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Working with influencers has been a hot topic in the PR and marketing community for a number of years, yet it still feels like a mysterious topic and “nut to crack” for many companies. In fact, it’s the number one topic people want to chat about when they ask to meet up with me for coffee – how to find influencers who might be interested in their brand and how to actually build meaningful relationships with them. As someone who works with clients to build influencer campaigns, and as a blogger myself, this is a topic I’m very passionate about and love exploring.

At WCG, we work with global brands to identify influencers who are relevant to their business and engage with them in a meaningful way. Key word = meaningful. One of the biggest keys to working with influencers is to think of building long-term relationships, rather than a quick way to get someone to mention your product or company online.

This means doing your homework to find the right people who might want to engage with you, study them and get on their radar (begin building that relationship) before you pitch them. Do they talk about topics relevant to your brand? Search for your company name or product within their blog to see if they’ve covered your company or anything like it before.

influencer define 2We look at the Reach, Relevance and Resonance of online influencers to determine if they are appropriate for a specific brand. Most people start and end with reach – how many people follow the influencer? But that’s just the beginning. If they aren’t talking about topics relevant to your brand, then they likely aren’t a good influencer for you. Resonance is how often their content is shared – do people engage with and respond to the influencer? You want to work with someone who has a passionate following who will help spread the word.

Once you’ve identified your target influencers, it’s important to study them for some time and get to know them before you ask them to do anything. Engage with them online – “like” a tweet here or there. Ask a sincere question about something they’ve written. Retweet them from your personal and/or brand accounts if you genuinely feel it’s good content and will appeal to your readers.

The most important question to consider before reaching out to any influencer is, “What’s in it for them.” Unlike journalists who are constantly looking for news topics to cover, bloggers are typically only interested in talking about topics they are truly interested in and passionate about. This requires a lot of thought on the brand’s part – discover how your company aligns with the blogger’s passions and then connect the dots for them.

Here is a link to a presentation on SlideShare I recently created which delves deeper into this topic and shares some specific tools and best practices.

Interested in talking more about your influencer goals? Feel free to reach out to me via email or on twitter @MissyVoronyak.

On February 16th, W2O Group had the pleasure of sponsoring/speaking at the Holmes Report’s 3rd Annual In2 Summit in San Francisco. The event focused on bringing together “the industry’s most innovative minds to explore the future of influence and engagement.” [You can read our agency-wide recap here.]

At this years’ event, BrewLife was honored with the In2 SABRE Award for “Use of Social Media or Analytics for Audience Insights or Influencer Targeting” for our Tejava Tea social media campaign – an award we are extremely proud to receive.

BrewLife partnered with Crystal Geyser’s Tejava Tea last summer to help raise awareness and increase sales for their summer tour in LA. Tejava would be giving out samples at outdoor concerts and along the Santa Monica Pier, sponsoring events, and running billboard and radio ads throughout the area over a six week period. Our agency was tasked with developing a cohesive and consistent voice across all of Tejava social media platforms, which included Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Lifestyle ChangersWe kicked off the project the way we always like to: by tapping the W2O Analytics team to help identify Tejava’s target audience in the LA area. This was done through a SocialGraphics analysis, a proprietary analytics tool that identifies key interests and affinities, demographics, and the most important product features to our target persona. After looking at the results, we deemed our target segment the “Lifestyle Changers,” people looking to make healthier life choices – like switching from soda to Tejava’s zero-calorie, unsweetened tea.

We then completed a conversation-based analysis which highlighted all of the conversations “Lifestyle Changers” were having on social media over the past year. The results allowed us to identify groups with common characteristics, which we could then target throughout the campaign.

We used Tejava’s unique spin on unsweetened tea and all-natural elements to come up with the #PerfectNothing campaign, celebrating the moments of “nothing” in life. Our creative team showcased the #PerfectNothing lifestyle through candid posts showcasing the simplicity of Tejava’s unique fans’ healthy lifestyles.

Social PostsFor two weeks leading up to the LA tour and then six weeks throughout the tour, we posted 2-3 social posts per week. Once the campaign was underway, we tracked performance and adjusted our strategy to optimize each post. For example, analysis showed active imagery and group shots performed better so we adapted the creative to maximize on these insights.

Additionally, we worked with our Analytics team to identify social influencers and place paid ads to target them specifically. Our SocialGraphics and conversation-based analysis allowed us to place ads and use social influencers that would come in contact with “Lifestyle Changers” through common page likes, conversation topics, and more. This was a great way to increase awareness as well as visibility across social channels.

