7 Tips to building authentic influence for your brand
With consumer skepticism soaring, markets more saturated than ever and two-thirds of buying conversations happening outside of a brand’s control— it’s plain to see that we’re at a pivotal point in marketing.
Private consumer conversations, both online and out in the world, drive the majority of buying decisions. ExpertVoice CEO Tom Stockham sat down with renowned marketing strategist, professor and author Amanda Russell to discuss the shift toward authentic influencer marketing. They talked about reframing how we think about influence, connecting with the right people and inspiring them to advocate for your brand.
You can watch the full webinar here, but we wanted to share our top 7 takeaways from the event.
1. Top brands that “do-no marketing” really just do smarter marketing.
Some of the most successful brands claim that they “do no marketing”. A better way of describing this would be that they “do no overt marketing”. Think about the brands with a cult-like customer base—the Lululemons and Patagonias of the world—that you never really see ads for. How do they do it? By activating influential people to build buzz about their brand in the spaces where their ideal customers work and play. Brands like this certainly do marketing, but their tactics are methodical and built for long-term success.
If you look at some of the most tribal-like brands, they will say they do no marketing, that's not true. Their marketing is their best customers, it's experts that endorse them. And we look at how Lululemon was grown, they said they did no marketing—that was all marketing.
They had an army of happy customers, yoga instructors, and experts in the field. They know that every employee is a touchpoint of their brand. They are well educated, and they love the brand. If you look at some of the greatest brands and how they were built, they didn't do a bunch of transactional pay-to-play. It was because they have built a tribe that will stand up for them that doesn't need to be paid to use or talk about their product.
2. Building third-party brand credibility is everything.
So, you know you need to get in on the conversations where your ideal consumers are talking. But how exactly do you go about that? Amanda breaks it into two steps:
- Study your target audience
- Identify the influential people
It’s easy to get caught up in the follower counts and skip to the second step after you’ve set your objectives. Amanda cautions that that is exactly where brands make their biggest mistake.
You need to first study your audience. Where are they hanging out? What communities are they in? Who is leading these communities? Are they online? Are they offline? Who are the voices? And a lot of this happens in these private kinds of Facebook groups, Reddit groups. Who's leading the conversations in these kinds of groups? You will uncover so much information, figuring out where these conversations are happening and who is the authority in those conversations.
3. The 3 steps to building out an authentic influencer marketing strategy.
Step one: Set your goals. What is the ultimate outcome? You have to start with the bottom line impact you want your strategy to have for your organization, and then research the key performance indicators you’ll need to track toward that goal. Your marketing objectives usually fall into two categories: awareness or conversion.
Step two: Identify and observe your influencers. What matters to them? Where are they hanging out? What are they Googling that is answering their problems regarding the outcome we want to achieve? Who are they consulting with? What are their goals, their motives?
Step three: Make the connection. You need to know how to influence the influencer, and if you want your influencer content and interactions to truly be authentic, this needs to be non-transactional. This is the differentiator between traditional influencer strategies, which are now seen as blatant advertising, and organic, authentic consumer advocacy.
4. Understand how to influence the influencer.
Although you don’t want your interactions to be transactional, they still can’t be completely one-sided. Building mutually beneficial relationships with your brand advocates, not rooted in monetary transactions, differentiates advocacy from advertising.
When it becomes beyond a pay-to-play, then it's a real relationship. Think about all the relationships in your life—someone doesn't come up to you and say, ‘I will pay you X number of dollars to be my friend.’ It’s built on an exchange of value. In order to build a real relationship, you need to build trust and you have to have a mutually beneficial goal and oftentimes, the best partnerships don't involve any transaction.
Passion-driven advocates thrive off of recognition from the brands they know and love. You can provide them value in the form of insider information and educational opportunities, being the first to try out new things and the opportunity to weigh in on product development—anything that makes them feel like part of your brand.
The important thing is that you put time and effort into laying the foundation for a strong partnership and develop creative ways to get them using and talking about your brand out in the world.
5. Getting clear on the outcomes you’re looking for.
Before skimming over this one, writing it off as an obvious step—check in with yourself and how you define influencer strategy outcomes. Is it centered around social engagement? E-commerce conversion rates?
When you think outside the box about the type of influencer you engage, you can think outside the box about the outcome you attach to their efforts. Here’s what ExpertVoice CEO Tom Stockham had to say:
This other really important step is matching the outcome with the way you want someone to behave. So if you want a better outcome in a store, you want someone to be more capable of having a conversation face to face with a customer. If you want a better expression of your brand on social media, you want visual content creators. If you want more feedback on what your next product line should be, you want the right types of people who can tell you, ‘Well, if this product did something different next, that's what I'd really like.’
So matching outcomes and being thoughtful about who do I want to participate in this and what kind of content do I want them to create? Is it a conversation? Is it a review? Is it image content, video, those kinds of things?
6. Reframing influence as an investment rather than an expense.
Even as brands nod their heads in agreement with the idea that authentic influence is the way of the future, brands still hesitate to take the leap. Oftentimes that has to do with the lack of immediate ROI. Measuring ROI has long been the bane of many marketers’ existence, and especially with something as complex as a long-term advocacy strategy, it can be challenging to attribute quantifiable outcomes to your efforts. The key is to remember that influence is a long-term investment rather than a one-off expense.
It’s worth bearing in mind that micro-influencers highly engaged audiences are projected to prove more lucrative in the coming years.
7. Pick a product that enables you to put all the pieces together.
Thinking about the ways that influence is shaping our buying landscape is all good and well. Still, to actually put these learnings into practice, you need to have the tools to connect with and inspire the people who have the expertise and industry reach to become your brands’ most influential advocates.
ExpertVoice leaders walked through how the different tools within the ExpertVoice platform allow you to do just that. Get acquainted with the Advocacy Platform and all the ways that communities, campaigns and content can set you up with a robust, authentic brand advocacy strategy.
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