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 social media and the right POV for brands…

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When I started Sircle Media in January of 2012, the social media conversation was an uphill battle for sure.  I would meet with owners, and/or Marketing Directors and would have to hard sell (READ: convince) them on why this was an important frontier for their business.  75% of the initial conversation was about proving their initial preconceptions about social media wrong. It was exhausting but so necessary.

These days companies are more “hip to the game,” meaning they are committed to being active in social, but that being said, I think that many brands are still half pregnant on the topic and are not fully committed.  They don’t know if they should treat it like marketing, customer service or sales and they are often too singular in their focus. They are just not committing where they need to – let me explain:

1- They spend too much time overthinking content - Yes you need to be on brand, you need to be consistent and you should think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. That being said, many brands spend too much time overthinking their content in my opinion. We have talked about documenting over creating before (thanks, @GaryVee) and we suggest doing more and learning, as opposed to carefully crafting every single word and image. It is not branding, PR or even direct response where you want to say as much as you can, in as few words as possible to elicit the desired response. Those are controlled mediums, whereas social media is uncontrolled.

RECOMMENDATION: Be more flexible and fluid with your content and copy and see what happens.

2- They are thinking of social media as “a silo” - Sometimes I speak with some clients who think social media is just about branding and doesn’t create sales (WRONG) and then I speak with others, who think it is only a digital and e-commerce play and doesn’t help offline business (WRONG AGAIN).  It really is a horizontal layer that touches all parts of your business and stretches across different departments and initiatives.

RECOMMENDATION: Think about your different departmental needs and goals and then think about how social media might be able to help in each. Solve for the positive, rather than for the negative and unlock ways that social can be more useful. 

3- They are not investing in paid social - Many brands are active on social but are not leveraging the Facebook and Instagram paid social ecosystem. Some feel social should be organic only (myopic POV) and some are using paid, but strictly for e-commerce acquisition. These are the most powerful advertising vehicles on the market and provide more real actionable and supportive data than any predecessors.

RECOMMENDATION: Invest more in paid social, learn the platforms and products and leverage them to grow your business. Whether you want more exposure/reach, more engagement and/or more traffic and sales on your website (or in your store), paid social is your number one vehicle for this. It is highly effective, underpriced and extremely targeted. Start budgeting and implementing paid social ASAP!

4- They are not focusing on video - I have talked about the importance of video before and while the majority of brands I speak with these days totally seem to follow and want video, most are not backing that up with action. Video helps with storytelling in a more effective AND efficient way and will shorten the learning curve for consumers.  You can hack better reach, engagement and action on your social content, as well as your website, email and other advertising efforts with video.

RECOMMENDATION: Commit to video and start creating a lot of it. I’m talking about motion graphics, live action AND even going live on Facebook and Instagram, which will provide more depth and insight into your business. 

5- They are not paying influencers - Most of my clients are working with influencers in some capacity, which shows they fully understand that those influencers bring with them an audience that is worth reaching. So if this is the case, why be totally closed to the concept of paying them for that service? If you aren’t open minded to at least exploring paid partnerships, then you are going to leave a lot of opportunity and money on the table.

RECOMMENDATION: Allocate some budget to paid influencer engagements and then court, review and select partners who offer real value for their price point. Pay close attention to the types of engagements they offer, how they have performed in the past and what type of engagement they get from their community. Negotiate best case pricing and explore the most creative ways to work with each individual influencer. 

It is my opinion that if you are going to be active with social media, then you should be all in.  You have to have the right POV on content and benefits and then be deploying the best tools to help you succeed. The mentality is the swing and paid social, video and influencers are the nasty topspin follow thru…Your serve!

 

 

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On influencers and KPI’s…

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We have written several pieces on the power of influencer marketing and the need to have it as part of your marketing mix, if you are looking to sell a product to consumers these days.  Our position on the topic has only strengthened over time, and we once again encourage all readers to really consider the potential and to get into the game.

Don’t get caught up in semantics, and most certainly don’t be stubborn about being anti-pay to play engagements with micro influencers. Some brands we speak with feel they are a vanity play and don’t drive real results.  We would argue the exact opposite, as the data points to these types of engagements being real KPI winners.  You have to be smart about who you engage with, what the goal is and the metrics for success should be outlined up front of course. This is true for any marketing tactic though.

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As other digital advertising becomes more competitive and intrusive it is very important to find new ways to penetrate and create awareness for your products or services.  Influencers (especially the good ones) provide an entree to captive audiences who trust their marketing messages and endorsements.  You must seek out the right partners and capitalize on these opportunities.

TapInfluence put out this compelling report, that highlights some telling statistics and is worth a download. Here are some that they collected and posted on their website:

Influencer marketing content delivers 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing. (TapInfluence study with Nielsen Catalina Solutions, 2016)
Twitter users report a 5.2X increase in purchase intent when exposed to promotional content from influencers. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
74% of people turn to social networks for guidance on purchase decisions. (Ogilvy Cannes, 2014)
40% of people say they’ve purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, or YouTube (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
73% of Millennials see it as their responsibility to guide friends, peers, and family toward smart purchase decisions. (Fleishman-Hillard PR & Hearst Magazine)
71% of marketers believe that ongoing ambassadorships are the most effective form of influencer marketing. (TapInfluence & Altimeter, June 2016,)

These stats jump off the page and should make it pretty clear that this is a frontier that needs to be in the mix. Influencer collaborations drive real business results and cannot be ignored. In the end of the day they are just people with a POV and a captive audience that seems to care about what they have to say, and takes direction when they give advice. Perhaps I just influenced you to get started?  Case in point…

 

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

Sircle-Influencer Pay To Play

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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Content, Engagement + Growth = Social Media Success

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At Sircle Media we believe that social media efforts need to be equally distributed between content, engagement and growth tactics. It is our religion and we work diligently on this approach for our clients on a daily basis.

