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influencer marketing

We all know the power of moms and their ability to change the world we live in on a day-to-day basis, but did you know moms are now changing the world through social media?

A recent survey conducted by Burst Media sought to uncover deeper insights regarding audience interaction and uses with social media, as well as how blogs and bloggers can influence the purchasing decisions made by their readers.  The survey found that not only are moms highly active with social media; they also have the largest presence throughout the social web.

Three out of five moms visit their favorite social media sites at least a few times throughout any given day.  Moms are now engaging with family and friends through social media more than ever.

When it comes to “liking” or following their favorite content on social media, the survey showed that moms are the heaviest users of this feature with 70.6% frequently or occasionally liking a brand or product. So, what is the reason for such high numbers? Moms use this feature to gather and share content with their family and friends. They also want to be heard by the brand; therefore 33.3% say they follow brands on social media to share their opinions or comments towards the content.

With such strong statistics showing mom interaction with social media, it should come as no surprise to you that 3 out of 4 moms, or 74.4%, of moms who follow blogs say the mention or promotion of a brand within the context of a blog influences their purchasing decisions.

Moms and their opinions are now more valuable than ever to any given brand. This survey brings a new meaning to the saying, “Mom approved”.

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Research continues to tell us we’re in the golden age of digital media. The brands that reap the benefits understand how to create knock-your-socks off content and stories, engage relevant influencers to share their stories, and nurture the fans they accrue.

However there are still a lot of questions around the right way for brands to approach and engage influencers, and what success looks like.

The tech industry has had some very valuable conversations throughout the last two decades about CRM [customer relationship management], but not about IRM [influencer relationship management].

Call us old fashioned but we believe there’s a right way and a wrong way to engage influencers, and we feel Emily Post is on our side here. Below are nine tips we feel will set you in the right direction on your influencer relationship management journey.

Nine tips to engage influencers:

 1. If you see Oprah at Starbucks, stay cool.

In the off chance that Oprah is hanging out at your neighborhood Starbucks in an intimate conversation with Stedman or Gayle, would you interrupt her latte to tell her about your new product that would just be perfect on the O’s favorite things list? We hope not because we fear you’d experience the wrath of Oprah, the most famous influencer in the world who values her privacy. While we might be eager to get in front of the right people, respecting the privacy of the right people is really important.

2. Engagements should be channel specific.

In light of tip number one, if you do approach Oprah in the right venue and she does like your product it is highly likely she will have a special channel in mind. She probably won’t want to share this on her personal Facebook page. Brands need to be mindful that influencers don’t necessarily want to share specific pieces of content in all channels. We need to respect their privacy and the channels that aren’t relevant to us.

3. When in Rome.

They say when in Rome, do as the Romans. If your influencers are brewery officionados, engage them at or about their favorite local brewery. Go where they hang out, and speak their language. Spend the time to do your homework, and show them you’ve done your research. Rather than doing 20 one size fits all letters, you’ll write one strong letter, or have one meeting and get some powerful results.

4. Take your time.

Relationships–solid ones–can take years to build. Create a rolodex of these influencers and don’t just learn their area of expertise, but understand who they are on a personal level. Today the first step to learning about your contact is some initial Googling. It’s very easy, and incredibly critical.

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5. Don’t only target the most popular influencers.

Many times the second tier of influencers will be just as or equally powerful as the first tier of influencers. They’ll also be more responsive to your request. Many times the most powerful influencers have the least amount of time, and won’t work as hard on your campaign as the mid-tier influencers who are grateful you reached out to them.

6. Make it about them.

If you’re writing an email or making a cold call, your first few sentences should focus on the influencer. Don’t spend the first portion of your outreach on what your brand sells. On that note, if you listen more than you talk, you’re different than everyone else.

7. Nurture your relationships with your influencers.

Your influence shouldn’t only consist of emails. Get to know influencers through phone calls, and even meals if you are in the same city. Go to meet ups, tweet ups and their events. Understand who they are on a variety of levels, not just how big their reach is and what they can do for you.

