Who Influences the Influencers?
A closer look at marketing through your sources of influence — a bigger community than you think.
These days, anyone can be an influencer.
And that’s a good thing for marketers.
Because when you consider that your marketing ecosystem is made up of different types of influencers, you can tap into network effects.
Influencer marketing is a form of social media marketing with endorsements and product placements from people who have influence in their field. Think: Celebrities like Chrissy Tiegen and the Kardashians. Mexican beauty blogger Yuya. Personal trainer Kayla Itsines.
Then there are micro-influencers who have up to 100,000 followers, and nano-influencers who have 1,000-10,000 followers.
If you think we’ve reached peak influencer, then consider the next layer: all the people in your audience who can amplify you.
These include the people within traditional influencers’ orbit, your social media audience, and your loyal customers.
Here’s a look at each, and how you can empower these influencers to help you drive bigger business results.
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Tap into influencers’ influences
Luxury hand sanitizer company Touchland saw celebrities like Kris Jenner, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Naomi Campbell endorse their products without their having to spend a dime on paid collaborations.
Gifting to celebrities and to their makeup artists. Here’s how you can try your own gifting strategy:
Pay attention to celebrities’ interests. Your organic product placement will have a higher likelihood of success if you send your product to a celebrity who has shown relevant interests. For instance, Touchland didn’t do a “spray and pray” launch to a bunch of random celebrities. What made their shoutout by Naomi Campbell so successful was that her airplane sanitizing routine went viral a couple years ago. Touchland’s product was top of mind for her.
Do some intel-gathering on the people who work directly with celebrities. Nutritionists, publicists, personal trainers, and more. There are many nano-influencers and micro-influencers who also do celebrity hair and makeup — people like Kat Samson, Tracey Cunningham, Natalie Castillo, and Robyn Rebbe. Consider them the next layer of influence that could help raise awareness of your product.
Use the unboxing experience to give brand education. In this organic strategy you won’t be able to control the messaging, but you can still use the opportunity to inform the gift recipient of your brand and product. Deliver a great unboxing experience using custom branded boxes, tissue, or crinkle paper. Consider an entirely customized order that goes above and beyond the traditional experience. Add products from other similar but non-competing brands that you admire. After all, it is a gift.
Finally, include a personalized card that makes it clear your product is a gift, and that also has one to two lines about who your company is, what you create, and the values you stand for.
Although you’re making the tradeoff to give up control of what these influencers say about your product, there’s likely to be more upside than downside. If they engage, the influencer will talk about your product in a way that’s authentic to them — something their fans will pick up on.
For Touchland, their gifting strategy resulted in over 2,000 collaboration requests in a single year. Plus, their organic strategy across all their social channels yielded serious ROI.
Founder and CEO Andrea Lisbona said, “When we analyzed social media conversions to determine network effects, we found an impressive word-of-mouth coefficient which resulted in one of our best channel conversion rates, at over 5%.”
Use social media to power community and social proof
It’s not just celebs who wield influence. It’s your followers, fans, and customers, too.
Look at the social media content your audience is already posting and leverage it to strengthen relationships with your would-be customers and loyal fans.
Publish user-generated content to encourage brand advocacy. Tapping into user-generated content (UGC) is one of the oldest forms of social commerce — which means it’s tried and true. A classic example is Warby Parker. They repost UGC from customers’ social posts, including their unboxing experiences, to eyeglass selfies, to fan reactions to ad campaigns.
They also ensure these posts are culturally relevant, positive, and helpful for shoppers. Their captions uplift their customers and show appreciation, while also providing the relevant information needed for anyone who’s considering buying the pictured eyeglasses.
Athletic apparel company FLEO prioritized maintaining their connection to their community early on. They integrate customers’ photos into their Instagram posts, which they balance with content from influential athletes and brands.
For mission-driven entertainment brand Rebel Girls, community is core to who they are. They go a step beyond UGC and integrate their fans, followers, and their own influences into their creative. For instance, you won’t see them simply repost a user’s content on their Instagram grid. Instead, you’ll see them incorporate users’ photos into their artwork.
When you tap into UGC, you’re encouraging followers to become brand ambassadors. Be sure to shine a light on them, show your appreciation, and be genuine.
Leverage testimonials as social proof. Positive, authentic testimonials from your customers are one of the most effective ways to replicate word of mouth at scale. Various data show up to 90% of people say that positive reviews influence their buying decisions.
You can use the positive things people say on social media (with their permission, of course!), grab highlights from the product reviews on your site, or ask customers to provide testimonials.
When you display the social proof on your site, be sure to:
Use testimonials that emphasize the value of your products.
Highlight key statements instead of showing lengthy reviews.
Add callout quotes or links to articles if you use a press mention.
Bringing your fans and followers along for the ride and enabling them to be your biggest advocates is the foundation of your community.
Reward your customers with loyalty programs
Speaking of community, we would be remiss in not highlighting loyalty programs as a cornerstone in influencing future purchases from your existing customers, and your customers’ closest friends and family.
These people are essentially your brand community: a group of customers who are invested in more than what is being sold. They want to become a part of the brand itself and look for other ways to get engaged besides simply making a purchase.
One of the most effective and easiest ways to launch this community is through a loyalty program. Loyalty programs allow you to reward your customers for completing actions at every stage of building your community.
Here’s what to consider when setting up a loyalty program:
Show the value up front. You can open up your VIP program to customers right away. Offer welcome points, or include free products as perks. Make it clear what actions members need to take to reap rewards. Ocean & Co showcases their wide variety of perks, including free merchandise, discounts, exclusive content, and opportunities to be chosen for press features and all-expenses paid vacations.
Brand your loyalty program. Giving your program a name or its own branding — like Sephora’s Beauty Insider program or Smart Art’s branded currency called Peacock Points — helps your members feel like they’re part of something special that you’ve put a lot of thought into.
Incentivize customer actions that go beyond purchases. It doesn’t have to just be that new purchases yield points or increased status. Consider a points system where members are rewarded for reviewing products, social sharing, or following you on social media. Jimmy Joy, for instance, offers their members eight different ways to earn points which they can cash in for discounts, free products, or merchandise.
What makes these thoughtful, multi-layered loyalty programs so effective is that you’re essentially investing in your members. They go from rooting for you, to joining you along for the ride.
When you look at everyone in your audience, at every level, you’ll start to see the endless opportunities of influence.
And as a marketer, it’s your job to empower those people, to influence them to influence the people around them.
Because whether you like it or not, you’re an influencer too.
This post originally appeared as a two-part series on Adweek called, “Who Influences the Influencers?” and “Beyond Influencers: How to Maximize Your Reach and Brand Loyalty.”