Brand Checklist: Working with Social Influencers

Grow Your fashion brand influencers

Influencers is a word that seems to be used all too often. At it’s most basic, it is a word that defines a celebrity, journalist, advocate, social media “star”, or anyone who’s thoughts and opinions have a strong impact on the people who follow them.Working with influencers to grow awareness of your fashion brand can be a great strategy. But first, you have to identify them.

The biggest thing to remember is that it isn’t just the number of followers a person has that characterizes them as an influencer. It’s typically that they are an expert in a subject matter in some capacity.

Whether you’re a startup or an established brand, it’s important to have some set parameters when working with influencers for a program. This helps to avoid issues when it comes to relevance and authenticity of content and ensuring the brand and influencer will work well together.

Here’s Your Checklist for Working with Influencers to Grow Your Fashion Brand

  1. Start with a lot of research: Check their background, check their current posts. What are they saying, how are they saying it? Do they engage with their following or do they delete comments they don’t like? Do they have an email signup on their website– then sign up. Are they on the platforms that you have seen the most traction for your brand? How often do they post? You cannot do too much research.
  2. Make sure they are on-brand: Do they have the same vibe as your brand? Is their tone complementary to yours? How do they communicate?
  3. They are still using their voice: While it’s important that their tone is complementary to yours, you also want to make sure that they still have their own voice. You want to make sure that don’t ever compromise their own brand in order to make money.
  4. Who are they working with already: Check to see that the influencer isn’t working with your direct competitors recently (at least in the last year).
  5. Are they too obvious: Meaning, often, once an influencer becomes more famous he/she may start saturating their content creation with sponsored stuff. When this happens, they often lose the respect of their following. So it’s good to check if they are still doing original content and sponsored posts are not their primary source of content.
  6. Give ideas: Some influencers (especially celebrities) may be great at what they do, but not so great at coming up with ideas for sponsored content. Don’t be afraid to give them a nudge towards what they could do, so when they create an Instagram post, it doesn’t seem like a blatant ad.
  7. Lay out the terms: Be sure you have stated everything that you want done in the collaboration upfront, including the number of social media posts per channel. How many blog posts you get, whether you’re included in any emails, etc. Also make sure that your brand can utilize their name and the content they create throughout owned, earned, and paid media. Don’t make any assumptions.

The last thing your brand wants is to be associated with sponsored content that isn’t original and valuable. So take the time and follow the list.

This post was originally written for startup fashion. 

 

Invest in Great Content

Content takes many shapes and forms these days. It can exist in as small as a tweet, to a Snapchat video, to website copy, to a whitepaper. Every brand has different formats and types that work best for them and their audiences in order to reach their marketing and business objectives. However, does a brand always have to invest in creating content themselves? Not necessarily.

Content sourcing for supplemental content is smart and it’s to a brand’s advantage when done well. But what type of supplemental content is right for your brand? That’s the answer you need to determine based on the following criteria:

Gain new audiences

Rather than using paid social or paid media to target new audiences, it helps to find different ways to reach those audiences. For example, partner with other brands/publishers or influencers in the categorical space to create content.

  • Partner with a Brand/Publisher – These days there are so many content houses ruling the content space. They are creating content every minute of every hour in every category – from NY Times to Mashable to Techcrunch to Refinery29 to Vogue. And they have the eyeballs already. These publishing houses are partnering with brands to create content in order to allow access to their audiences – for a cost of course. The difference is, it’s more natural to read an article in Refinery29 that was done through a partnership than check out a banner ad. People are more willing to share this article with their friends and family, too.
  • Partner with Influencers – From the bloggers like Cupcakes and Cashmere to the YouTube stars like Jacklyn Hill to many more…influencers are all around us. They can be bloggers, video stars, journalists, food Instagrammers, or a reputable advocate who has a large voice on Twitter. They aren’t one size fits all, and it takes time to find the right one for your brand (or the right ones). The key is to work with the influencer from discovery through execution. You want to ensure they understand your brand, your product/service, and what your objective is. But be sure that you don’t keep the reigns too tight. Let the influencer keep their voice and allow them to create the content in a way that is going to resonate with their audiences.

