Influencer-driven content marketing can be a marketer’s best friend – it’s a strategy aimed at fostering credibility, influence and, ultimately, action. “By incorporating relevant influencers that can inspire action with your content marketing efforts, you can reach new audiences with brand messages that are credible and trusted.” Yet in order to see success, you must use a two-part equation to maximizing your influencer-driven content: how you identify the influencers and how you collaborate with them.
Identifying influencers, the thoughtful way
Influencer marketing makes sense—consumers are consistently inundated with content and they don’t have enough time to act, let alone even digest, the information. Consequently, consumers rely on referrals or advice from outside sources. These sources are not related to the brands themselves and they may not even be acquaintances. They are influencers within each industry, topic of interest or community.
The ideal influencer is an expert with an audience, an individual with authority who is a trusted source for information. There are many people who are influencers and many people who are experts; but within the scope of influencer-driven marketing, the ideal candidate possesses both of these qualities.
Your ideal candidate is someone with a following in her community. This means an influencer’s reputation is nearly everything, so when asked to support a specific brand or share content, the influencer is wary at best. The influencer will consider not only whether this is something her community is interested in, but she’ll also consider her own personal brand. Is this an organic relationship? Is there genuine support for the content?
These concerns are warranted. This is why we as marketers need to choose influencers carefully and reach out to them in a thoughtful and respectful manner.
Always consider your approach from the perspective of the influencer before reaching out. This leads to the second step of the two-part equation: the type of collaborative relationship to foster with influencers.
Co-creation over crowdsourcing
Co-creation should be the end goal of collaboration with influencers. Co-creation means both shared goals and a mutual, deeper investment in the end product. Crowdsourcing is surface-level and implies an open forum where a large group of people are openly-sourced—answers, thoughts and ideas are collected and only the best are selected.
Expecting influencers—or anyone for that matter—to participate in a creative process through crowdsourcing implies that their time and ideas are not necessarily valuable, but one of many voices. By contrast, co-creation fosters a valuable relationship between the creative team and the participating influencers.
Co-creation can include a give-and-take in which influencers have more of a stake in the creation of content. Influencers are not just given credit for small insights or answer to poll question, but rather play a crucial role in the initial brainstorming, refining of concepts and eventually executing the big ideas to create problem-solving content.
The future of influencer-driven content marketing
This two-part equation for influencer-driven content marketing is a recipe for content marketing inspired by consumer generated ideas. This is how we generate genuine engagement, which yields genuine trust in brands. Powerful influencers in each community have opportunities to interact with their audience on a day-to-day basis, so why not give these same influencers the opportunity to interact with the brands also?
Rattling off the job titles “head of public relations,” “director of marketing” and “social media manager” all in a row sounds like the start of a bad “walks-into-a-bar” joke.
In all seriousness, though, if you’re wondering whether your business really needs all three teams and thus team leaders — and how they should operate — you’re not alone.
It’s no secret that the face of public relations has changed in a major way since the advent of social media, which typically falls under the larger umbrella of general marketing. So who is responsible for what? When does the PR team handle social? Does your business need a separate social media division? What’s a growing business to do?
To sort through the confusion, we’ve talked to a few experts to get their opinions and advice on the matter.
For many larger corporations, it certainly makes sense to have a full-scale marketing team, complete with a division that exclusively handles social media and at least a few positions dedicated solely to public relations. For a smaller or growing business, however, the lines are often blurred.
"It totally depends on the size and nature of the business," says Dane Atkinson, CEO ofSumAll, a social analytics tool. “In the startup world, you’re strapped for resources, and [employees] may have to wear many hats; thus small companies might not have the capacity for a full-time social media team.” Atkinson adds that each business’ target market affects the need for dedicated team members to handle social. “If you’re selling to enterprises, [expending resources on social] may not make any sense; but
if you’re selling directly to consumers, you want to be part of their direct environment
if you’re selling directly to consumers, you want to be part of their direct environment.” This is the major advantage of social for B2C companies, he explains — the opportunity for direct interaction with consumers, a real-time help desk.
Peter Friedman, chairman and CEO of LiveWorld, a social content marketing company, equates the “marketing mix” to a party, explaining that each element of the planning and execution is crucial to its overall success.
"Think of advertising as the invitations, PR as the promotion and digital as the arcade game at the entrance. But the party itself — the ambiance, the DJ, the bouncer, the guests themselves; talking to one another, dancing, forming relationships, having a great experience together — that’s social," he says.
In this regard, because social often has a different goal (and requires a different approach) than conventional PR or advertising strategies, it should typically be treated as a separate entity within a company’s marketing division. “Most social media marketing today is still traditional advertising: digital and PR broadcast messages shoved at customers through social channels. Those are all good marketing venues, but that’s not social.
To be social, you must focus on creating actual back-and-forth conversations
To be social, you must focus on creating actual back-and-forth conversationsand make them more about your customers than about your brand and products,” says Friedman.
