Can you get your customers and fans of your brand do your marketing for you? It’s an appealing prospect and one that has been talked about for a while, but how effective is it?
‘Influencer marketing’ is hot on the lips of the industry at the moment, with start-ups galore tapping into the trend for directly engaging consumers to spread messages.
I’m keen to dispel the myth that influencer marketing is now a social media ‘smash and grab’ operation, with the sole aim of persuading influencers to flag a product to their social media followers.
Influencer marketing by numbers
It’s no surprise that the influencer marketing trend has seen huge growth in recent years, backed by a plethora of surveys and studies. Nielsen research shows that 92% of consumers say they trust word of mouth above all other forms of advertising, while the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) claims that word of mouth recommendations are a minimum of five times more effective than advertising.
Word of mouth recommendations were previously the stuff of water cooler, coffee room and school gate moments. But the increasing presence of social media in our everyday lives means there is a new platform for these recommendations, and marketers are fighting hard to maximise the opportunity this presents.
However as a relatively new phenomenon, few companies are able to harness the power of influencer marketing based on business experience as opposed to speculation and supposition. At Come Round, on the other hand, we have so far gotten our clients’ brands in the hands of over 100,000 influencers and offline consumers alike for a wide range of powerhouse brands from Lady Gaga and Doctor Who to Dyson, Birds Eye and LEGO.
Get real, THEN get social
At Come Round, the model is very simple. We put brands in the hands of relevant and influential consumers, to create a deep level brand engagement and allow them and their friends to sample and form an opinion on the product and then share that opinion as well as create unique generated content. We understand that businesses are often encouraged to hold back spending on ‘real world’ experiences in favour of purely social campaigns, but we believe strongly that nothing is more powerful than combining online and offline – physically putting your brand in the hands of a consumer and then using social media to amplify that experience.
Integrating social sharing into our model allows our influencers and their followers to share their experience online, spreading the word to their friends, consumers who have already effectively said ‘yes, I’m interested in what you have to say’. But this social content wouldn’t be possible without our ability actually to activate influencers through the tangible, real and fun experiences we have helped to create.
Know your audience
Let’s not forget that the modern consumer is super savvy. They are perfectly capable of weighing up the value of an influencer tweeting a stock PR photo of a new drink and claiming they love it (#spons) versus a picture of them having an absolute ball with their pals making cocktails at home.
Come Round campaigns take place in the home environment of influencers. They and their friends then share their experience on social media, extending the reach of the party and engaging the interest of new influencers. ‘Real life’ experiences spark a cycle of influence that continues to live on online so the benefits don’t just stop with a tweet or Facebook post.
Influencers vs advocates
Industry figures have long debated whether it’s best to focus on influencers or advocates, so we’ve carved out a unique position for ourselves by offering brands the chance to turn the former into the latter. By creating truly engaging and memorable real world experiences for influencers, they are turned into advocates.
Don’t be a commitment phobe
We are passionate about helping to create brand advocates who will spread word of mouth both online and offline about products and services on behalf of a brand because they genuinely love it. In fact, we like to think of our Come Round influencer campaigns as the start of a long term relationship between brand and consumer.
Speaking of relationships, while many influencer marketing companies operate a ‘dating style’ service in which they match brands to consumers, the Come Round team not only matches brand to influencer but they then actually design, activate and track the success of every campaign from start to finish. A real world experience is always the tasty middle filling of our three step sandwich (recruitment, in-home activation, social sharing), and it’s this central element that creates content worth sharing, liking and commenting on.
My final thought
Over the past few years it seems that tangible, in hand experiences have all too often been devalued or pitted against the perceived ‘quick win’ of social media interaction. While social media forms a vital part of our offering, we truly believe that it’s vital to take a holistic approach by combining a consumer’s online and offline experience to achieve meaningful engagement that drives action.
Giles Harris is founder of leading influencer marketing agency Come Round and was formerly Head of Business Affairs at EMI Music. www.comeround.com