Create different content formats

Sometimes your brand doesn’t have the resources or talent to create a type of content – such as Vine videos. Why waste the effort when you can outsource to an expert who can do it much faster…and better. There are three ways to go about this.

1) Have the expert use their name as the creator and let it be in their voice/tone/way. That way you can also gain new audiences and a new format for your brand.

2) Let them ghost-create the content for your brand in your brand’s voice/tone so you have more content in your arsenal.

3) Co-create it so you have it in your tone/voice but also in a way that allows the creator’s name/voice to be shown. And in this case you both can distribute/promote it.

Content…is costly. But it shouldn’t always have to be done by your brand in-house. The best part is when you do co-create and/or create supplemental content through third party resources you create an advantage for your brand.  An advantage of being cutting edge and innovative.

This post was originally written for Socialnomics.

Part 1: Courting your Brand’s Advocates

brand advocates

A brand advocate is a coveted individual when it comes to brand marketing, especially in the digital media space.

A brand advocate is someone who loves your brand and will support it through multiple phases, including but not limited to loyalty in purchase, word of mouth, sharing on social, and encouraging friends and family to convert too.

A brand advocate is someone you want by your side. It’s a relationship you want to continue to grow and evolve; it’s someone you hope to have in your brand’s life for a long time. This may sound like someone you’re dating, and in truth, it can be quite similar.

It’s a relationship. And good relationships require love and care, loyalty and passion.

That’s great and all, but how exactly do you obtain a brand advocate? How do you find this person or people who not only love your brand but also can’t wait to tell the world about how much they love it?

The Courting Process:

Give Them a Reason to Believe

You need to get good at sharing the purpose and values behind your brand. When you do this, people start to notice. It’s not until a customer or collaborator feels connected to your purpose and values, that they will become true brand advocates. Without that connection, you’re just a brand making more stuff.

Flirt with Them and Show Them All Your Good Sides

What is your business really like? How is it run? What do you make? How do you make it? Become very transparent in what your business does. Let them in.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Wrong

Never be afraid to let your brand be itself and when something goes wrong or isn’t perfect, say so.  This sort of honesty is what meaningful relationships are built on.

Reward Them When They Deserve It

Recognize your customers’ loyalty. Re-gram them, send them discount codes, invite them to events (not via a group email!). Do what you can to make sure that your brand is associated with personalized attention.

Surprise Them When They Least Expect It

Everyone loves a little surprise now and then. Get creative and find ways to put smiles on their faces. It doesn’t have to be free product, it can simply be a something thoughtful that you do to show that you’re paying attention.

Maintain the Flirtation and Build It Into a True Two Way Relationship

Don’t get lazy- that’s a relationship killer if there ever was one. Continue to make sure that they know you appreciate them.

Let Them Come to You

Don’t get pushy and be all like, “Do you wanna be my brand advocate?” after just a few interactions.  No one likes a brand that feels needy.

Continue the Conversation Where They Appreciate It Most

As you work to build these relationships, show them how proud you are to have them as customers. Use social media (where they are) to amplify the relationship in a way that makes them feel like they’re something extra awesome.

This courting process is the basis for creating a brand that attracts real and true advocates.

But listen, there will be tough times. Let me tell you little story…

A brand I once worked on had decreased the availability of a product line thinking it wasn’t a favorite and there were other varieties that were performing better in the market. But of course, the brand advocates who had loved that specific product were outraged. They took to the streets – aka social media – and ranted about their long lost love. They wanted their product back, and they weren’t going quietly. Luckily the brand thought quick on its feet and discussed how to bring the advocates back to the good side. They sent through some extra special care packages to a few of the folks and promised to reconsider the sale of the product in the upcoming year. It wasn’t a permanent solution but it was a good temporary solve until the brand could decide the worth of definitely bringing back the product or not. The lesson here:

CLICK TO TWEET

 Remember, these are brand advocates, not well known influencers.  These are real customers who you haven’t paid (they don’t want your money, they want to be a part of what you’re creating!). They are the most valuable people to have on your side so do what you can to keep them there. 