8. Less is more.

When you write an email, think about how much content you want to read. Do you like lengthy paragraphs, or do you prefer to read small chunks of information? Think about the fact that no one ever said, wow that speech, movie, blog or contract was too short. In a time-strapped society, influencers appreciate your brevity.

9. Collaborate, don’t preach.

Often, especially when it comes to content, the influencer knows better than the brand. Co-creating collateral or content will be more powerful than if the brand were to dictate this themselves. This comes back to the power of listening.

Your relationships are everything. If you nurture your relationships, over time they will be your most competitive advantage. Get started on your IRM [influencer relationship management] today!

Linqia matches brands with influential community leaders who share authentic digital content and meaningful stories among targeted groups of people. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and YouTube.

Have you ever gone on vacation and noticed your Klout score plummet? Does that mean you are less influential than you were before you went on vacation?

Brian Solis‘ new Altimeter Report “The Rise of Digital Influence” shares that current influencer metric platforms reward the individuals who are not necessarily the most influential.

Solis says that these influencer programs are not a true measure of influence because those who don’t game the system end up getting written out of it [eg taking a vacation]. Currently vendors are shaping the behaviors of the people who care about the score, rather than supporting the nature of influence and groups

Klout generates its influence number via twitter [retweets and mentions], Facebook [comments, wall-posts, likes], LinkedIn [comments, likes], Foursquare [tips, to-do’s, done] and Google + [comments, reshares].

Solis says that whilethese tools are sophisticated algorithms to calculate a corresponding number, theydo not take into account all of the complexities of influence and the nature of relationships between people in social networks.”

In the real world, influential people don’t attain influence by trying to be influential. Influence is built by passion, consistency and commitment. The individual is passionate about something and they talk about it, a lot. They spend countless hours in their community. And many of the communities where one would see real influence are not included in the vendor algorithms currently.

For example, there are over fifty million groups on Facebook, two million groups on LinkedIn, one hundred thousand communities on Ning, ten million groups on Yahoo! and that doesn’t include the thousands of other platforms hosting millions of niche groups. Out of these communities, there are five to ten percent that are active and thriving. Within this five to ten percent of active communities influencers (community leaders) hold a different kind of sway with their communities. Many of the strongest relationships exist in forums or niche communities where engagement levels are incredibly high. Much higher than you would find than on a brand’s Facebook page.

When the community leader says jump, the community jumps. It’s the trust established in these private forums that show deeply engaged community members, and deeply committed influencers (who don’t have a Klout score).

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Vendors who arrived first should be recognized and applauded for the path they’ve paved. In parallel, it’s a great time to examine where we are, and where we need to be to provide the most value to the entities that want to connect with their advocates in a different way.

Consider the comments of David Armano of Edelman Digital who said in the same report, “the idea that only large networks can cause effect is a myth.”

It might take us years to move away from the language of impressions. After all they don’t always translate into achieving a company’s specific end goals of leveraging social.

As technology providers, the more we can mirror real life, the more powerful our interactions, and our understanding of our interactions online. The systems currently support the people who work on social media and work at it–but not the other passionate community leaders who are truly influential among their cause.

Did you know that 54% of women try on at least ten pairs of jeans to find even one pair that fits?

Shopping is an emotional activity for people—and shopping for that perfect pair of jeans can be a difficult task, especially for moms who want to feel comfortable in their clothes without losing their sense of style.

Levi’s took note that one jean size in no way fits all—especially for new moms—and came up with Curve ID, a way for women to build their own jeans according to their shape, a friendlier measurement to the traditional size metric.

What is Curve ID?

Meet Sarah James, a mother of two who has an engaged community who follow her blog Whoorl where she talks about everything from beauty, to food, to raising children, and more.

Sarah’s story is relevant for a few reasons.

