Influencers provide eyeballs and content, but do they produce revenue?

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Creating memorable content is so important when trying to convey to a user how your product might perform. When it comes to food, performance is best conveyed through taste and usage cases, such as recipes. Influencers are an excellent resource to rely on for compelling content, especially since they are the ultimate customer and can convey a more authentic narrative to other users and potential buyers of your product.

When it comes to influencers, we think some are great for influence (providing eyeballs) and some are great for content (food stylists and/or photographers) and the best ones provide both. The truly special partners are those who are judicious in their brand selection and therefore are deemed more reliable than others who seemingly date a different brand every day. These ingredients (pun intended) are what makes Ashley Cuoco (@ashcuoco) one of the best in the game. You cant overuse her because she is selective and ultra-authentic, but when you have a good pairing, as we do with our client Mutti, you have a truly special partnership.

Not only has she produced wonderful content and exposed their brand to other impassioned foodies on Instagram, but it has also opened up a number of great opportunities to have a conversation within the comments.  While community management is the least sexy component of social media, it is probably the most important. Remember, that this is an uncontrolled communications medium and you want to engage in a dialogue with consumers. This is what makes it “social” in the first place and differentiates the efforts from traditional, controlled media, such as PR and branding. Having a true fan of your brand as your influencer partner activates solid word of mouth activity and can directly lead to new business.

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Some brands sleep on the comments and are even completely unresponsive at times. They are happy (sometimes) with the awareness and/or the photo they received, but ironically it is the comments that will most likely lead to actual sales. All brands want to see increases in revenue and that’s why our team pays close attention to the comments section – it’s where the business happens.

We see this especially when a brand works with an influencer that people actually respect and are influenced by. When they post about your product it will often directly lead to questions such as “where can I find this?” or “what are the ingredients?” These are literal buying questions and give you the opportunity for a sale right then and there. Rather than telling and selling, you are responding and facilitating. This is a much better position to be in for a brand.

Below you can see an example of this in action. In May, Ashley posted about a Tomato Confit recipe using Mutti’s Canned Tomatoes. The asset was beautiful and it opened up a dialogue with various users.

Another micro-influencer, @gatherweekly, commented on Ashley’s post and the influencer and brand both responded quickly and provided ways to secure the product through various distribution channels. This is excellent ammunition for the client’s salespeople, especially in retail, to showcase demand.

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The lesson here is that you should be working with authentic influencers that can provide you with both content and influence. If you do, it is then mission-critical to be in the weeds on the comments on both their profile and your own. Marketers are obsessed with scale and volume metrics (like impressions and reach) as well as ROAS analytics (Spent X and made Y) but these types of small ball activities are perhaps the most valuable and underrated. We spend quite a bit of time here for our clients and although it is a lot of work, it is certainly worth it.

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Boost Brand Awareness with Facebook’s CBO!

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Over time, we’ve seen organic reach become non-existent on social. These days it really is a paid social ecosystem and if you know what you are doing and you are committed to testing and experimenting it can bear a lot of fruit. Not only do you want your product in front of new eyes, but you want your product in front of the right eyes.

Creating your own, solid branded content is important and while it doesn’t need to be your entire diet (we actually believe it should be about 50-60% of your content mix) it should be a significant portion of it. Once made, if you want that content to be seen you need to pay to make that happen. Then, when you boost content, you need to target the right audience for better results.

That’s why we’ve been utilizing Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO) within the Facebook Ad Platform. CBO takes your top audiences and puts dollars behind posts that perform the best organically. CBO creates higher reach, engagement, and even follows.

In order to utilize CBO to its fullest, boosted posts should be high quality and have engaging captions so your target audience is as responsive as possible. This is one of the many reasons we believe in investing in quality content as well as experimentation. You want to make sure the asset is powerful so that if it does get seen, it is memorable and then you also need to try out different tactics to see what resonates. It is very important to not just sit back and play it safe.

