Thursday, March 31, 2016

How to Build Social Capital in the Influencer Era

This panel of marketers, and recap below, will highlight ways that organizations can utilize influencer marketing to bring their messaging and campaigns to the next level. This post will be in the Q & A format.

Moderator: James Andrews, Founder at True Story Labs “Influencers is an overused word”.

Lynzee Jablonka, Digital Account Manager, Everywhere Agency
Nicola Smith, VP of marketing at Big Nerd Branch
Seth Kean, CEO of ROIInfluencer Media

Brands and agencies are discovering news ways to show what they’re about through influencer marketing. How can brands looking to harness the power of influencers do so while remaining authentic at the same time? Moderator James Andrews, along with panelists Nicola Smith, Lynzee Jablonka and Seth Kean, came together to demystify the idea of influencers through real dialogue.

Psst…want a tip? (According to James) Get yourself a 14 year-old. Don’t worry, we’ll elaborate below.

Question 1: What defines an influencer to you?

Seth: It means different things to different people. At ROIInfluencer, it’s someone that has over 1 million followers. But basically, it’s someone who can grab someone’s attention, who has a following and is credible in their world and in their field.  In this day in age more than ever, it’s someone who has a following on social media.

Nicola: Influencer marketing is an extension of traditional celebrity endorsements, but it’s really about how the industry has shifted to people who build their celebrity in an online space. It’s more about where that influence and that celebrity originated, because we’re not referring to someone like Jennifer Lopez in the same way as Fine brothers.

Lynzee: We find influencers who have a voice within a specific community so it’s more about what will create engaging content, which ultimately leads to brand awareness in campaigns or positive sentiment towards a certain brand within a specific community.

Question 2: How do you find influencers and how is your agency designed to get influencers?

Seth: We believe it’s best to have a plan for they agency side and the client side. There is value in premium influencers because the brand is later able to share, repost and extend the rights of those posts and the brands can take it in-house and do more with it. They get some of the name recognition.

Nicola: We have a built-in network where influencers who want to monetize their Youtube network can proactively come to us. We match brands with the right influencers looking at follower count, engagement numbers, etc. Working with an agency who can help match you with talent is the best way to go. You can do it yourself and see who has a large following, I think the value of working with a third party is that they will actually manage that talent for you.

Lynzee: We have a network of influencers we built from the ground up, so we go there first and look through to see what we can find. If I’m finding someone for the Super Bowl, and that influencer doesn’t like sports, they aren’t a good fit for me. It’s about who can speak for the brand on behalf of the brand.

Question 3: Let’s talk about expectations. What are they on both sides? Is it contractual?

Seth: Collaboration is so important to maximize what the influencer can do for you and for the brand. But everyone is human. The person that writes the check, has the power. It’s very important to have everything spelled out in the contract. Everything needs to be sorted out in the beginning. It makes all the difference in the world.

Nicola: When working with someone early on in their career, you can push for more ownership and brand control. As that celebrity starts to rise, like with everything else, they will start to come to you with demands. On the brand side, know that these people for the most part are not actors, these are real people who are talking to a community that they have fostered over many years.

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Question 4: There is a grey area around ROI. What do you actually get at the end of a campaign and how do you articulate that value to the client?

Seth: With influencer marketing, in terms of ROI, we’re at first base. The whole notion of influencer marketing has been around forever, but a few years ago, we just had a basic understanding of what performed well based on number of impressions and engagement and that basic stage is missing in influencer marketing.

Nicola: There is research out there from 2014 that showed that for every media dollar spent against an influencer marketing campaign, brands receive a return of $6.85 in regards to ROI. I think that there is a monetary value and this is an issue that our industry has been struggling with. When you go back to a brand and say you don’t really know if it impacted sales, I think we’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle. As an industry, it’s something that we really need to wrap our heads around and address.

Lynzee: Beyond followers and impressions and engagement, we like to say that it really just depends on what the client is looking for. Anything that helps them at the end of the day is great for them. Anything that we are exceeding their expectations with, we’re winning. It goes beyond the numbers.

Question 5: Do you ever tell your client that you do not have the reasons why, all you know is that now people know about your brand? Do you ever go against the data? Do you ever challenge the data or defend it? Or is it always about matching the numbers?

Seth: 80% of those conversations, I had in my mind. I had one this morning where I thought about handing back a check. Most of those conversations happen up here but did not actually happen, so it’s still about proving the value.

Nicola: There are ways to track what you are talking about. The piece that is missing is the “so what?”. A million people think your brand is cool, but does that translate into sales? If the answer is no or you aren’t sure, that is the missing point.

Lynzee: It’s about bringing positive light to different things, so maybe the campaign didn’t go as well as you thought it was going to, but it got all these people talking about your brand and making comments with intent to purchase.

Question 6: What’s working really well? What was a good campaign and what was a bad campaign?

Lynzee: What works really well is when we are really collaborate with the client. That involves going back all the time to get the perfect influencer and making sure the brand is helping us pick them. Find the happy medium and an influencer who has a bit of everything you need.

Nicola: The best scenarios are when brands go into it with an open mind. If you are trying to force a conversation to a community that it doesn’t make sense for, you will absolutely fail. The worst thing you can do is try to pay your influencer to do something they don’t want to do or are not passionate about. People do not see these influencers as separate, they see them as peers. They talk about influencers as if they are best friends with them. 

James: I have a 14 year-old in my house and I literally live this. She knows every place, where they all drink coffee, so it can be an unfair advantage. You need to get you one!

Seth: Success is almost pre-determined before the campaign starts. You have to decide what the goal is and it depends on the brand.

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Question 7: What is the one thing that frustrates you and you wish that your clients would get?

Seth: I have to remind myself that the value of influencer marketing is dollar for dollar and is arguably a superior way for brands to get their message out and amplify it. You reach a message from one person and it goes out to millions of people who then share it and you keep getting the amplification of peer to peer to peer.

Nicola: If you come from traditional marketing space expecting these guys to be actors and expecting to dictate the way things should be, this is not the space for you. The traditional way of approaching these spaces is no longer valid.

Lynzee: I won’t say budget because that must be everyone’s answer, but I wish clients knew that these things take time. You can’t give us a week to find 8 influencers and have them do all these things. I can’t ask an influencer to disrupt their content calendar for your couple of blog posts within a week. Clients or brands wants their stuff done too and they don’t have time either. It’s push and pull.

Question 8: Are there any platforms that you think are up-and-coming?

Seth: Brands look to Twitter for the immediate response and what’s trending so it works for specific messaging. Even though Facebook may get greater engagement it will take a few days for the engagement to build. Twitter is more immediate.

Nicola: As far as platforms go, you should be thinking about that strategically up front before you figure our who your influencers are. On the younger end, Snapchat and Vine are huge. Watch the messaging app space which is exploding, especially as we talk about teens and young millennials.

Lynzee: Messaging apps are something to look at as well as video and live-streaming apps, which are going to be massive in the upcoming year.

James: You need a 14 year old, folks.

This concludes the event recap. Can’t forget to thank Christophe’s To Go and Atlanta Tech Village!

Blog post by Melanie Charyton, Communications Coordinator at the Georgia Restaurant Association