This award means a lot to us because it demonstrates the added value of working with BrewLife, a W2O Company. Not only do clients get the insights and intelligence of the BrewLife team, but they also get the input and analytical capabilities from our long hallway at W2O. The Tejava #PerfectNothing campaign is a great example of how collaboration across various teams allowed us to create and launch a successful (and award winning) campaign!

Social media enables celebrities to have intimate and frequent contact with fans. In particular, Instagram has served to give us a glimpse inside the daily lives of our favorite stars. Social media has also given birth to an entirely new breed of celebrities, YouTube “content creators,” who have a huge impact among tweens and teens.

When a celebrity endorses a product via TV commercial or infomercial it’s obvious that it’s an advertisement. Now the lines are blurred. In order to protect the general public and ensure that online influencers are transparent about payment and gifts, in 2009 the Federal Trade Commission issued Endorsement Guides. The FTC clearly explains the rules and makes it easy to accomplish by simply using #ad, #paid, #sponsored or #promoted in a post.

Beyonce 7

Beyonce is Crazy in Love with Airbnb

After the Super Bowl, Beyonce shared on Facebook a photo with the caption, “It was a Super weekend Airbnb” with a link to the Airbnb Facebook page. Neither the superstar nor the company will confirm if she was paid for the endorsement or comped the accommodation. If this was the case, then Beyonce would need to disclose that on the post.

Another example is Reese Witherspoon who has started a company, Draper James, and on Instagram frequently shares images of herself wearing the clothing. None of these indicate that she has a financial involvement in the company.

Best FDA Letter Ever

In August 2015, Kim Kardashian and Duchesnay admitted that she was paid for her endorsement of morning sickness medication, Diclegis, via Instagram. The post initially received attention for resulting in a letter from the Food and Drug Administration regarding her lack of fair balance in the post. Kardashian also did not note that there was a paid relationship.

Will the FTC Respond?

These are only the most popular examples, but a few months ago Jezebel identified many more personalities who are ignoring the FTC guidelines. Beyonce, Kardashian and Witherspoon are extremely sophisticated marketers with carefully curated social feeds, so it surprises me that they haven’t been made aware of the potential issues with the FTC. Perhaps it will take the FTC going after a high profile personality to make others compliant.

Eileen OBrien Blog Post
Nash Grier and one of his 31M fans

If reality TV has redefined the concept of celebrity, social media has taken it to a whole new level. A recent survey found that 8 out of the 10 celebrities that matter most to teens are YouTube personalities – the other two were Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars. Many of these “celebrities” don’t even have a discernable talent, such as singing or dancing, and (like the Kardashians) they are famous for being themselves. But tweens and teens are responding to their genuineness and the ability to potentially connect with them via social media channels.

Many of these social sensations look like the kid bagging your groceries. In fact, if that kid bagging your groceries is Alex From Target then he is “famous” and you can talk to his agent about a product endorsement fee. Variety calls them Famechangers: “Teens’ emotional attachment to YouTube stars is as much as seven times greater than that toward a traditional celebrity; and YouTube stars are perceived as 17 times more engaging, and 11 times more extraordinary, than mainstream stars.”

I witnessed this firsthand at DigiFest in New York City where about 1,000 screaming fans paid to see these personalities in real life. I talked to 17-year-old Nash Grier who has more than 31M followers aggregated across different social channels. Grier explained the dynamic, “It feels like a family – every single one of my followers, we kind of have a relationship. I always try to find some time in the day to tweet some people back to see their support and love.” I guess the definition of the word relationship is different when you are talking about 31M followers, but both the fans and personalities appear to earnestly believe this.

Grier prefers to call himself a “content creator” and notes that only adults distinguish between media and social media. He was very polite, and smiled and posed for multiple photos with all the young girls that tentatively, and sometimes tearfully, approached him. My colleague, Angel Hakim, wrote also wrote about this topic, Influencers vs. Creators: How the Landscape is Changing.

What constitutes authenticity?

These social media celebs call themselves brands and, very astutely, understand the value of their audience to potential sponsors. However, they don’t perceive themselves as spokespeople or advertisers. “I’m really mad at commercials because they are so whack,” said Grier. “I feel like kids are just fed all this stuff and they are supposed to buy it. There should be some content behind it. There should be an incentive to make them want something.”