One of our clients, Driftwood Jeans, is a unique denim line with chic embroideries that has been seeing incredible results from CBO. For the past few months, we’ve been experimenting with this tactic on many of their posts. First, we created four audiences to be assigned to Driftwood’s top-performing organic posts. Facebook then pushes funds to whichever audience AND post perform best. Then, at the beginning of each month, we swap out those audiences and continue experimenting with new ones.

We created a specific audience, one of many that we have created for this client, (that we cannot share here) that has really stood out. Then, CBO paired it with one of our PFC (Product Front and Center) video posts.

This was an engaging video and had an interactive caption. Because the post was also targeted to the perfect audience, we saw 568 likes, 32 comments, and most importantly, 24,956 video views. For a nominal investment, this asset packed quite a punch!

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Organic reach is nearly zero and less relevant than ever before. It is so important to have someone on your side that is well versed in paid social and not just acquisition experts looking for the best possible ROAS. If you are in the social media game, then you need to be creating content at scale, experimenting with different types, styles, cadence, and captions and then putting funds behind guaranteed delivery of that content to a variety of audiences.  If you stay the course and use tools such as CBO, then sometimes things catch fire.

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Snapbac + Santia Deck = Influencer Gold.

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As we’ve stated many times before, at Sircle Media, we love to forge partnerships with thoughtful, authentic influencers. Recently one of our clients, Snapbac, (a line of compression-based sportswear that helps you warm up, work out and recover, all in one garment with revolutionary heat and ice therapy pods) partnered up with the incredible Santia Deck, an Olympic USA rugby hopeful and USA flag football athlete. Not only does Santia have a following of 328,000+, but many of them are real athletes who love to engage with her posts. Meaning she has width and depth.

The partnership consisted of some Instagram feed posts and Instagram Stories each month over many months. On Santia’s feed, she went above and beyond the terms of the contract, because she really found value in the product. This is such an important, though often overlooked ingredient to true collaboration with people of influence. Many get paid to promote products they don’t even use, to be honest, and that is just not the real deal. Santia sported their gear organically during her sprinting exercises and rugby workouts because they help her perform at her best, which is the intent of the product in the first place. These posts resonated well with her audience and she was the “featured actress” and Snapbac was just the supporting cast.

She also did a Story takeover and she discussed the benefits of the heat and ice therapy pods as well as why she loves the compression on both the top and bottom part of the body. Before the takeover, she announced that she would be doing so on her own Instagram Story. During the takeover, Santia did not post on her own feed, so it felt like she was genuinely taking over the Snapbac account for the day.

Her takeover offered real content from a fitness maven, explaining exactly how to use our product (=content Gold) and it also provided 2-3X the amount of impression consumption on each Story (in comparison to 200-300 which is the norm). We also had a spike of 100 followers that day along with DMs about our product and pricing (=buying questions!).

Santia Deck has been such an incredible influencer to work with. She is awesome, a real inspiration in fitness and a great partner. Not only did she wear Snapbac’s apparel in posts directed towards the brand, but she also wore the apparel in posts where she was advertising for other brands (=added value).

Working together with influencers that resonate with your brand and understand how to represent the product is what makes the right partnerships so successful. This is why Sircle believes in the power of a fully integrated partnership with real influencers who wield actual influence AND know how to play the game and really collaborate with their brand partners. Just another reason, why @trackbaby001 is a star!

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Influencer Spotlight: @Headstandsandheels

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At Sircle Media, a big part of what we do for brands is managing relationships and strategic partnerships with influencers. These days, a lot of people are faking it in the influencer space, so it is really important to analyze and understand what makes one great.

We recently partnered with an amazing young woman, who goes by @headstandsandheels on Instagram. First off, I like the handle selection, as it doesnt pigeonhole her as much as others because she can toe the like between health and fashion. She is not a macro influencer with 100K+ followers, but she provides so much more depth than many of those profiles. To me, it is about strategically finding underpriced attention, rather than reaching for overpriced partners that often lack the punch their numbers imply.

