Why Marketing Should be Dropped From “Influencer Marketing”

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There is myriad data to support the idea that influencer marketing should be a core part of your marketing strategy. More than 92% of consumers say they trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Influencer marketing campaigns drive 16 times more engagement than paid or owned media, while the average CTR of an influencer post is 15%. It’s only .15% for display and .68% for Facebook, on average.

 

These numbers are pretty staggering, yet marketers are not shifting advertising dollars to influencer marketing at a rate that would suggest acknowledgement of this performance increase. Although marketers know what influencer marketing is, many still don’t quite understand how it works or how to use it. Even when the ROI is substantially higher, their lack of understanding around what it takes to get to the ROI is prohibiting them from taking full advantage of this powerful medium.

 

The first thing to consider is that influencer marketing should no longer be treated as marketing because audiences don’t view it that way. Audiences varticle-2269300-1734324D000005DC-331_634x632iew influencers as purveyors of cool, simply because they do cool things. Those things can range from the practical, like giving advice, providing empathy, or applying makeup, to the impractical, like taking ridiculous basketball shots, Let’s Play videos and epic rap battles.

 

 

Audiences engage with influencers because they are interested in the content those influencers create. With the exception of the upper echelons of the celebrity elite, who amass followers and gain influence just for putting up a social media account, influencers still need to create content designed to add value and keep their followers engaged.

 

Just because a person has a large following on social media doesn’t mean he or she is influential. Influencers are influential because they influence their followers to do things, not because they market to them. A steady drip of content that showcases the fabulousness of their life, like 241B449700000578-2876938-image-m-46_1418779629199Balmain design lead Olivier Rousteing who rose out of relative obscurity to become a top designer, is key in maintaining sustainability. Rousteing did what no one dared do before him; he pulled the curtain back on high fashion. His goal was to make high fashion more accessible by showing what real life looks like, not just the hyper stylized version that plays out on the runways in Paris and Milan (although there is plenty of that as well.) This mass fascination by the public spawned a partnership with H&M and instead of commoditizing the brand, it made it more sought after. This is the power of the influencer, amassed and disseminated in a highly organic fashion.
In this case, Rousteing is providing value in the form of exclusive content. A never before seen view into the life of one of the world’s top designers. From the ultra sleek lines of a simple t-shirt, to the intricate stitching on a leather blazer, watching Rousteing’s creation is breathtaking, but the most shared content tends to be the most candid. The shot of him hung-over the morning after a London fashion show. Or the shot ofOLIVIER_R____olivier_rousteing__•_Instagram_photos_and_videos him working out with a personal trainer next to a glimmering pool just as the sun begins to rise. It doesn’t hurt that Olivier looks like a model himself with flawless skin and sunken cheeks, but he has built his personal brand into an empire using his social media influence to further extend and enhance that halo.  

 

For marketers the benefit lies in crafting a more humanized narrative communicated through the unique voice of the influencer. Balmain was hardly a household name prior to Rousteing and vice veBalmain-Designer-olivier-rousteingrsa, therein lies the sell. The core value exchange between brand and influencer is symbiosis. Some influencers are paid for their influence but others, typically those who aren’t already celebrities, exert their influence for free, understanding that by associating themselves with a brand, they can advance their credibility and further validate their message. The opposite is true when influencers sell-out and become brand shills, but the ideal balance is reached when brands simply ask influencers to do what they’ve always done.

 

Authenticity is key, that should go without saying, but the real value is unlocked  when a relevant brand is organically mentioned. For example, if Dude Perfect, makers of ridiculous basketball shot videos, started imgrestalking about the benefits of Spalding basketballs, that wouldn’t be a far stretch from the content they normally  create. Dude Perfect already talks about the way they meticulously plan their shots, so in that context, mentioning their preference for Spalding because of the superior grip, would feel seamless. This, as opposed to saying, “Go out and buy Spalding balls!!!” or even sponsored by Spalding, is the way brands are going to attract customers in the future. This is more akin to recommendation seeding as opposed to influencer marketing.

