Beyond the Hype of Influence

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Dan Sullivan, founder and CEO, Crowdly
Dan Sullivan, founder and CEO, Crowdly

Measuring the value derived from social media isn't always easy. So, many big brands have begun to focus on influencer marketing as a way to drive value from their social efforts.

Influencer marketing is all about generating word of mouth. But many of these plans fail because they're not targeting a brand's true fans. Instead, they target influencers who respond to temporary incentives. Marketers who partner with companies or individuals to identify and “rent” access to influencers may not realize that these mercenaries for hire act based on transactions, not because they're truly advocates for their brand. And without legitimate feelings of advocacy, paid influencers lack the credibility to create lasting change within a brand's community, regardless of their overall influence.

People are most credible when they're genuine. Though they can be hard to spot within massive communities, brands with millions of fans have great organic advocates who are ready and willing to share their messages. These top advocates—the superfans—just need to be identified, activated, and fostered in an authentic way.

By observing social interactions like Facebook fan data and monitoring individuals over time, marketers can determine the fans who have interacted, shared, and engaged with their brand the most, and more important, identify and engage those fans with the greatest influence over others in their brand's community. After identifying these advocate customers, there are some simple tactics marketers can implement to get the most from them.

Superfans, activate!

Your superfans are not your parrots; they're going to share your brand message, but in their own personalized and individual way. Don't take this as a threat, it gives your fans motivation to share and credibility to those they reach. It's also an opportunity to see how your community sees you, so make sure to engage with and react to them as individuals.

Another key aspect of activating superfans is continuity. Continue to do the things you do every day and show your commitment to being engaged and relatable, and you can build a community on consistency and trust. By defining and monitoring success, and iterating on your community practices, you can consistently improve fan-brand interactions to further grow your loyal fan base.

Additionally, small gestures of appreciation towards fans who show a willingness to engage can turn them from casual commenters into true superfans who interact regularly and recommend sincerely. Superfans thrive on validation and recognition as valuable members of your community. Tokens of appreciation can be as simple as acknowledging their comment to giving them early access to beta products. Bringing your best fans closer fosters their advocacy while also providing your brand with candid feedback from loyal customers. 

Beyond advocacy and feedback, contextually engaging the right people at the right time drives purchase. Up to 80% of users who receive responses to their Facebook posts have made purchases as a result of the interaction

Structuring and measuring influencer campaigns

Once you've identified and activated your influencers, how do you structure your campaigns so they're measurable, repeatable, and increase likelihood to purchase? The best way to set yourself up for success is to feed your campaigns with real influencers and set measurable goals. For most brands, this starts with two core elements of social success: engagement and reach.

Brands can track the direct actions of fans and the people they influence by tracking such metrics as redemption rates and shares, or by connecting the social profiles of top brand advocates to customer reward numbers and purchase behavior. Success depends on genuinely activating real people to accomplish your engagement, reach, and purchase goals.

When determining what success looks like for your brand, be sure to benchmark your engagement and reach against your most relevant direct competitors.  A final crucial benchmark is advocate retention, a measure of your ability to get your fans to create subsequent engagements after an initial interaction. The cost of moving a passive fan to make an initial engagement is significantly higher than that of driving subsequent actions from engaged fans; but most brands only have a 7 percent advocate retention score month over month.

Social advocates for direct marketing: measurable and effective

Social media integration is a strategic imperative for today's direct marketers. Activating organic influencers is a measurable and effective way to incorporate social media into your direct marketing programs.

How are you measuring social success? What challenges and wins have you experienced with influencer marketing? Please continue the conversation with me on Twitter or in the comments below.

Dan Sullivan is founder and CEO of Crowdly

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