Once you have them, don’t let them go. Instead use them and amplify their voices as part of your brand. How do we do that? Stay tuned and we’ll discuss some examples in my next article.

This post was originally written for Startup Fashion. Read more here!

5 Simple Yet Effective Ways to Promote Your Brand’s Blog

 

Having a blog is awesome. Promoting it’s content is even more awesome, if done well. The below list addresses simple but effective ways for your content distribution strategy.

1. Share, share, share – It seems self-explanatory to say share your blog across your social channels. However, it’s not just about sharing, but it’s about the way you share. Ensure your blog is baked into your social content strategy for weekly and monthly cadence opportunities. Leverage pop culture opportunities to boost the presence of your blog’s content into relevant conversations. And of course, ensure that the blog link is easily available within your bios or social posts.
Example: Equinox blog and their Instagram Account.
unnamed
2. Sign ups on your website – The best way to increase referral traffic to your website and blog are by having the two within the same domain. Even if you have a blog hosted on tumblr, you can still have it within your domain too. So when you ask your consumers to sign up for your blog, not only are you getting your blog out to more people, but you’re collecting leads for your brand as a whole.
3. Email and newsletters – Just like you want to ensure you are promoting the awareness of your social channels within emails or newsletters, you want to do the same for you blog. Perhaps the content from your blog is the primary content within your weekly/daily emails. This allows for people to see your brand as not just another brand, but a content source for information, tips, news, and more.
4. Cross promote – Your brand most likely has some partnerships – whether it’s for the brand as a whole or content partnerships. Use those to help cross promote content for them, and in turn for you. It allows your content to get in front of extra eyeballs and hopefully traffic back to you on a regular basis.
5. Guest bloggers – You never have to create all the content on your own. And when you decide to allow guest “expert” bloggers to take a stab at your content – it not only allows extra voices, but a another way to engage new audiences. Not only will these bloggers be writing for you, but they’ll [hopefully] be promoting their pieces on social media and on their own blog. This allows for extra “free” promotion, and in turn traffic to your blog content.
What other ways does your brand like to share?

This post was origially written for social media club – see more here:  http://socialmediaclub.org/blogs/from-the-clubhouse/5-simple-yet-effective-ways-promote-brands-blog#sthash.55kCuOpZ.dpuf

 

Instagram: Contests that Work

Instagram, the ever popular mobile app allows brands, influencers, and consumers to share and unveil their visual stories. Brands tease products, show insider stories on the development of campaigns. Influencers are tapped to help unveil new releases, do giveaways, and/or help promote the brand in unique and fun ways. Consumers – well consumers are doing whatever they want. They show their daily lives, a sneak peek into what makes them who they are, and the brands they choose to connect with.
And one thing, consumers seem to love on Instagram are contests. But here’s the thing, contests need to be simple, easy to complete via mobile, and not time consuming in order for consumers to participate.

A few simple contest methods that work:

1. Upload Photo and Tag with hashtag
2. Like and Comment on Post
3. Repost Image with Hashtag
4. Like and Tag Others

Make it cooler by:

1. Incorporating both brand, influencer and UGC elements. For example, allow an influencer the reins to your instagram handle for a day. Especially when it’s someone attractive (yes, really) people flock to the handle to check out what they have to say and what they post.
2. Giving a fan the chance to be featured is always fun for the consumer
3. Doing the contest around a special time of year, event, and/or tv show to boast the type

One contest that consumers could do without:

The Loop giveaway – This contests typically involves several steps including but not limited to:
1. Liking the photo of an influencer.
2. Answered a question in the comments.
3. Clicking on the next influencer tagged in the photo.
4. Repeating Steps 1 – 3 with that said influencer.
5. Repeating this several times (potentially up 25 or 30 times) until you are brought back to the original influencer you started with.
Who has time for that? I was dismayed the first time I attempted this because I thought the giveaway was cool. After going through 3-4 rounds of the above, I gave up and walked away. If it takes more than 90 seconds to enter a contest, I’m out. There are two things that work when it comes to contest on Instagram – simple and creative/fun. If it’s not that, then don’t waste your time brands!