We prefer to look for brand ambassador type engagements over one and done relationships that are all too common these days on social. We contacted Melanie and together came up with a multi-dimensional partnership to be run over the next few months for our client, Terra Origin. It involves many posts, online content, offline events and a really comprehensive collaboration that allows her to really get to know and experience the brand and products and provide her take on how they make her feel or perform in general. In order to really wield influence and opine on their value, she had to immerse herself in them. This way she can provide honest and truthful information (the whole point of “influence”) and our client (who of course, believes deeply in their products) gets to show off their wares to someone who is a bullseye target.

Plenty of influencers strike these types of partnerships every day, so this alone is not a differentiator.  What makes her special is that she is a wonderful soul and a pleasure to work with. So many influencers lack business acumen and are hard to deal with. Others don’t actually have influence and are selling follower count over everything else and not willing to put in the work. Melanie acted like a business person and really sat down and negotiated with us to help get us to terms (financial/logistical/creative) that work for both parties.

I also want to point out how she engages with her community. Many influencers post content that is beautiful (and even accomplishes the reach desired from the relationship) but I find that so many don’t engage in their comments on those photos. They treat the relationship like PR (one-way presentation) and don’t get into the weeds and conversation with their followers. To me, an influencer who does not do that religiously is leaving opportunity on the table and extremely vulnerable to losing their influence as platforms evolve. She is in there, having a conversation and providing depth in addition to her width. This makes her a great partner.

Bonus: In the image here, she is wearing Sweaty Betty which is a brand Terra Origin would love to be associated with. I know some marketing folks who would be annoyed that they were underwriting the relationship and another brand was stealing some of the thunder.  I personally love the association upside it brings with it. I look at it as her being authentic and living her life and she is bringing value to that other brand too in the process. To me, it means she either worked with them before and as a truthful influencer, continues to bring value to a brand she had a relationship with because she genuinely likes the product. OR it is a brand she just loves (and has such a solid brand profile, that you could argue it actually raises her street cred) and that brand should pay attention and come work with her. Regardless of the spirit, I love and applaud the hustle and tactic.

Big fan Melanie, big fan!

 

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On Instagram collaborations and giveaways…

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At Sircle, we run all kinds of Instagram collaborations and giveaways for clients every day it seems. We do so, because they are surefire ways to hack new exposure for a brand and typically come with very little cost, other than some hard work and logistics management. They carry a lot of upside with little downside in our opinion, as you try to harvest and grow an Instagram community.

Working in this way is a “religion over tactics” (@Garyvee) type thing, as it takes commitment and consistency to see the results. You need to remain dedicated to the initiative and must not just put your toe in the water and be half sold on the mission. You also cant jump in and out and/or sweat the details of any one engagement, if you want to see real success.

The floor in this equation, is that these gain you new eyeballs and an endorsement from the brand or influencer you collaborate with in front of their earned audience. As a ceiling, if the ask is compelling and your content is attractive, then you gain new followers and engagement on your own account. Either way, you are displaying your product front and center with a group of people, who have likely never even heard of your brand before. Isn’t that the whole point of marketing?

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Earlier this month we ran this giveaway/collaboration for our client Wala Swim.  We partnered up with another brand, @mydevcurl, that brought with them 257K followers and exposure to a new and more diverse audience (another KPI for the client). We also lassoed in an influencer, @mzbiancarenee, who has a solid and engaged following, for accelerated reach and exposure.

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The table above is from Iconosquare and displays follower growth over a week in early August. When we posted on August 2nd we saw a big pop in followers (+1753 net) and had another solid day on August 3rd (+509 net) too. Both were well north of their average organic (125) and contest driven (300) daily growth numbers. Most clients focus on net growth numbers as their proxy for success with these, and though we think they are important, I am even more happy with the impressions, likes and comments it earned. I also like the engagement opportunities is teed up for us to strike up a one-to-one conversation with those who engaged.

Either way, this one did particularly well given the creative, timing and partners that were selected. The truth is you never know which will really pop until you take it for a spin. If it is an evergreen component to your strategy, then you are at least putting yourself in a position to win.  If you aren’t in the game, there is zero chance for success like this – that I know for certain!