The dynamic isn’t entirely new. There are certainly some similarities between the way brands engage influencers now and the way they’ve engaged media in the past. But it has evolved from there and understanding the many nuances of how to integrate the influencer in as seamless a way as possible is key to maximizing ROI and will become even more critical as people get smarter. Influencer marketing needs to err more towards smart, subtle influencer integration, as opposed to overt influencer mouthpieces. If this can be done effectively, brands have an entirely new way of communicating their message and it won’t cost them a dime in media spend.

 

 

 

 

 

Your SMB is a Success, So Why is Your Social Media a Failure?

Your SMB is a Success, So Why is Your Social Media a Failure?

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So often, particularly with SMB clients, the misperception is that social will directly drive sales. These clients believe that if they pump 2 dollars into social marketing, then they should be receiving 3 dollars in return. The problem here is that these SMBs get social marketing confused with performance marketing. Unless you have an e-commerce mechanism in place and you are running social promotions, the impact on sales is circuitous. Social is far more akin to CRM than performance marketing. It’s also, to a certain extent, about branding. If you are running paid social ads then it’s about advertising too. One thing it isn’t about is A+B=C. Social to drive business imperatives starts with the consumer and it’s a long term play. It’s about understanding the mind of your consumer, their affinities and their digital behavior. What are they doing, what are they saying and what are they sharing online? If you understand these things and you reverse engineer a social experience that addresses all three, then that’s a pretty good start.

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Relying on insight to drive consumer collaboration is very much the genesis of #CreatedWith and it is one of the reasons the idea has resonated so impactfully. In a #CreatedWith scenario, which is essentially influencer marketing, the brand is leveraging influential entities who are already creating content and commanding an audience on social platforms. Ideally, the influencer should have already expressed brand affinity. Capitalizing on this organic behavior, the ask is extraordinarily simple, “Keep doing what you’re doing – fight the good fight.” This is the evolution of the celebrity pitchman. But instead of the celebrity being positioned as an active participant in the brand, albeit in a contrived often specious way, the pitchman actually is a brand participant and a luminary in the eyes of his followers. The return is actualized in the form of recommendations and we all know consumers trust brand recommendations from a friend (75%) more than an advertiser (9%).

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If you’re goal is branding, then leveraging social as a vehicle to espouse brand values is an effective use of the channel. If there was ever a time to champion modernity, flexibility and a veracious connection to your consumers, now would be that time. Brands understand the importance of facilitating experiences intended to capture the collective knowledge, feedback, delight and dissatisfaction of their consumers. Social, in this instance, serves as the means to greater transparency. The power shift from brand to consumer is ever burgeoning. Brand loyalty is an all but forgotten concept however, using social in this capacity to relationship build and catalyze allegiance, is also a proper use of the channel. Return in this case, involves sharing, retention and recommendation.

Lastly, there is social marketing, the tactical manifestation through which social can drive business goals, but again, this is more indirect. Social tactics that produce a positive and measurable result almost always entail a mission for the target audience. Whether that mission involves taking an action e.g. joining, sending, sharing, liking, giving (as is the case with Kickstarter), it should always be credible, simple and seamless. Social marketing helps brands tell their stories in a time relevant and relatable fashion. Social marketing can also spawn recommendations and drive-to-site, two more tangible metrics. But perhaps the most important use of social media, is to generate goodwill (which of course is ethereal but can be measured to a degree with sentiment scores, advanced natural language processing or surveys). Additional areas of return look like acquisition, awareness, curation and dissemination.

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In the examples above, which include influencer, branding and marketing, social doesn’t directly lead to a sale, but I can hardly imagine a brand manager discounting the importance of each. The problem is that many SMBs, through no fault of their own, the client contact is often in charge of multiple communications and marketing responsibilities, don’t conceive the value. It’s up to you to explain it. The go-to answer I often hear is, “social is an extension of brand.” Sure, it can be that. It can also be any one of the things mentioned above. But it rarely is a closed loop sales generating tactic. If only it were that tidy. 

In a world where differentiation is getting harder with every piece of content and preference is defined by whether or not a selfie is warranted, social can help mitigate the constant push and pull of 360 degree messaging. Now as those messages become increasingly brand ambiguous with your closest friend serving as Nike’s greatest mouthpiece, it becomes critical to integrate social strategies just so as not to get inhumed. That said, in order to achieve success, we all need to realign our expectations. The idea that social is a frugal, facile way to extoll the many virtues of digital marketing while generating instant return with viral fervor – is just plain (to pilfer a term from twitter) dereal. 