Cool vendor to consider:

Offerpop is a great partner that helps brands have a contest across social channels and site experiences. It allows the contests to go beyond the instagram interface. For example, people can enter a contest simply by uploading a photo through instagram (or channel of choice) and tagging appropriately with a particular hashtag and they’re entered. Then those entries can but thrown together in one place for all consumers to see and/or vote on for a second layer to the contest. I particularly like the example offerpop did with the Colts here because it involves puppies. Puppies always win. We know this.
Photo Sources: Firebellymarketing; scottgombar
This post was originally written for Socialnomics. 

How to Avoid: The Pitfalls of Influencer Marketing

Note: This post was originally written for iMedia Connection.

In many ways, influencer marketing is still a shiny object for brands and marketers. It can mean more eyeballs on your content, more engagement with your brand, and ideally, the conversion of viewers/readers into advocates and loyal customers. But that’s only if it’s done right.

You could score the best brand fit out there, and the most renowned name for your particular campaign. You could check off every box on your targeting and distribution strategy. But there’s one crucial, mistaken assumption that much of our industry is still making: your influencer may be great at his or her day job — but do they know how to tell a story with your brand’s product or service?

Not necessarily. For all the planning that brands and agencies do, the true checklist involves one main asset: relevant stories.

Influencers should be contextual marketers

Let’s say that your influencer of choice is an actress. She has a large audience who follows her from every step on the street to each post on Instagram. Her fans are excited to see and live through her experiences. They’re enchanted by her vacations, the outfits she wears — how she is the way she is. Then one Tuesday, the audiences check their Instagram feeds to find a random product snapshot of some everyday item. It has no context, no rhyme or reason to be in her feed. And it’s a blatant advertisement rather than being relevant to her regular content, persona, and audience.

Our job as marketers is to ensure that the talent that we work with understands how to be contextual marketers. The products that they promote should become a part of their experiences — not just a snapshot of soap or orange juice on a counter. Ultimately, no matter how popular your influencer is otherwise, when fans feel like they’re just being fed ads in their feeds, they lash out — both against the talent and the brand. Both sides risk alienating fans and losing credibility. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Instead, brands should work with these partners to dig deeper; to help create a relevant storyline around their products and services. One of my favorite examples is when Aimee Song, also known as Song of Style to the fashion obsessed, partnered with 7 for All Mankind. The brand sent her on a trip to Catalina Island, where she blogged about styling the brand’s denim through her adventures, and shared pictures across her social channels. It was authentic because she showed why she paired certain outfits together, and during what occasions. The product(s) were a part of her experiences, not just a random post, or promotional tweet.

This partnership also felt natural because there seemed to be a clear understanding of Aimee’s audience. Marketers can’t help influencers create truly relevant stories unless they understand their community. Does their audience engage more with experience storylines? Would they be responsive to instructional content (i.e., showing them how to use a specific product or service, and the benefits of it)? And hopefully you’ll have done your homework on this question before signing any contracts, but will exposure to their audience benefit your brand? If it’s a community that’s not in your target market and won’t help any of your marketing goals, find someone else who will.

Ultimately, when done well, influencer marketing has the power to yield timely, compelling content to a fandom that’s eager to engage. Take the time and do the work upfront with your talent to ensure a great experience for them, your brand, and the audience. With the exception of some seasoned pros, simply asking them to tweet or post about your product will get you nowhere — and even with the former, you still need to make sure that you’re in alignment. If done correctly, not only will the audience respond, but you may just turn said influencer into a long-term brand champion.

Image source: Instagram 

Monetizing your Brand through Storytelling App Instagram

Instagram is a fun, visual, and engaging channel for brands, influencers, and consumers. People love posting photos of their meals, outfits, pets, vacations, so on and so forth.Brands can take advantage of Instagram by focusing on people’s passion points and what evokes emotion from them each day. For example fashion brands can easily upload photos of their upcoming lines, models wearing their latest and greatest, influencers wearing their exclusive garb on their vacations, etc.