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Twitter: The party isn’t over…

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At Sircle Media, we are buyers of underpriced attention and we are not overly romantic about where that attention comes from (amen @garyvee). Social networks have made communication at scale so easy, that sometimes we lose site of how each can add value.  We always want more, and we get lost in the shiny newness of the next big thing. We encourage that you think about what you want to have happen and then reverse engineer from there.

While some brands are moving away from Twitter, we are finding some pockets of attention that are very attractive on the platform. Last month, we executed a Twitter party with the micro influencer @heyaprill for our client Paula’s Choice Skincare. The client decided to run a last minute promotion to push their 2% BHA liquid exfoliant and came to us looking for a quick program to help generate awareness, buzz and most importantly sales. Of course we looked at Facebook and Instagram organic and paid efforts first, but we also recommended they consider leveraging the captive audience which can come from a Twitter party.  They gave us the green light and we got to work.

18222259_10154348693051861_549624885018734284_nAll Aprill needed from us was a graphic (seen above) talking points (which we crafted and made about BHA specifically), hashtags to track the chat, and prizes provided by the client.  We arranged all of this on their behalf, within 24 hours. Prior to the party, she teased the giveaway on her website where people could RSVP for the chat and 1995 people did!

On the day of the chat we had her give away bottles of 2% BHA (every 10 mins), a $100 visa gift card (from @heyaprill), and a grand prize of a year supply of 2% BHA. These were incentives for people to want to join the chat and ultimately keep them participating for the full hour.

The actual chat was amazing and people were so engaged throughout. We monitored all chatter around it on Hootsuite and the notifications were literally non stop. Participants were active and passionate with their messaging and were using the hashtag #BHACHAT as requested. The conversation centered around real issues and the benefits and value of the product to help remedy those problems. This was excellent and highly targeted content consumption.

On top of all of that active and consumed content about the brand and the product, the client also netted 202 new followers in about 10 hours.  The party didn’t stop there though, because in the days that followed, we started to see tweets trickle in about people buying the product because of this chat which is a home run and stamp of real measurable ROI and success for the client. That is what really matters and was super sweet coming from a platform and tactic they were quick to dismiss up front.

While not as sexy as Instagram and Snapchat these days, Twitter is a valuable resource in your social media arsenal. #Respectthebird!

 

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Win of The Week: Brand collaboration gold…

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Social media is all about leveraging content, engagement and growth tactics effectively. Brand collaborations are an excellent way to attack all three and are very easy to execute. They offer you access to new eyeballs, easy ways to “stage your product” and new conversations with potential would be customers along the way. We are all in!

Here at Sircle Media, we are big buyers of underpriced attention for our clients. Brands are all trying to figure out how to maximize their own social media efforts and are usually very interested in collaborating this way. We regularly seek out partners who have a nice aesthetic, are clearly open to working with other brands and who have a highly engaged audience.  As an agency, companies are even more interested in working with us, as we can be an entree to working with multiple brands and not just a one off transaction. We use this to our client’s advantage of course, to help land more relationships and control the conversation along the way.

Some brands make the mistake of only looking to others who have larger audiences than their own. In every collaboration there is always one who will be bigger and one smaller, and we think they all have value. We care more about the image, the target and the experience. If a brand has a smaller, but highly engaged audience of core customers we want to be in front of, then we are buyers for sure!

These have proven to be a surefire way to grow an Instagram following, to land nice looking content to round out your own feed and to create direct communication opportunities with customers. With content, you get to use the imagery (including secondary shots of the products side by side) in your messaging, which alleviates some of your organic content creation pressure.

When it comes to engagement and growth, we recommend some gaming to help stir the pot. Above, we had an Instagram contest, that required both a follow AND the tagging of friends to enter.  We received 451 likes, 300 new followers and 142 comments, each of which included the tagging of 2 IG users. Afterwards, we engage with those accounts and strike up conversations on a one-to-one level, that can help our client Modern Oats establish a dialogue that would not have existed before.

In the end of the day, these collaborations provide a very powerful punch and should be a core component to any social media strategy.