The collage above is an excellent example of how the three all work together and result in a smart and well rounded social strategy. On a recent call regarding content direction with our client Modern Oats, they really wanted us to focus on helping better craft their content message, as a product for the explorer/traveler/adventurer set.

We decided we would do a deep dive on Instagram to look for some content inspiration and source some influencers who we felt embodied this lifestyle and who had a sizable following from that demo.  We followed a couple of users who we felt had the right vibe and engaged with some of their content to get on their radar.  As a result of this engagement tactic, we found @_hoodoffair_ and reached out to him to start up a dialogue.

We asked if he would like to try our product and he said that he would love for us to send him some. This was done with no promise of anything other than him sampling it and providing feedback. For a photographer on the go, especially one shooting content outdoors, this product makes a lot of sense. We sent some out for him to try (and he loved it) and as a result we landed not just one, but three (one, two, three) free content posts on his account.

In the end, a content strategy call, led us to first deploy some down and dirty engagement tactics. The posts earned 8987 LIKE’s, thousands of impressions and 150+ new followers, all nice growth metrics. To take it full sircle, we also landed three beautiful images that we could then repurpose into our feed, rounding out our content efforts.

We call it: The Sircle of (social media) Life. ;)

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Win Of The Week: Accelerated Content Reach

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Fresh off the heels of our last post about Influencer Marketing, we had a nice little win for one of our clients that we wanted to share.

We reached out to the blogger, The Fit Mitten Kitchen as part of our influencer outreach program for one of our CPG clients. She was very interested, but upon review that client didn’t feel she has enough of an Instagram following and passed. Our team got together and decided she would be a great fit for our client Modern Oats instead and we set it up.

We sent some product to the influencer and she posted it on her blog as part of a delicious looking recipe, pictured above. She also pushed it out on Instagram and it earned 250 Likes and 35 comments, which is nice value for the price we paid.  The fun doesn’t stop there though.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 1.45.14 PMHuffingPost Taste then went ahead and regrammed the picture to their 100,000+ followers and it earned an additional 1474 Likes and 31 comments. Some of those followers went ahead and followed our client’s account immediately afterwards too, so add that as value on top. This accelerated reach and engagement were not the intent, but is an ancillary benefit of being in the game.

We also have some great looking content that we can now share in our feed and have developed a relationship with the influencer (on her way up) that we can/will leverage as we move along. #Winning

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Can We Influence You To Do Influencer Marketing?

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We love influencer gifting for a myriad of reasons.  Not only does it get your product into the hands of someone from your core demographic, but it also gives you highly targeted exposure to their audience.  Now, not all influencers are created equal, so we would definitely analyze their accounts, their audience and their engagement before working with them. That being said, if you find the right ones, they can pay off in a big way.

We employ a “some is better than none” approach at Sircle Media (small influencers can be excellent allies) and we dont think you have to shoot for the moon either. Meaning you don’t necessarily have to work with people with really massive audiences to make a mark. The truth is, they are probably not priced right, so you are overpaying and not actually getting value for your spend.  The big players might be great, but that doesn’t mean their financial structure is a good buy.  For our clients we prefer to find those who are on their way up and their pricing is commensurate with their reach and value prop.  Playing that arbitrage game right can make all the difference, especially for those who micro analyze data and ROI/KPI metrics on things like this.

We like to encourage website visits whenever we can so we can generate traffic, retargeting opportunities and build look a like audiences based on their profiles.  So when you send a target demo influencer there, you are seeding your other marketing efforts with some very solid ammunition.

One proven method is to get the influencer to buy something from the website that we credit them for with a unique discount (or one time free) code.  Not only should they receive and review (or snap photos with) the product we send them, but we also want them to experience the website UX too. If they are writing a review we would love for them to mention how great the website is and/or if they aren’t you could still get some solid “free” feedback from someone with a lot of experience shopping online.  All upside!

Best bet is to create unique, one time use codes that they can use for the engagement and that expire after that one usage. This way you get the experience, but hedge against the risk that the code gets out to the masses and everyone takes advantage of discounted prices.  With a one time use restriction, we are big buyers of a broad macro approach. Meaning if we can bring in a lot of people (which odds are wouldn’t have purchased from you otherwise) than that is a smart move and worth it to acquire a new customer. If you have confidence in your product and your CRM skills, then that client should be able to be turned into a repeat client and the LTV (lifetime value) is more valuable than anything else.

Don’t be nervous, be proactive when it comes to influencer engagements.  They also will help you with the new Instagram algorithm changes, but that is the subject of another post coming soon. Employ some offense and put yourself in a position to win.  Play the game and reap the benefits!

 

 

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