One of them is the fact that Sarah is a mom blogger. More and more moms are building a life for themselves from their home office—where they can keep one eye on their children while pursuing their passion and earning income.

Brands like Levi’s know they need to earn trust with the Sarahs of the world through relevant individualized products, and messaging that’s pure and honest.

If you’re like me you DVR most of your favorite shows because you hate advertising. But, this piece of content that focuses on Sarah’s story I really enjoyed watching. In fact I’ve watched a few of these different Curve ID short stories.

“Content Marketing”

What Levi’s created is the opposite of what has been termed “content marketing” as defined by David Spark of Spark Media Solutions. Spark wrote in article “Why we should stop using the term ‘content marketing.”

Spark says, “There is no “marketing.” When you create content to inform and educate, you’re providing answers that may fulfill a step in the sales process, and you may be strengthening trust of your brand, but that’s true of all content…. The name ‘content marketing’ assumes a sales pitch within the content. If there was a sales pitch in the content it would be called ‘advertising.’”

Spark has a solid point. Brands need to inform, engage, entertain and inspire. All brands make themselves attractive to the community by listening and serving its community [based on the needs of the community].

When we say “community” we don’t just mean one general group. Just like the women who shop for jeans, a one size fits all approach will not work. There are hundreds of thousands of variations on community shape. Just as Levi’s did with Curve ID, content and approach should be curved according to the needs of that particular community.

How does a brand even start their thinking re: creating conversations that make sense in the Social Media space?

Two guys are standing at the water cooler on a Monday morning. Jack needs new training shoes. His Nike trainers are well over their 6 months changeover date. Next to Jack stands Pete, an avid runner, and he’s commenting on how great his third pair of ASICS Kayanos are. He wouldn’t change them for all the Power Bars in New York. Suddenly Stu (a marketer from downstairs) runs into the conversation yelling something about 15% off all BBQs at Wal-Mart for this week only. Stu blinks at them and then stares blankly. He then repeats the 15% offer. Continued silence from Jack and Pete. Jack and Pete keep talking for a while and then leave Stu, who still hasn’t clicked they are not interested.

Sadly, this is how brands have behaved since the invention of the newspaper, television and radio. With the emergence of social media this scenario is slowly changing, the communication structure is flattening and ‘engagement’ is becoming the new metric to ROI.

This post looks at the world of conversational marketing online and asks the question “How does a brand spark relevant conversations online authentically, where the conversations are already happening?” Being a part of conversations that are relevant to a brand increases engagement and interaction with that brand and is the new marketing nirvana that can lead to increased sales. But how do brands achieve this beyond the banner (widget or VDO unit) and into the conversation?

We first need to start with a simple 3 step process where brands 1) listen 2) engage 3) monitor.

Listening & monitoring. It would be hard not to notice the endless hype around twitter, facebook and a host of other platforms. With over 2,000 social networks, 160 million groups and 750 million people globally engaging in some kind of conversation, brands are listening to what is being said about their products, services, competitors and future offerings through monitoring tools (see 20 top buzz monitoring tools).

Engaging means brands for the very first time are experimenting with sparing conversations amongst pockets of interested and diverse groups of people. The results are organic and eye opening for many. Leading brands such as Nestle, Virgin, McDonalds & evening highly controversial tobacco companies have the approach of ‘test and learn’. Traditionally, brands would engage market research firms and spend countless months and extremely high budgets to ask people all sorts of questions. The outcome? Sterile and, in most cases, totally ineffective.

To work through a real example of your brand and see how you would approach a conversation using Social Media, you need to start from a place of knowing who you are ‘Who are you? = Brand’ + ‘What do you stand for = Brand pillars’

The next step is to expand out into what type of positive conversation you intend to engage in.Think of the types of positive conversations you have day to day.There are many elements to them, and in general, they have one or all of the following broad elements:

1.They make me laugh = Entertain

2.They tell me something I didn’t know before = Inform

3.They open my eyes that little bit more because of the opportunity/possibility they communicate = Inspire

4.They give me an added boost and make me feel good in what I am doing = Encourage and Support

Of course, there are many other elements in conversation, however these are typically negative and do not create a YES + AND conversational space where people want to contribute and grow.