The idea of native advertising and using content – or celebrities – to sell products isn’t new or unique to this age strata. However, I find the constant reference to authenticity among this group ironic. “One old piece of slang that has not survived is ‘selling out.’ …Frontline asked a group of teenagers what the phrase meant to them. Nothing, they replied. Yesterday’s sellouts, mocked for their contracts, are today’s brand ambassadors, admired for their hustle,” wrote Amanda Hess in The New York Times.

It will be interesting to see how this evolves as today’s tweens/teens and YouTube personalities grow up. What do you think?

 

 

 

Twitter’s milestones over the past nine years are nothing short of remarkable. Now Twitter can add another feather to brag about, again changing up the media landscape.

You’ve likely heard (from a little bird?) that Twitter has eliminated the 140 character limit on direct messages (DM). For some, this isn’t a surprise. The social media powerhouse made an announcement via their blog in early June, and public relations (PR) pros couldn’t wait to see what kind of impact this would have for media outreach. This may appear to be a “whoop-de-doo” kind of announcement, but take note: this opens up a whole new method of communication with journalists and influencers alike.

More often than not, journalists will tell you (very adamantly, actually) that email is the preferred channel of communication. But, on occasion, we like to ruffle feathers and change it up. Here are three ways this impacts the game:

Communication with Journalists

Many media professionals are on social media—for both personal and professional reasons. And even a nice ‘I love you note’ will garner some replies on Twitter. But what about a pitching a story idea via DM? Go for it. This new DM format also allows for better, more substantial communication. Being in a “chat” format has opened up more opportunities to engage genuinely.

A key thing to remember is that we’re all human – don’t be afraid to engage in something outside of “work” tweets. Who doesn’t like getting a retweet or two?

Reaching Influencers

Here’s an example: a client wanted to reach fitness influencers (not necessarily individuals who blog), who were heavy Twitter users. Armed with large amounts of followers, these Tweeter’s didn’t have to have a traditional blog or news site to make a big impact on the world of fitness. The challenge? Actually communicating with these individuals, all through their go-to channel, Twitter. The team carefully crafted a DM, getting creative to stay under 140 characters or sending separate messages, and hoped for the best. Those days are long over.

Pushing the Boundaries of Communication

An item to consider: Just because you can, should you? Even if your close friend sends you a 500 character DM on Twitter, chances are you will text him “what gives bro?” Just like a traditional email pitch, if you can’t be clear, concise and to the point, rethink your story.

Look for the changes on Android and iOS apps, twitter.com, TweetDeck and Twitter for Mac. The new format will continue to roll out over the next few weeks. Happy Tweeting!

Screenshot_2015-08-21-09-32-36

Andrea Kramer and Christiana Pascale

We look at the market through the lens of the 1:9:90 audience framework. We didn’t create this model, but we have perfected it over the last seven years in activating influencer programs and the model has proven to be true across all verticals and industries.

facebook live

The “1%” drive the market based on their actions – what they write, what they tweet about or what they say at events and interviews. They are influencers and are seen as subject matter experts for a specific topic. Our algorithms show that there are never more than 50 people who drive the majority of share of conversation for a brand or a topic in a given country or language.

The “9%” are highly active online. They recommend, share, sign up, download, comment and take other actions that let their community of peers know what they think about certain topics. In many respects, this group serves as the “trust filter” for a the rest of the market.

The “90%” are the great majority of any market. They lurk and learn. This group is satisfied with using search for discovering new products or consuming the content of their peers. They decide how compelling the 1% and the 9% really are in telling your brand’s story based on their purchase behavior.

Facebook ‘Live’ is one way to activate the 1%. The social network announced a new feature that enables public figures (athletes, celebrities, influencers, etc.) with verified Pages to share real-time video with their Facebook audience. This new tool allows for authentic conversation from influencer to the online community, in which public figures can share ‘behind the scenes’ moments, photo shoots, at-home activities, etc. to help raise awareness of an experience and/or a branded opportunity. The 9% of active users who see these videos, can like, comment and share the material and set the trust for the 90%. Brands should consider ‘Live’ when partnering with influencers to help reach new audiences, encourage community engagement and promote branded opportunities.

You can learn more about Facebook ‘Live’ here or the below Slideshare.

Let this soak in: U.S. teens trust online talent more than Hollywood stars. In fact, a Variety survey found 8 of the top 10 stars that matter most to teens are YouTube personalities.