So you get followers, got it. You get likes and comments. Awesome. But what about selling your products? You can do that too – really. Instagram has become another avenue for referral traffic to your brand site, consumer products, and direct purchase.

3 ways to monetize your brand through Instagram:

Keep it Simple: Sometimes it’s easier just to provide a link to your blog and/or product link for consumers to find the item they want with one action. Why make it harder through re-directing a few different times. Tip – you cannot actually “click” on the link. Someone will have to re-enter the link on their browser. But for now, it will do. Instagram, are you listening?

Brand Example: Nordstrom – They do a great job of giving you the item reference # so you can find the exact item on their site with less searching. Great way to get around the current roadblock.

 

Use Influencers: There is a plethora of instagram influencers who are probably already posting your products or like-minded photos. For example bloggers like Daniela Ramirez or better known as @nanysklozet on Instagram is constantly posting about what she wears, how she wears it, and what’s in her “klozet.” It gives her followers ideas on what brands are great to purchase from and why it rocks. She will post links to the items on her blog, so she’s creating referral traffic for the brands not only from her instagram account through branded hashtags, but also through her style blog. Double the score.

There’s an App for That: The tough thing  as mentioned above, is when you provide a link, no one can click through the app currently. However there are workarounds such asLike To Know It  which allows influencers to post a direct link for purchase of the item they’re promoting. Additionally, it allows consumers to find that specific item without hunting, and/or similar products to what they saw on the app. For example, perhaps that pair of shoes was a tad too pricey, maybe there’s a more attainable pair you can purchase with the same look. Why is an app like this important for both influencers and brands? Because it’s a direct path to purchase for consumers who want what the influencers have. They want it right then and there. So let them have it at their fingertips.

Infuencer Example: Aimee Song (@Songofstyle) uses Like to Know it!

Alternatively, if Like to Know It is too complicated with Reward Style (invite-only) registration, services like Soldsie and Chirpify allow for quick and instant transactions through the comments feed (utilizing action words and hashtags).

Bonus Tip – If you only post the photo and no way for them to find out about how to get it, they’ll lose interest in the brand (especially if the brand doesn’t respond). Provide a relevant brand hashtag, a link to the item they are coveting, and/or tease them until it’s available. Sneak peeks are a great way to entice a frenzy at launch. Just look at SJP Collection as an example with their exclusive launch through Nordstrom.

 

Questions on how to use instagram for your brand? Reach out in the comments below!

This post was originally written for Socialnomics and can also be found here.

Photo Creds:

http://instagram.com/nordstrom
http://instagram.com/nanysklozet
http://instagram.com/songofstyle
http://instagram.com/sjpcollection
http://liketoknow.it/

Five Tips to Building your Band of Brand Loyalists

It’s easy to find someone to sponsor your brand and your brand content, but to find someone who will do it without a paycheck, now that’s when you’re in the loyalist category. Loyalists are excited about news from the brand, new content put out, they follow them on social channels, they are advocates on behalf of the brand, and they are current customers. They’re the ones you can count on when shit hits the fan, and some mishap happens, or the brand is being bashed for something that was misunderstood by others. Those loyalists will speak up, they will stand behind the brand, and they will continue to be a customer. In turn, those loyalists will inspire others to consider the brand. Or at minimum, create some awareness that “this brand” is worth checking out.

So how do you create brand loyalists? There is no “follow this checklist” and you’ll have a band of loyalists at your door. It takes time, and it takes effort, and it’s different for each brand. However, there are some things that are important for each brand to consider as they figure out what works best for them.

Here’s a quick list to have in your back pocket at all times (but please don’t be fooled by the word, quick):

1. Transparency - Be transparent and honest about your brand. Either way the consumers will find out the truth, so why not tell it yourself. Brands like Toms may have it easy as their stories inspire others to act, give back, and truly love the brand. Others have it harder, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to tell your story in a way that impacts and connects others.

2. Have the best customer service ever - Customer service can make or break many customer relationships. Brands like Amazon have impeccable customer service to a point that they don’t question when something is wrong, but aim to fix the problem swiftly and make up for it. I remember one time when an item I purchased was delivered to the wrong location, I was so disappointed. Within 12 hours, it was in my hands due to their customer service help. Impressive.