The BIGGEST and best point to keep in mind is this:Picture you are the conversation you want to have and you are at a dinner party with a table of strangers.If you are tasked with engaging the people around the table, how would you normally do this?Before you say ‘I am going to say it like this or offer them this’ think about yourself at the dinner party again and ask ‘What reaction would I likely receive if I was to do/say that in the real world’.Now multiply that reaction by a million (as this is the online world) and then decide if you still want to share/converse as you had planned, or if you will try a different approach.

There are some gems in the 95 Theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto to assist in this thinking process. While we won’t list them all, here are the most relevant to keep in mind as you work through this exercise:

1. Markets are conversations.

2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.

14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.

15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.

21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.

34. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.

38. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.

And so, what might the outcome look like? Well, taking the above framework in mind, we undertook this approach for a brand you may know, IKEA. The following questions lead us to the diagram below. It is merely one possible outcome, however it ended with a framework of online conversational starters and approaches that would be at least authentic for the brand.

Key questions to ask:

1. Who am I? Your brand. The central point you want to converse about

2. What do stand for? What does your brand have a right to talk about? IKEA and DIY = yes. IKEA and None of your friends will have this = No.

3. How can I share this to…? Choose the type of positive conversation that you want to have. Think about your conversational objectives. Where do you want the person you are conversing with to be because of the conversation? i.e. happier, better informed, inspired, encouraged?

4. What elements do I share to spark and maintain this? The right digital elements to share and support this conversation need to be thought about. It does not necessarily need to be a full blown widget, it could be as simple as a series of images, some text and a link (it is most likely NOT a banner ad though).

5. What would I say to kick this off? What is the ice breaker? What do you say first? How can you start this in a way which is the most engaging and creates the most open space for discourse?

The only thing now is….how do you find and reach into the right spaces online to have this conversations?! That will need to wait until our next post. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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Linqia works with leading global brands to drive social media marketing results through an online marketplace by connecting brands deep into the conversations of online groups and social networks.

This article was co-authored by Maria Sipka (Founder and CEO of Linqia.com) and Piero Poli (VP of Business Development and Strategy at Linqia.com)

The Joneses movie with Demi Moore and David Duchovny is a shocking portrayal of the extent brands will go to influence and manipulate unsuspecting people into buying their products.

The Joneses portrays a fake picture perfect family where each member of the ‘unit’ is super cool, attractive and aspirational to others. The family relocates to a strategically important suburb (as identified by the company representing the brands) and slowly start to infiltrate its core society. They target the most influential and vulnerable people who are ‘suckers for keeping up with the Joneses’ – monitoring the increase of sales through an online dashboard. It’s fake. It’s a game.

The questions is. Do brands deploy these tactics in real life? The simple answer is yes. For decades, famous sports people, movie stars, news anchors and professionals have received sponsorships paid in cash and/or free products to be seen and talked about. Sitcoms, documentaries and movies are laden with product placements. Essentially people and spaces that attract attention have been interfered with commercial influences.

Today, there’s a plethora of word-of-mouth and viral platforms/ applications targeting influential consumers who may not necessarily be celebrities but have significant followings on their twitter, blog and social networking profiles.

Is it wrong to influence people for commercial gain? Only when the intention is to deceive or hide the underlying motivations – such as in the case of the Joneses which has you cringing throughout the film in the lead up to when their disguise is eventually unveiled. It’s at this point that the community or individuals become bitter, cheated and angry.

The reality of the matter is that friends don’t like to be sold too or influenced in an inauthentic way. There must exist transparency so people at least have a choice to engage or not – such as the case with the neighbor selling beauty products.