 

 

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Win of The Week: Leveraging influencers via smart “pay to play” tactics…

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Influencer marketing represents an excellent opportunity to get a brand in front of new eyeballs and to leverage underpriced attention. It is important to have an open mind to the potential that these collaborations can bring and to think about it more strategically than just “paying someone to post something.”

In January we advised one of our clients to rethink their influencer engagement strategy altogether.  In 2016, they deployed a hardline approach when it came to “pay to play” engagements. They would not do them and would only gift products where they had much less control AND limited their potential target list, by immediately canceling out anyone who asked for a fee.

This year they were hellbent on driving more traffic and wanted us to “get more creative” with ideas to help do so. They suggested buying email lists, affiliate deals (where they would pay commissions for converted traffic sent from other domains) and even programmatic marketing, that is very expensive and unproven for their model. It was time to change their POV once and for all.

Rather than denying all paid scenarios from the jump, we recommended they take a different posture. Dropping the term “influencer” from the conversation, we said “if we told you that Jane Doe had taken time to harvest a community of followers, one that actually listens to and cares about what she has to say, and that they are mostly your exact target demo, would you consider paying her for an opportunity to speak with them for a few minutes?” Of course they would, and this is no different.

They begrudgingly agreed to give us $500 to test out our theory “and prove that this wasn’t a complete waste of time.” We went to a couple of influencers who we knew had a highly engaged audience, understood the need to “give value” to their partners (especially an Agency like Sircle Media, who can bring them multiple brands and not just one) and who would work with us from a marketing angle. We also negotiated the price down to $400 ($200 each) and kept the $100 spread to help us boost some of the great content on Facebook down the line.

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We asked that they both post on January 23rd and had them do it on Instagram with a #linkinbio CTA that encourages users to take action and click that link. As a result, revenue on 1/23/17 was $1837.55 on a $400 all in spend (4.5X1 ROAS).  In addition to that, it doubled their referred traffic (one of their main goals coming into the new year) and delivered new ammunition for our retargeting efforts, which have already proven to be our best revenue driving audience on Facebook. We then took that $100 (in negotiated savings) and applied it to those efforts to drive new revenue further down stream.

It is important to not draw a line in the sand when it comes to engaging influencers. Sure, some have more value than others and of course there are some who wont deliver the goods. This is true with any type of marketing of course and cannot be your reason for not participating. I always say “you cant stop dating just because you had a bad relationship in the past and/or just fear the outcome if it does go south. You need to continue to date, to find the right one for you.”

Influencers represent an excellent value play and need to be in your social media strategy conversation if you have a consumer product. Added bonus is that if they take great photos, they also contribute positively to the look and feel of your outgoing content strategy. Bottom line, it just pays to play!

 

 

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Win of The Week: Driving sales for retail partners.

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Can social media help you sell online? Yes, of course!  Can it help you sell offline too? ubetcha!

We work with a lot of early/growth stage healthy CPG brands and some of them do not have an E-commerce focus. For their short term or even permanent business model, they plan to use retail partners for sales and distribution. Therefore a real metric for success when it comes to their social media efforts, is traffic and support for retail to help with their velocity reports. Sales and distribution are only half the battle you see, it is how well their product actually moves when available on shelves to consumers that matters.

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Our client Natalie’s has a really nice foothold and relationship in Publix, which for a Florida based, family owned brand is a big deal. As they expanded their store and SKU counts, they wanted to help drive awareness via social media and we jumped right in. We swapped out creative on their website and Facebook cover photo as you can see above, because this was the most important content for the brand at the moment and should be displayed front and center.

We then deployed a dark posting strategy that targeted by geo location (close radius to new stores) as well as fans of Publix. We used a printable coupon as our CTA and created the image you see here, which spelled out PUBLIX using bottles of their product and fresh fruit.  The image really stands out from the clutter and used the retailer’s well known brand name to catch the user’s eyes in their feed.

For a nominal amount ($5 on this one asset) we were able to reach 2100 targeted people, and earned 2 shares and 16 likes. The more juicy result (pun fully intended) was that we sparked up a conversation with Brian, who saw the ad, printed the coupon and confirmed he used it in store.

We were sure to share that with the buyer over at Publix right away. :)

 

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