HOW TO: Connect Your Brand to the Right Online InfluencersPosted: May 10, 2011
By Macala Wright Lee, from Mashable
9 May 2011
Macala Wright Lee is the publisher of FashionablyMarketing.Me. Wright Lee is a retail consultant who specializes in marketing consulting for fashion, luxury and beauty brands. You can follower her on Twitter at @FashMarketing.
Simply put, there is no one single way to measure online influence. And in the past, measuring influence has been based on popularity or celebrity. In a recent post, Brian Solis, principal of The Altimeter Group, wrote, “If we look beyond the word ‘influence,’ we see that the ability to measure effect is complicated and elusive. I believe, however, that we’re closer to measuring social capital, at least in a digital sense, than we are [to] measuring outcomes.” This means that online influence isn’t about popularity, it’s about expertise.
Targeting the Right Influencers
It’s important for retailers and brands to focus on targeting small groups of online influencers who are experts in the niches they cover. First and foremost, “don’t think of online influencers as media contacts,” says Derek Skaletsky, vice president of business development for Traackr. “Online influencers don’t care about news. They care about experiences — especially unique experiences that help them differentiate themselves to their audience.”
The need to focus on relevant influencers rather than the most popular “social media celebrities” can be explained in three ways, says Pierre-Loic Assayag, president of Traackr.
- Relevant influencers create signals. The “big fish” create noise. For decades, advertising has trained marketers that noise equals success, which isn’t true. Getting the attention of influencers who have built authority with a target audience and have earned trust in communities relevant to specific businesses is what yields the best return.
- Targeting relevant influencers drastically increases the “engagement hit rate.” Instead of reaching out very generically with yet another media coverage request, you’ll be talking to someone genuinely interested in your issues, industry and products.
- “Big fish” are actually influenced by targeted voices. They are much more likely to cover your story and get interested in your product after you gain “street cred” with relevant influencers.
In order to engage relevant influencers successfully, brands must:
- 1. Target relevant influencers based on expertise and desired outcome.
- 2. Talk to them inside their story, not the brand’s story.
- 3. Engage them early and build a relationship that outlasts the brand’s campaign.
- 4. Be honest and don’t just talk to people who already like your brand.
- 5. Give up control of the message and trust your influencers to tell the brand story through their words.
Why Brands Should Target Small Groups of Influencers
As a brand, why should you target small groups of influencers within niches, instead of solely going after the big fish or the biggest online celebrities? Because when you do your homework, targeting the right seven people can reach 350 million.
Gordon was tasked with creating a global marketing campaign for the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Studios and Warner Brothers could have spent millions of dollars, but instead, Gordon found the seven most influential bloggers and fan sites for Harry Potter and connected with them. Gordon set up a private screening for them with the people who were developing the new park. Those initial seven were responsible for sparking the conversation among hundreds of thousands through their fan sites and blogs. Gordon estimates that 350 million people around the world heard the news that Universal Orlando was creating the theme park, and it all started with those seven bloggers.
“Before you engage online influencers, you have to figure out who they are and track their conversations. Understand what these influencers like and don’t like about your products and services, your marketing, your brand and even how they compare you to the competition,” says Michelle de Haaff, CMO of Attensity. “Once you know who they are personally, you can engage in relevant ways. Reach out and thank them for their support, and create continual dialogues with them. Don’t make engagement a one-time thing.”
Tools of the Trade
While there are many free and paid social media monitoring solutions available to help retailers identify, qualify and quantify social influencers, I’ve found that the most effective ones for brands and agencies to use are:
Traackr is one of the most impressive tools I’ve discovered to measure online influence. It’s designed for brands or retailers to identify and engage the top influencers most relevant to their brand, product, or campaign. Traackr doesn’t focus on URLs — it focuses on people. The algorithms analyze an individual person’s reach (ability to generate views), resonance (ability to spark conversation) and relevance (ability to cover a certain topic/market).
Tens, and sometimes hundreds of thousands of people participate in an online conversation, while millions just listen. Less than 2% of these participants have over 90% of the impact in that conversation (posts read, link backs, retweets, reactions, etc.), according to Traackr’s data. The 2% within the conversation are never the same across conversations.
Traackr starts at $499 per month and expands to several thousand dollars for large accounts.
While Traackr focuses on individual people, Attensity focuses on URLs and where activity surrounding a brand, product or campaign is happening. Attensity offers a complete suite of influencer reports within their social media monitoring and analytics application that covers more than 75 million social/online sources.
Its reports include a listing of key influencers, their reach and impact scores, demographic details about the site(s) they post on, as well as any information available about the individual. Attensity has integrated Quantcast and Klout into their reports as well. This is one of the simplest, most comprehensive reporting softwares to use.
Attensity’s comprehensive suite starts at $5,000 per month.
By simply monitoring their Facebook communities, brands can also identify influencers. SmartPak Equine, an equestrian supplies retailer, has done exactly this. It has leveraged its Facebook community to identify what equestrian professionals are influenced by.
From the 12 athletes that they pinpointed as brand evangelists, three riders are equestrian industry experts and heavily active on social networks. These are the brand ambassadors who have provided the best ROI for SmartPak Equine.
The ambassadorships, in conjunction with community contests and Facebook engagement strategies, have allowed SmartPak to develop highly targeted social marketing campaigns that have resulted in a 600% year-over-year sales increase. Facebook has also become the number seven referrer of traffic for the site and is becoming more cost effective than print advertising.
While Facebook is currently free, brands invest an average of $2,500 for fan page development per application, says Tim Homuth, the head of Redfoot Social, a social commerce company specializing in Facebook application and audience development.
In the next few years, how do you think brands and retailers will track return on influencer outreach? Will they want a one-stop place to get all the data or continue to rely on a variety of resources? Let us know your predictions in the comments