For a small business that may lack the budget and resources for a dedicated social media team, individuals often find themselves taking on a number of roles that blend PR tactics, social media strategies and other marketing-related tasks. In this case, choosing the right talent for your growing business is crucial: You’ll want to recruit a candidate who is capable of handling this type of juggling act. “Experience counts,” says Friedman. “You want people who have demonstrated that they know [that social is] different [from traditional marketing/PR] and how to leverage those differences.”
And a structure that works for a startup with ten employees will likely require modifications as a company grows. Girish Mathrubootham, CEO of Freshdesk, a cloud-based customer support software, suggests that businesses make adjustments to roles and create teams on an as-needed basis as they scale. “While a dedicated social team isn’t essential for startups, as a business acquires customers exponentially, a social team needs to be in place to handle communication and support queries coming in via Twitter and Facebook,” he says.
"There has to be a concerted effort to ensure that social is in line with strategic objectives and other marketing activities,"
"There has to be a concerted effort to ensure that social is in line with strategic objectives and other marketing activities," says Yoav Schwartz, CEO of Uberflip, a content marketing platform. “It’s easy to get dilutive with your social media efforts if there are too many promotions happening. At the end of the day, your content, social media and paid channels have to work together. A united team means better communication, which ultimately results in a more holistic approach to all of your promotional efforts.”
Identifying clear objectives and a cohesive direction — and ensuring that all teams are aware of various projects, goals and campaigns — is key when delegating various responsibilities among social, marketing and PR teams. Your company’s social media manager needs to be kept in the loop of any upcoming events or promotions being organized by the marketing team (and vice versa). Public relations should get involved whenever a potentially brand-damaging post pops up on social. It ultimately comes down to establishing clear channels of communication — a daily or weekly team meeting or conference call (or, at the very least, an email correspondence) that keeps everyone up-to-speed is one way to promote an environment of collaboration instead of isolated confusion.
To ensure crystal-clear communication among various departments, SumAll’s Atkinson suggests at least one member of each team be present at meetings, brainstorm sessions, etc. “Someone might have a brilliant marketing idea, but if it’s impossible to execute on social media or is totally off-brand, that’s when the social team can chime in, or the idea can be reworked.” He adds that this type of collaboration works both ways. “Brand, marketing and social media can often work in tandem: If the social team sees a campaign working particularly well, that can fuel the type of content [that marketing] creates.
You can sort of think of it as three arms on the same body.
You can sort of think of it as three arms on the same body. When it’s working, all three arms are juggling the same bean bags perfectly.”
Social media has, in essence, turned traditional PR on its head. “In the past, PR was very much about controlling the message. You can’t do that [on social]; You have to embrace the dialogue and your customers as they are, then influence and guide the conversation,” says Friedman.
Because of this shift, it’s important that PR and social teams work together to establish an environment in which businesses can build relationships with brand advocates, which can be found with tools like SocialRank. Part of this process comes down to keeping a close eye on the ongoing, online conversation about your brand. There are a number of tools available to make this easier — Atkinson suggests HootSuite and Schwartz names Radian6, Sysomosand TrackMaven for larger brands — and some of these tools can actually designate specific team members to deal with certain subjects or hashtags when they come up in social mentions. In addition, all team members — PR, marketing and social — should be actively keeping an eye on industry-related keywords via notification systems such as Google Alerts.
Perhaps the biggest overlap between PR and social media comes down to customer support. A poorly executed social campaign — or even something as seemingly innocuous as a response to a customer complaint on Twitter — can easily turn into a PR nightmare. “Social media is extremely public and visible to, well, everyone! Be prepared to respond to both positive and negative feedback consistently,” says Schwartz.
There are a few ways to plan ahead for customer inquiries and feedback on social: SumAll takes the approach of dedicating a social channel specifically for customer support (@SumAllSupport). Schwartz agrees that this method may work well for larger organizations: “Someone who is trained in [customer support] can facilitate these interactions (as opposed to someone on the marketing team). Depending on the nature of the inquiry, it might be best to move the conversation to email or even phone.”
One thing that’s crucial for customer service on social: Timeliness.
One thing that’s crucial for customer service on social: Timeliness. ”When you see a request or comment come in on your social feeds, find the answer and deliver -– or reply right away letting the person know you’re looking into the issue and will DM them the solution as soon as possible,” saysMichael Litt, CEO of Vidyard, a video marketing platform. “Remember not to take for granted the amount of time you have to make an impression on social when someone wants to engage with your brand,” he says.
Another approach to online customer service that both marketing and social can have a hand in is unconventional, personalized methods of response — Litt suggests mirco-videos forVine or Twitter inquiries. “This type of response shows someone you’ll go the extra mile for them, and if you provide helpful information, your video is likely to be shared. Start with something along the lines of, ‘Hi and thanks for your question about (topic), here’s a simple way to fix this for you and anyone else with the same problem….’”
Regardless of how it’s managed, customer support — and all interactions on social — should feel sincere. “Go beyond 140 characters when you have to, and engage on a more human level using social. You’ll make a meaningful connection, and that’s the whole point,” says Litt. And that mantra rings true, whether you’re on the marketing, social media or PR team.
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