The Set It and Forget It Mentality of Millennials

The Set It and Forget It Mentality of Millennials

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The set it and forget it mentality is becoming increasingly prevalent in the ever-evolving relationship between brands and Millennials. What do I mean by set it and forget it? One of the things we know about Millennials is that they would rather make an investment with their time at the beginning of a relationship with a new brand, then continuously throughout the duration of the relationship. If a brand can promise ongoing value without the hassle of ongoing management, Millennials are sold. This allows them to focus on and pursue the things they are most passionate about in life. This is absolutely critical to Millennials, 79% of whom define themselves more by their personal success than their professional success. Millennials believe that if they involve themselves in a certain degree of setting it at the beginning of a relationship, the brand will honor its promise and allow the Millennial to then responsibly forget it. As long as the brand continues to deliver throughout the course of the relationship, the responsible forgetfulness will continue to proliferate. It is also critical to note that this entire relationship is facilitated through technology with little to no human interaction. Millennials are two to three times as likely to trust their data to technology, particularly if that technology is recommended by a friend.

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Now consider Baby Boomers, whose expectation is quite literally antithetical to that of the Millennial generation. Boomers expect and demand ongoing brand / consumer interplay for the duration of the relationship. The human connection is paramount to their experience. The interface is real-time and in person, at the very least it’s a phone call. In a forgettable scene from the movie Boiler Room, Jamie Kennedy’s character says, “If the stock falls she’ll call you everyday and God forbid the stock goes up, she’ll call you every fifteen minutes.” Substitute “she” for Boomers and the message is tantamount. Boomers believe that constant contact is not only their right, but their responsibility. Conversely, Millennials believe that trusting others to do their job allows them the freedom to take on other responsibilities. They would rather provide the setup and then stand back.

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         Using financial planning as an example, Boomers expect ongoing reports at regular intervals. They want to be able to manage the planners who are managing their money – even if they personally have no financial experience to speak of. Still, it is critical for Boomers to be able to call up their financial planner whenever they see fit. Millennials just aren’t at all interested in this. They trust companies like Wealthfront to deliver on their promise, if that promise speaks to them in a personalized and authentic way. Wealthfront exemplifies the set it and forget it mentality. Wealthfront “builds and manages your personalized, globally diversified investment portfolio, as the world’s largest and fastest growing, automated investment service.” This company requires your data input upfront to provide a personalized financial plan that they then, in a completely automated fashion, execute over a period of time determined by you. Wealthfront can quite literally make or manage millions of your dollars without you ever having to communicate with a live individual – a scenario most Boomers would characterize as nightmarish.

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The typical private wealth manager will take a 1% to 1.5% management fee on the portfolio. Wealthfront takes a .25% fee. Currently Wealthfront manages over 2 billion in assets. They have done this in three and half years which is faster than Charles Schwab. So clearly this model is working and causing all kinds of disruption in the financial industry. Marc Andreesen says, “The disruption happens when software eliminates an expensive middleman with no discernible loss of quality.” If there is no discernible loss of quality, and companies like Wealthfront save you not only money, but time… To quote Marc Cuban, this is a reasonable ROT, or return on time. Cuban understands that time is one of the most valuable commodities.

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My point is that maybe Millennials are really on to something here. They do understand their time is valuable. Who doesn’t? But unlike Boomers, Millennials are willing to do something about it. They actively practice set it and forget it. This is their mentality and their mantra. Why try to intervene in an area where they have no expertise? Even when planners are involved, Boomers still spend countless hours educating themselves on playing the stock market; Millennials spend a handful of hours researching an automated technology to play the stock market for them. Because this costs less and provides better ROT, it certainly would seem like Millennials are getting the better deal. Or are they just being lazy? Too trusting?

Good? Bad? Right? Wrong? Or perhaps too soon to tell? If Millennials continue to set it and forget it, then companies will continue to automate business models in an attempt to deliver the same returns with no discernible loss of quality. If this happens at scale, the services industry will never again be the same. One thing is for sure, the table is set for a generation lobbying for responsible forgetfulness, and who knows where that may lead?

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