The rationale for their stardom (and flocks of fans) is simple: these icons are authentic. According to the Variety survey, which was talked up and displayed at every angle during VidCon 2015, YouTubers are 90% more genuine to the every day American. And, before you write them off as fluff, bear this in mind: their followers don’t just follow. They listen to them. A YouTuber’s average engagement is 6.7%, compared to an average engagement of 1% for brands. As one enthusiast on-site at VidCon said, “I trust YouTube’s recommendations over magazines. I will make a list of products they mention and buy them.”

Chances are, you’ve worked on or alongside a campaign that includes influencer partnerships. Taking a look at these impactful stats, it’s time to truly understand this landscape and how these partnerships can be the most beneficial for your brands.

Know Who You’re Working With 

What’s in a name? Quite a bit, when it comes to talent.

  • A creator consists of individuals who produces content for YouTube, although it should be noted platforms like Vessel are beginning to take off and spurring their own set of creators. In addition to being the on-camera talent, they produce, edit and promote their videos across their social platforms, which typically see a very high reach.
  • An influencer consists of bloggers and individuals with social specialties (e.g. Instagram, Snapchat, Vine) that may not have a YouTube presence. (It should be noted that just because they are not creators does not make them any less valuable!)

Knowing “social talent” is not a category anymore is also important. Many creators have gone offline to garner book deals, television roles and cosmetic lines.

Think Bigger Than “One and Done”

With so many brands tapping into this space, brand deals are thrown to this genre of talent left and right. More and more, creators are maintaining a defensiveness about their content and what they love. Being approached by so many brands, they reserve the right to do what is most authentic, and are able to truly tell a story versus a one-off opportunity. When strategizing the best programming for your client(s), think about the ways these creators can work beyond video integration.

Creating with the Creators

Talent, whether it’s a Hollywood actor or creator with 3 million followers, ultimately aims to do one thing: tell a story. Creators are in a unique position to break the barrier between themselves and their audience, whereas traditional celebs are much more unattainable. Experimentation is key to unlocking success with creator programming. Overheard at VidCon, creators underscored the importance of working with brands that allow them to be themselves while organically incorporating brands. Creators don’t just share a product review, for example: they may do an unconventional road test, take it on the streets or do a comedy bit about it. It’s their voice that makes their followers listen, so it is in a brand’s best interest to work with the creators, not direct them.

Where do influencers fit into it all? They absolutely still have a role in marketing success, but, like with creators, it’s time to refresh the approach. Several bloggers, for example, have been churning out content for longer than some YouTube channels have existed; and in their right, they deserve the same respect. As platforms like Snapchat and Vine have become an integral part of many social media portfolios, it’s advised to keep an eye on the top performers spanning those channels. But it’s never a one-size-fits-all approach, so the first question must be, “What are we trying to accomplish?” From there, consider new ways to partner and create.

Online video is succeeding, and with other platforms on the horizon, it shows no signs of stopping. For marketing professionals, accepting the power of creators is the best approach. And it’s okay to admit you watch Jenna Marbles videos before you go to sleep.

In the one second that passed while I was writing this blog post, there were 100,181 YouTube videos viewed, 2,045 Instagram photos uploaded and 9,109 Tweets. Whether we like it or not, we are constantly bombarded by all types of media and the fight for attention will continue to increase as digital technology enables our 24/7 consumption of content.

Standing out is hard, but building trust is harder.

Rising above the crowd is a tough order today. Marketing by interruption only gets you a few seconds of attention and if there is nothing relevant at that exact moment to engage your audience, you can be sure they have probably already moved on to something else. The fallout from a failed interruptive marketing execution is that the technique starts to get a bad reputation. Just like how I can’t wait to click away any banners that takeover my screen (Where is that clickable X?).

What does this mean for companies? For non-profit organizations? For us personally?

It means that if you are trying to influence anyone, sell anything, or say anything at all, it has to be relevant to your target audience. The message has to be delivered at the right time and be educational or entertaining, or better yet both. To build long-term relationships, your audience needs to trust you and in this world of social media, there is no escape.

You cannot run and you cannot hide in today’s marketplace.

Organizations are made up of people and people leave digital footprints whether we like it or not. Today more than ever, customers interact with companies and organizations at so many levels there is really no desk to hide behind. In fact, the prevailing strategy that seems so obvious but becomes so scary for most is to embrace transparency and utilize it to build your reputation. As Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stated, “The currency of leadership is transparency”. How companies choose to use this currency determines the fate of their brand.

