The Sweet Spot Where Content, Influencers and Social Meet

November 6th, 2017

There’s a growing industry consensus that the point where content, influencers and social platforms interact is a sweet spot for brands, says consultant editor Dominic Mills. The trick is how to take advantage of it, manage it and maximise the return

It’s one of the jobs of a consultant editor to roam the landscape, gathering and sorting truffles for the audience to consume. Not too shabby, as jobs go.

Let’s start with influencers, a hot subject. At last month’s Festival of Marketing the subject of influencers was near-ubiquitous.

What influencers do is create content. Not ads, not marketing collateral, not material necessarily aligned with the top or the bottom of the purchase funnel, but plain and simple content.

So…first stop is October’s CMA breakfast on ROI. Of the many nuggets on show, one comment from Jules Lund, founder of the Tribe social influencer agency, caught my ear.

Pointing to his smartphone, he noted that the current models came packed with camera-enhancement tools – filters, AR and so on – that made the posting of near-professional quality content incredibly easy.

Combine that with a) a profusion of platforms – Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc – b) a millennial cohort with an appetite for recording and making public every aspect of their lives via video or image (including their interactions with brands) – and c) a whole new aspect of content marketing opens up.

As Lund sees it, these forces are ushering a whole new age, that of the micro influencer. Micro influencers are members of small tribes,  he says, and are replacing celebrity influencers. What they lack in reach, they more than make up for in the engagement they can drive.

“The smaller the tribe,” says Lund, “the more personal the contact, the greater the trust and the higher the engagement they drive.” According to Tribe figures, influencers with reach of 3-50,000 followers achieve an average engagement of 4.12pc. Those with 100,000+ achieve about 2pc.

Rise of visual platforms

Truffling around elsewhere last month, I met Aaron Goldman, CMO of 4C, a tech-based outfit that manages social campaigns and helps advertisers sync between social and broadcast.

(By the way, 4C offers content marketers a new three-letter acronym to impress: SUR or swipe-up rate. Use that and feel epic.)

4C’s latest figures show the near-vertical rise of ad content on second-generation platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Some of that ad content, assuming it is properly labelled – which is important and failure to do so is potentially a fly in the ointment – is influencer generated.

What these platforms have in common is that: a) they have particularly large user bases amongst millennials; b) they are predominantly visual; and therefore c) fertile ground for easy-to-make content of the type produced by influencers.

As Goldman notes, they have different characteristics. One that he highlighted was Pinterest, which he described as the most “intent-driven” platform.

This makes sense. Search may offer the first signals of intent, but when people start pinning images intent has jumped a gear.

This potency is intensified as the platforms add new facilities, such as Pinterest’s visual search mechanic. Emily Kramer, senior media services director at data giant Merkle, describes this as “a capability so compelling that a brand like [US retailer] Target is building the offering into a native app – putting consumer experience at the forefront of the engagement.”

Image result for pinterest visual search tool

On Instagram, immersive full-screen capabilities on the platform’s Stories facility reinforce the value of quality content. Says Kramer: “Content reigns supreme and vertival video provides brands with a full-scale canvas to message their offering.”

The Nissan way

So what does this mean for brands? Over at last month’s Festival of Marketing, Nissan gave delegates a best-in-class and detailed breakdown of the way it uses content from influencers.

The Nissan principle is simple: align its influencer strategy to each stage of the customer journey, integrating it into the broader comms plan. The result is that Nissan now has one comms plan and one budget, out of which comes influencer content. And that content is judged on KPIs that are aligned to the brand objectives – in other words the same as any other part of the comms plan.

The mechanics are a little more complicated. Nissan breaks the customer journey into four – See..Think..Do…Care – but the priorities are different for each model in its range. Thus the Qashkai is more about the ‘See’ in order to build reach, while the electric Leaf model is more about the ‘Think’ to drive trust.

It has three categories of influencer, from from celebs in the top tier, high-reach individuals in the middle, and lower-reach ‘advocates’ at the bottom.

Nissan’s influencer efforts, therefore, are no small beer. Managing them and the process is a big task. All told it works directly with almolst 200, and watches the efforts of 600. This requires an in-house team of four full-time staff.

The role of content agencies

So, if all these influencers are producing tons of content, where do content agencies fit in? In many places, I’d say.

Few clients are of the size of Nissan, capable of funding an in-house unit, and even in-house units need support from outside agencies.

One starting point is devising an influencer strategy, which is pretty much an offshoot of constructing a content strategy. What does the brand need, where and when?

What role does that influencer content play at different points in the customer journey? Left to their own devices, this is not the sort of thinking influencers offer – and why would they?

Managing the process is equally complex and requires both specialist knowledge and an innate understanding of what makes good content. Going down the micro influencer route clearly expands rthe scope of the task. While platforms like Tribe ease the process, there still has to be some quality control and distribution skills applied. Again, these are both areas that fall naturally into the remit of content specialists.

Third, staying on top of the rapid developments in platform capabilities is a job that requires experience and expertise. Understanding the different roles of the platforms demands a deep knowledge of the landscape. Again, this falls naturally to agencies. Those working across multiple brands have a better view.

Last, there are the issues of measurement and optimisation. Agencies are better placed to understand benchmarks and norms for content engagement KPIs, and then the ability to iterate or optimise content to seek the maximum return.

And of course, content agencies are damn good at creating content themselves. Any brand that relies solely on influencers might be taking too great a risk.

Just as the confluence of technology, influencers and social platforms offers brands a whole new world to play in, so it does for agencies.

Dominic Mills, Consultant Editor, The CMA

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