that he’s had fun experimenting with Foursquare and with letting his “mayors” take charge at his restaurants. Noted DeLeon, “I invite our mayors to do whatever they want, to make their own pizzas or eat for free.” Adding Foursquare to his already broad mix of social media including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and a blog was a “no brainer” as DeLeon wants to part of the conversation wherever his target is talking.

And Yes, This Social Media Stuff Can Drive Your Business

While the Old Spice guy making customized YouTube videos for a select group of his Twitter followers is a spectacularly innovative case, other brands are using social media to drive their businesses every day without as much fanfare. The challenge to figure out your overall goals for social media and then determine how to make the most of each of particular channel, especially the over-hyped and often misused Twitterverse.

Paull Young, Director of Digital for, reported at the Supergenius conference that his organization has grown almost entirely through word-of-mouth, raising $20 million in 4 years. As the first charity with over one million followers on Twitter, has inspired a “long tail” of givers, from well-known celebrities to precocious 8-year-olds, all attracted to the mission of providing clean water to the 1/6 of the world who doesn’t have it. Young noted that a Twestival to create clean water wells in Ethiopia raised $250,000 despite the fact that “[they] never ask for money directly.”

The bottom line: don’t let the summertime blues affect your vision, use this time to assess your strategy via a social media audit and get ready to break new ground this Fall.

Yes We Can – Adopt a Dog

Pedigree continues to cuddle up to dog lovers, unleashing this opportunistic plea to President-elect Obama as reported by MediaPost:

Pedigree wasted no time in getting a print ad to press following President-Elect Obama’s promise to his daughters to bring a puppy to the White House. The ad ran in last Thursday’s edition of USA Today and features an adorable shelter dog in need of a home. “…We think you’ll find that shelter dogs are among the most loyal, loving and special dogs in the world. And no dog is more in need of a little hope,” says the ad (see below).

Pedigree appeal to Obama

I give this effort a double paws up, especially as it builds upon what I think is one of the best “purpose-based” marketing campaigns going (see my earlier post on Dogs Rule). So, who thinks the Obama team will heed the call?

Chatting with Chips

Its been a slow time for Marketing as Service. Frankly, I haven’t seen one example really worth writing about in several weeks. Desperate to find something of interest to you all, I decided to munch on a social media effort by Terra Chips. Here’s a taste of this effort as served up by MediaPost:

On Tuesday, the brand will launch a “Chip in for Change” campaign on Facebook. The concept: Tap into the patriotic zeitgeist and give Facebook users a channel to share their opinions not only with each other, but the new president–while also conveying that consumers by no means need to wait until next July 4th to enjoy Terra’s S&B chips.

The campaign centers on a Facebook product page where users will be able to register their ideas and priorities regarding changes that they would like the new president to address, via a virtual “Chip in for Change” suggestion box. The input will be gathered into a virtual gallery where users can read one another’s perspectives.

In addition, users will be invited to become “fans” of the Chips for Change “movement” by downloading the branded application and adding it to their personal Facebook profiles and/or sending it to Facebook friends.

It will be interesting to see if Facebookers find this to their liking or simply salt it away with the rest of the contrived attempts by marketers to invade their social network. When or another politically savvy organization asks me to chip in, I’m prepared to engage. When a spruced up junk food says “lets talk,” the conversation on could go something like this:

Terra: “Hey Drew, chip in for a change and tell the next president what you think.”

Drew: “Hey Terra, are you serious? Why would I want you, a salty snack, to be my portal to the President?

Terra: “Now Drew, relax, we’re just trying to demonstrate that we understand your Facebookian lifestyle and want to engage in the conversation.”

Drew: “What conversation and who asked you become part of it? If you want to talk to me about the health benefits of blue potatoes, I’m all ears but when it comes to politics step aside. You’re cutting this thing the wrong way. I didn’t sign up for Facebook to face off with a tiny tater.”

Terra: “Now Drew, don’t be that guy. We just want to be your friend.”

Drew: “I’ve got plenty of friends already you specious spud. You want to be my friend, bag this Chip In program and do something useful that is somehow relevant to your brand.”

Terra: “Whatever dude. We’re getting great PR and our marketing folks are now being invited to every social media conference in town. So any way you slice it, we win.”

Drew: “You got me there. Serves me right for talkin’ to a bag of chips.”

For the record, Terra Blue is my chip of choice.