We need to seek permission through continuous authenticity.

To seek permission from your audience is to establish trust in your relationship. Seth Godin coined the term “permission marketing” years ago, but the concept is more relevant now than ever. He proposed that “Permission marketing turns strangers into friends and friends into loyal customers.” This idea rings true in the newfound popularity of content marketing and is also the core to Gary Vaynerchuk’s book on social media marketing titled “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”. Establish trust through a stream of relevant content before you offer up a product or service.

Authenticity begins by looking within.

Prophetic, isn’t it? But how do you gain permission by building trust? How do you know what to say? How do you avoid your audience sniffing out your misalignment? You need to start from the core. Branding. Branding is not an icon, it’s not a font, and it’s not a website. It’s the culmination of every touch point between your organization and your audience. And these touch points expose who you truly are. That’s the essence of your brand.

Don’t leave your brand to chance by letting your audience tell you (and others) who you really are through ruthless reviews or buying decisions. Instead, embark on a brand insights process to methodically architect your touch points. Even if your brand is not in your hands, developing a brand strategy is more predictable and infinitely smarter.

Ultimately, a brand needs to align externally.

A winning brand sells more products, services, and ideas. Nothing matters if the brand essence does not translate to a brand promise that is relevant to your audience. Delivering upon that promise every single day is what makes a strong and trusted brand.

Below is a typical process that reveals, builds, and protects your brand. It is comprised of three phases: Self-Discovery, Internal and External Alignment, and Interface Architecture. Some guiding questions are provided to kick start your creative juices.

(1) Self-Discovery

  • Who are you?
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • How are you different?

(2) Internal and External Alignment

  • What is the best way for you to be presented to your target audience?
  • What will you look like?
  • What would you say?
  • How will you say it?

(3) Interface Architecture

  • When are all the times you will interface with your audience?
  • What are the assets, capabilities and systems needed to consistently reflect your brand?
    • Assets
      • What content or materials do you need?
      • What channels will you use?
    • Capabilities
      • What competencies do you need to tell your story over and over?
      • What tools will you need to optimize the experience?
    • Systems
      • How will you measure your success?
      • What processes do you need to automate a consistent experience?
      • How will you incentivize a culture to support your brand?

The next time you find yourself loving a brand, you will instantly understand that it is no coincidence. Each and every touch point is painstakingly orchestrated for you to feel that way. Now the questions is: Is your brand worth caring for?

We are excited to be participating in the NewCo tour and welcome folks into our offices to share a deeper look into who we are, what we practice and our philosophy. Bob will be sharing insights on trends within the digital marketing industry and how we fit into the ever-changing landscape. Below are some high level takeaways which he will discuss in more detail at the event.

Aaron: When building a website, we regularly hear how important “responsive design” or a “multi-device friendly approach to design” is. What is your view on how clients should approach “responsive design or responsive experience” for their owned content and web properties?

Bob: Most content today is consumed by mobile phone. This will only increase in importance, so our first impression matters more than ever. As a result, we are shifting from responsive design, which is old school, to responsive experience. We need to provide the right content the first time to the customer visiting our site, based on what we know about them pre-visit.

Aaron: You’ve talked a lot recently about the fact that “influencer relationship management is more important than traditional CRM to shape markets”….can you expand on that a bit more?

Bob: You could have two million customers in a CRM database, but does this matter? What we are finding is that understanding who drives your audience (the 1% and the 9% of the 1,9,90 model) is the key to influencer relationship management. Volume isn’t the answer to gain the right reach. Precision of who you reach leads to the right volume/penetration of the market. A very simple and profound change in how we market is happening.

Aaron: The last trend emphasizes how one of our new processes – the creation of deeper audience insights through something we call audience architecture. Can you explain that a bit?

Bob: Audience architecture relates to how we identify and then listen to the right audience to understand what content we share, what keywords we use and what time of day we share content by channel. If we are tracking the right audience online, they will teach us what to do. The clues to success are right in front of us.

Aaron: Can you share an example of how audience architecture works?

Bob: Let’s say you want to find health conscious customers who are millennials, live in 15 specific cities and like to have an occasional burger. We can build a profile that leads to a panel of representative people online matching this group. We then watch what they do and say and can develop a highly targeted strategy. Basically, we’re starting to evolve how media planning and engagement occur.

Thanks for your time Bob. We look forward to hearing about these four insights and more at the upcoming event on Friday, May 29th 12:30-1:30.