3. Create Connections that Make an Impact - Customers don’t want to be treated as “just another wallet to take from.” They want to be appreciated. It can be as small as remembering their name when they walk into a store, or reaching out to them via a Tweet to say thank you. Nordstrom does a great job at this, when they say thank you whenever their mentioned by their followers on Twitter. It’s a small token, but it’s appreciated nonetheless. Whatever the effort, the effort is worth it to make a connection with your customers.

4. Give Value through Content - Providing value is a key component for any brand. Content is one way to go about that. For example, IBM has over 5 unique tumblr blogs, where they pump out different content on a daily or weekly basis. They are keeping their customers hungry for more – through consistent, quality, and fun content. It’s educational and entertaining – which is no easy feat! Take pointers.

5. Always be there - Your customers aren’t going to go to your website to see what you’re up to (at least not regularly). So be where they are. Be where they with thoughtful value and appreciation for their time. Provide them with content they want, customer service they deserve, a please and a thank you. And having a sale on your products, doesn’t hurt either!

In short, relationships that brands have with consumers are much like regular relationships. They take time to build, and can end quickly. Take the time to build a trustworthy one with true honesty/transparency, keeping in touch, being emotional, and offering true value. With time, that relationship will blossom and become amazing. Some will last a lifetime, others will fade. In the end, it’s better to have build some that lasted a few months than none at all.

This post was originally written for Socialnomics and my full post can also be found here. Thanks!

How to: Treat Your Social Media Fans Like Individuals

social media fans feel special

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers of followers, fans, and subscribers we have on our brands’ social media platforms. The numbers do matter; they help us communicate with more of our audience, and reach their friends and family too. But one thing you need to remember, despite how many fans you have – is not to forget the individual fan.

Each fan counts.

Here are a few ways your brand can help your social media fans feel special, and not just another number on your analytics page…

Respond to comments and questions in real time – This is the number one thing I look for in brands when I communicate with them, mention them in a post, or ask a question on a social channel. I look for some sort of validation that they’re listening to me as their fan.

For example, when I mention Nordstrom or Athleta on instagram, tumblr or twitter – I receive a mention back within hours. It’s usually a “thanks so much” and sometimes has a clever response and commenting on how great I am. What fan doesn’t love a little appreciation? In short, take time each day to appreciate your fans and respond back – even if it’s just to say “Thanks.”

Be yourself- Let your brand’s personality come through.  Don’t be afraid to show who you are as a brand.  This makes makes your ans feel that they know you, like they’re your friend.

To check out my third and bonus tip on how to treat your fans special and as unique individuals, check out my original post on Startup Fashion

Three Tips to Reach your Brand Influencers on Twitter

 

Twitter Influencers

Twitter is not only a great channel to consumer news and publish content, but a tool in our marketing arsenal, and most of all a great way to connect with our brand’s audience and influencers in the space.

Being a brand in today’s marketing world – it’s not just about “buying fans” or hoping they’ll swing on by your website. Today we need to strategize about how to develop and cultivate relationships with those that care about our brands and those that will voice those positive opinions to their audiences as well.

Follow and Connect

First and foremost, it’s great if you can follow back those who follow you, mention you, favorite your tweets, and RT your tweets. Those are the people who care enough to be a part of your community without you asking. Follow them back and show them the “love.” Take it a step further and thank them for mentioning you or liking your brand. Those little moments of brand love can go a long way, especially when the audience members don’t expect it.

Be Proactive

Take it a step further and join the conversations that these influencers are already conversing in. Are they asking questions? Answer them with information your brand may be able to help with – and of course don’t forget to use the hashtag being used so other people can follow the conversation too.

Tip: But be careful with this.  Use discretion about which conversations to just join.  If it’s a convo between only two people, it can seem weird and stalker-y to just voice your opinion. Look for conversations that involve several people and offer information without pushing any kind of sales.

To read the last tip on how to reach your influencers, check out my full post on Startup Fashion !