Boomers Seek Substance

Perhaps my bias towards Marketing as Service is a generational thing. A recently published study from TV Land (okay, I know they aren’t exactly the benchmark of research excellence) noted that baby boomers more than other groups are looking for substance over sizzle in both products and the ads that tout them.  Here’s a quick overview of the findings from the Center for Media Research:

Boomers will consider new brands if the product or service is more useful, functional and provide the most benefit/value. Unlike Millennials and Gen Xers they are less likely to be influenced by the notion that the brand is more prestigious or the latest style. They are not afraid to change for something they feel will improve their lives, notes the report.

Ninety-one percent of people in their 40s and 50s want the brand to provide more value versus 83% of Gen X and Millennials. The study found that Boomers are less interested in “teaser” ads that create a mood but do not offer much in terms of substance, though more likely to enjoy ads with humor than their younger cohorts.

Since Adults 40-59 tend to make purchasing decisions informed by what products and/or services will make life easier for them, it follows that the advertising that resonates with them is the kind that explains the products’ capabilities and describes why the product is superior, concludes the report.

Since there are about 78 million boomers hangin’ around (hopefully for many more decades), ensuring that your marketing appeals to them is not a dumb idea. Especially since its not all that complicated. Simply think about how you can make your marketing (and your products) more useful to boomers and they will respond by being useful customers.

I Heart NY, Then and Now

Before I moved to New York over two decades ago, I was a mere tourist enticed by slickly produced video vignettes showcasing the best of New York. The ads, created by the then hot Wells Rich Greene were as jazzy as Broadway, as dynamic as Niagara Falls and as proud as the Bronx Bombers. I even remember Frank Langella, then a lead on Broadway, purring in his best Transylvanian accent, “I love New York, especially in the evening.”

These ads put forth a number of compelling reasons to come to New York in an era when advertising could still cut through. There were fewer TV stations so chances were you would see the same ad with great frequency. In the case of the “I love New York” campaign, the ads became part of the American consciousness and were a feather in the chapeau of the “Scheherazade of Advertising” Mary Wells Lawrence. (I started my career at an outpost of Wells in Newport Beach, California and the pride in this campaign stretched all the way across the country.)

So it is with some interest that I read about New York’s latest effort to attract tourists to the Empire State in Media Post’s Marketing Daily. A lot has changed in the 31 years since this campaign went off the air. For example, the old campaign ran almost exclusively on TV. Here’s the media mix for the new campaign:

Launched this month, the campaign via Saatchi & Saatchi comprises ads in newspapers, billboards, direct response, magazines, guerilla marketing, viral and digital marketing, and partnerships with JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, Travelocity and Orbitz, as well as an updated Web site, custom brochures and a getaway guide.

$17 million stretched across every media imaginable. Hmmm. Seems like a lot of ground to cover with a modest budget. According to the article, the effort has a reasonably narrow target:

The campaign is not aimed at bringing global citizens to the Big Apple, but at getting those who live within a three- to-five-hour drive to put New York State on the vacation consideration list.

Putting on my Marketing as Service hat, this campaign might rate 2.5 hearts out of 4. On the positive side, the ads are somewhat informative, promoting lesser known gems like the State’s wine region and the Albright Knox museum in Buffalo. And the website is reasonably robust providing a number of ways to help potential tourists plan their vacations. I particularly like the “configurators” that help you determine where you might want to go and identify “GetAway Packages” for the budget conscious.I Love

All that said, I feel like this campaign is missing something important. First off, with only $17 million to spend versus larger competitive budgets (PA spends $30 million and Ontario spends $60 million), they simply don’t have enough to have a meaningful impact on television. I would redirect the ad part of this campaign into areas of travel utility that could make a NY travel experience worth talking about. For example, work with Charmin to make sure there are nice public restrooms at the larger tourist destinations. Or subsidize modest amenities at each New York motel like “I Love NY” mints that can sweeten the dreams of weary budget travelers and encourage them to tell friends about their experience.

Or why not create an Empire State Travelers Club that challenges visitors to see the top 100 destinations in a 5-year period. These destinations could be voted upon online by the tourist themselves and could encourage each destination to address any shortcomings to improve their rankings. Frequent travelers would earn points that could be used for all sorts of NY-related goodies. The club could be administered by New York-based American Express and could be self-funded via a membership fee.The point is that there is a service opportunity here that is as vast as our great state and I’m quite certain the folks behind this campaign recognize that:

“This is big business,” says Thomas Ranese, CMO for ESD. “And research shows we have an opportunity for it to be much larger.”

So Mr. Ranese, feel free to give me a call. I love New York, especially when there is a hole in your marketing campaign.