While digital communication has afforded brands more opportunities to reach their audiences, consumers have developed a heightened awareness of traditional marketing tactics and look to their peers as a trusted source of information. Brands are now harnessing the power of those influencers for a return on investment that goes beyond retweets and Facebook likes. PR Newswire and Business Development Institute recently co-hosted the Influencer Marketing Forum featuring senior-level marketing and communications leaders who have successfully boosted sales by engaging their social influencers. Here are some of the valuable strategies they offered to help other organizations target and tap into their network:
Leverage the power of other brands that are thought-leaders in your desired market
Alberto Canal, Vice President of Verizon Communications Inc., hoped to establish his company’s brand as a technology innovator beyond cell phone devices. To accomplish this, Verizon teamed with the MIT Enterprise Forum and Mashable to host offline meet up sessions with start-up tech companies. Engaging with these notable brands and initiating personal interaction with other influencers enhanced Verizon’s efforts and increased their value as a part of the tech community.
Pick your social channels with a purpose
According to Sharon Vinderine, founder and CEO of Parent Tested, Parent Approved Media, over 90% of the time spent online is by moms who rely on social media more than email as a means of communication. However, each social channel is valued for a different reason. Vinderine has observed that Twitter is used to view breaking news, Facebook to connect with friends and family, and Pinterest as a source of creative inspiration. Marketers need to understand their audience intentions on each these channels in order to customize the messages that connect and engage.
Establish a blog
Hosting a blog is key to reaching niche markets because it is viewed as an educational resource that builds credibility. Sprout It CEO, Matt Armstead, sought the help of six influential bloggers within the home and garden industry to develop engaging content that promoted his company’s new iPad app and “backyard takeover” Instagram contest. The move helped Sprout It generate awareness among thousands of contest participants and firmly establish the brand within the home and gardening space on a conservative budget. It also earned Sprout It a spot on the list of 10 Best Influencer Marketing Campaigns of 2013.
Tap Influence’s Head of Business Development, Jennifer Swartley, believes that in the age of constant connection, a brand’s social hub is “always on” and must be able to stand out against an overflowing stream of social chatter. According to Swartley, eye-catching images are the types of compelling content that “cuts through on every platform” and provides something of value for audiences to connect with emotionally. A recent survey conducted by PR Newswire supports this notion, proving that photos indeed drive the most engagement on social channels.
Mine your influencers and follow the people they follow
Social engagement is what drives discoverability of a brand’s messages. Therefore, brands need to seek out not just single influencers, but entire communities of people who are participants in the conversation. AARP was able to find a voice amongst an older generation of social media users by listening to conversations and targeting the same people that their identified influencers follow. As Tammy Gordon, AARP’s Vice President of Social Communications says, “You want the people they care about to be delivering your messages.”
Know who your advocates are
Neil Beam, research and measurement council chair at WOMMA, identified five categories of social influencers: advocate, ambassador, celebrity, professional occupational, and citizen. According to Beam, advocates are the most powerful voice among all five categories because they are uncompensated and independent thinkers who bring the most financial return to the brands they support. By identifying advocates, brands are able to gain a number of valuable insights such as competitive intelligence, locating target audiences , and diagnosing campaign strengths and weaknesses.
Drive new discovery through distribution
Social media is undoubtedly a valuable tool for engaging with communities that share a common interest, enabling brands to gain visibility and traction among new audiences. To reach fresh audiences and continually introduce organization’s messages to new audiences, brands must put some thought – and some effort – behind the distribution of content they produce. Reaching beyond your brand’s existing followers is crucial to both acquiring new audiences and driving ongoing discovery of the brand’s content.
Distribution can mean a variety of things, from developing a presence within a connected industry community to distributing granular content across a network of web sites. Re-thinking your PR approach is important too – your audiences, as well as the bloggers and journalists who cover your space – are voraciously consuming and sharing content. Want proof? Take a look at the live feed of tweets about press releases issued via PR Newswire! Distribution beyond social channels will ultimately drive more visibility for your messages everywhere, including those same social channels. When thinking about reaching audiences, remember that content distribution is additive, channeling more attention to your brand’s owned content.