As consumers increasingly shift to social media and individual blog posts on the web to help make informed decisions about their purchases, companies and brands don't have it easy any more. With the advent of social and mobile, quick searches, social opinions, tweets, Facebook updates and LinkedIn updates have been slowly but surely wiggling its way to dominance.
Buyers are naturally resistant to advertising. They make decisions based on emotions. Most consumers are suspicious and they need social proof.
Social media gives all that, and more. About 71% of consumers are likely to buy based on social media referrals, according to social media today. Plus, businesses now have a need to be social, responsive, engaging, and almost personal.
Consumers look to each other for support, inputs, and reviews. As they keep looking, they also look for expertise, detailed research, or opinion backed by experience and skill that influencers provide on the web.
Bring an influential voice into the humdrum of social activity, and it gives birth to an entirely new way of marketing, now known as Influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing doesn't work with numbers, cash reserves, and clout. It works with creativity, social pull, and allegiance to the social way of life today.
Bloggers, online publications, and even individual companies (in some cases) rose to a state of dominance with credibility, authority, and persistently unbiased advice. In time, these turn into what we call "influencers".
They are Changelings as Kristen Mathews calls them – they have huge social followings, their word is respected, and they have opinions that can bring about change.
If brand perceptions and consumer buying decisions are influenced by, well, Influencers, then there's tons to learn from brands that do influencer marketing well.
Here are some of those:
The Word of Community Just Sells : Lord & Taylor
When a lot of people say something, it's deemed true. If it's not a marketing pitch, sales advertisement, or out-and-out hustle by a brand – and if it comes from people just like you and I – it carries enough social proof that we can't even begin to weigh in gold.
Lord & Taylor wanted to debut its Design Lab Collection. Inadvertently, it had more than 50 Influencers post Instagram pictures of their own wearing a particular dress, all on the same day (more or less).
The result: Some of these posts generated anywhere from 1000 to 13000 likes each. The dresses sold out. For Lord and Taylor, it was a successful debut.
Buick Goes The Pinterest Way
If you thought that Pinterest was just about pretty trinkets, furniture concepts, and Interior décor idea boards, you are mistaken. Buick decided to build a brand image around its encore Luxury model so it decided to run a campaign to call on a few prominent Pinterest influencers on lifestyle, food, and design.
Interestingly, there were no auto enthusiasts involved and these Pinterest influencers had interests varying from food to design. It so happens that Michael Wurm –a designer, cook, and an entertainer — happened to have the best mood board for Buick. Michael, meanwhile, had about 3.3 million followers.
Open For Business: Lyfe Kitchen
Lyfe Kitchen is a restaurant and a retail grocery business – a business that actually thrives and grows with Influencer marketing is its primary vehicle of growth. The grocer depends on word of mouth advertising through social media. The retailer sources and works with influencers in the health, sports, fitness, fashion, and even "moms" niche.
With the help of a leading PR agency, Lyfe Kitchen hosted a tasting for a national sports management company. The food was well received in the tasting and hence the sports management company talked up the brand to their clients (sports stars), and so the word spreads.
In addition, Lyfe also arranges tastings for magazine editors and bloggers which in turn leads to articles and more social buzz.
If you are wondering all that resulted in, here it goes: despite any actual advertising or traditional spend, Lyfe Kitchen's presence grew from 400 to 1400 stores in just a few months. Most of this growth is fuelled by nothing but direct requests.
Harry Potter & another 43 Wizards
I can bet that you watched the entire Harry Potter series. You must have read the books too. But did you know that out of the entire universe of Harry Potter whatever, there are just 43 influencers to drive maximum content sharing, conversations, and buzz about Harry Potter?
Bob Pearson, President of the W20 group likes to do business in the good, old traditional way. We know that passion ties in well with online communities (and offline communities too). People share, converse, and share some more in communities around things that they love. They want to be members of a community and not just sold to.
That's why Bob doesn't believe in sending out emails to the top 50 Harry Potter influencers. Instead, he wants to get them to red carpet events and actual get-togethers. While the group does use tools like Sysomos, Radian6, and Datasift, Bob still holds on to the fact that the real power in influencer marketing happens when people do all the heavy lifting of sharing content.
ASOS: Going Big On Advocacy
ASOS is a billion-dollar revenue online fashion retailer growing by 40% YoY. ASOS's marketing costs remain at a steady 5% of sales costs and a big reason for that is because of the brand's emphasis on creating advocacy among its most influential customers.
Each year, ASOS sets out to expand its social footprint, enhance social engagement, and drive web traffic through unique individual voices of the brand's influencers, fans, and customers.
In a recent campaign, according to Traackr, ASSO pulled in 3000 participants to spearhead its campaign.
More than 769 active members actively generated more than 7500 pieces of content and 200 blog posts. Each mention pushed out a positive sentiment about the brand. On Twitter and Instagram alone, the brand's reach is estimated at 12 million.
These mentions were pushed by another 600% due to the effort, and the web traffic referrals grew by 800%.
Nikon: The Incredible Shutter Buzz
Nikon needed some engagement, awareness, and to bring in some social boost. Facing tough competition, the company partnered with Michael Kempner of MWW group which in turn forged a partnership with the Warner Music Group to be Nikon's title sponsor for the SXSW Music Residency.
Not only was Nikon the title sponsor but it also happened to lend HD SLR cameras to shoot and record all the live performances over the course of the event that spans three nights. Cameras were available for people to use and that led to many attendees sharing pictures on their own personal social profiles along with the hashtag #NikonWarnerSound.
Also, leading artists also got to use the cameras along with the resident expertise from Nikon to capture and share the experiences of each artist.
More than 500,000 people watched the live event (shot with Nikon's cameras) with an average viewing time of 11 minutes and that was five times the industry average. The hashtag became the #1 trending topic on Twitter and stayed up as a top trending topic for all of those three nights.
More than 1,100 photos and 15,000 social posts were generated leading to about 46 million media impressions through coverage in leading publications. In addition to that, there were also another 166 million social impressions recorded.
Kate Spate Saturday: "Saturday Is"
When you get insights on a social network, you actually glean information that some brands can find irresistible. Impact on that social network really means business. A Cision report reveals that more than half of Pinterest users make more than 50K USD per year, and more than 81% of Pinterest users are females and millennials. Also, Pinterest is used just as much as Instagram is, for these users.
Kate Spade's sassy "Saturday" brand had just the right audience to engage with. In fact, it's a stroke of genius.
Kate Spade's Saturday Campaign was a simple one: Pinterest users were to create beautiful collections of images. They were required to create a board with the theme: "Saturday is ___"
The content that was put was nothing short of mind-blowing. The brand reached more than 1.2 million followers collectively.
Kate Spade's campaign is a simple reminder that Influencer marketing doesn't have to be complex or backed by a billion dollars and counting. It can be as simple and effective as "Saturday" campaign.
Hewlett Packard: Social Rescue
Bad times call for good Influencer marketing, and HP did just that. Controversial headlines just damaged the company's reputation and the company wanted to deliver an experience for media and influencers so that the flagging HP brand can see the light of the day again. The company wanted to reinforce the brand's commitment to the PC and the printer markets while facing stiff competition.
In partnership with Edelman, HP's marketing and PR division recruited more than 600 international media rainmakers and influencers from more than 65 different countries and invited them to the Global Influencer Summit (GIS) in Shanghai, China.
As the platform readied itself, HP unveiled more than 80 new computers and printers in what turned out to be the company's biggest product launch events in the company's history.
In tandem with the social channels, the web, and the influencers exploring HP's range of products, the brand managed to generated more than 2,500 articles reaching over 60 million readers across the region. The 2-day event drove 74,000 social conversations in Asia-Pacific. Globally, about 35 billion media impressions added to HP's benefit along with 9 million social impressions and 5,500 press mentions.
LG: YouTube Builds The Brand
It's unbelievable how powerful YouTube really is (as is Video as a marketing channel) until you know what LG did with its "seriously professional" campaign.
LG had a plan to triple the sales of its televisions and computer monitors off the $286 billion consumer electronics market in the United states. According to Media Kix, the brand approached Devin Graham (known as Devin Super Tramp on YouTube) to create a series of video content – including tutorials, reviews, and also Instagram video – to appeal to social media users who were his followers.
The LG brand managed to reach 5.4 million social media followers – many of whom were also professional graphic designers, editors, and musicians. The campaign itself generated 1.6 million video views giving LG increased exposure and plenty of buzz.
Adidas has always been known for its sassy, youth-centric products and it was no surprise that the brand decided to hit on Instagram where most of its target audience lives. With the #MyNeoShoot campaign, Adidas wanted to leverage the popularity and the potential of Instagram as a visual channel.
The brand recruited top Instagram influencers and cultivated Adidas Neo brand ambassadors. After inviting high-reach Instagram users to post some inspiring content using the hashtag #MyNeoShoot, it gave these users a chance to be selected as one of the top models for the campaign.
The #MyNeoShoot contest birthed more than 12,000 entries with 71,000 brand mentions and Adidas's Instagram page itself gained more than 41,000 followers by the time the campaign ended. Here is the detailed case-study which you must see.
More companies today are reaching out to the phenomenal impact of social media influencers, regular users, and brand ambassadors. With each social network gaining ground on its own, rising in popularity for distinct sets of users, social reach is unbeatable.
If companies exist to solve problems, influencer marketing is all about getting the word out by other people – not affiliated to the company, but have a strong platform that can make an impact – so that the world knows how well each of these businesses solves problems.
For once, companies have no power on their own. Credibility now only comes through when when claims are matched by influencer voices. When you show up within communities passionate about something, you stand to gain but everyone wins.
How do you do Influencer marketing?