Brands and followers. Brands and influencers. Brands and fans.
The terminology may fluctuate, but the objective is the same. How to build efficient, friction-free connections between brands and customers through enabling technology.
Until recently that “technology” has been social media. Janet buys a great pair of shoes and shares her enthusiasm with her social network. Then perhaps some of those folks who respect her opinion run out and buy a pair for themselves.
That’s great as far as it goes and does result in a circuitous route to sales.
But there are major disconnects in that scenario:
- Brands have minimal or no information on what their followers are doing or for connecting the dots between those followers and the purchases they may be driving.
- Followers are often seeing no compensation (or unwarrantedly high compensation) for the sales they are generating.
- If followers are being compensated, brands have no way to verify and track those connections and results.
That sure sounds like a lose-lose situation.
Hitting the Bottleneck
Aggravating this situation are the increasingly severe restrictions being placed on the organic reach that’s possible for brands to achieve through social media platforms. Brands are now touching a tiny fraction of their followers organically. In an effort to increase sources of revenue, the platforms are funneling brands into either paid boosting of posts or advertising in order to gain the visibility they need.
Brands have been forced to spend significantly more on advertising on these platforms to reach the same people they were reaching before for free. That includes already ad-fatigued consumers, like 25% of U.S. internet users who use ad-blocking software. (Mobile Marketer)
Moreover, many influencers are paid large upfront fees or given free products with no accountability. And brands may be purchasing non-authentic followers and engagement based on robots. In fact, it’s been estimated that up to 80% of the professional influencer engagement metrics in social media are achieved fraudulently through bots (Digiday).
That’s the game of intermediation. And it’s broken.
UGC Is the Currency
The world of retail and eCommerce now revolves around the power of user-generated content. It’s been shown time and again that bottom-up endorsements by friends and family are much more powerful than down-top promotions.
And that content is taking the form of photos and videos. It’s estimated that eCommerce pages with video convert up to 80% better than those without it (Invesp).
One example, in particular, serves as a proof point for this trend. Amazon has reformatted its product pages to highlight user-generated video reviews above nearly all other content and expanded the Amazon Performance Based Influencer Program.
With the right technology partner, major brands have an opportunity to follow suit by featuring video reviews next to product images on their website home and product pages as well as in their apps.
Cutting Out the Middleman
The solution is the opposite of the current environment: disintermediation. It’s a fancy word for developing the means to interact with followers (fans, customers and even employees) directly. And it requires a new approach with a technology platform that closes the gaps.
Brands need a way to create meaningful engagement with customers and influencers, while strategically utilizing social media to drive ROI-based social media marketing initiatives. An equally powerful, and arguably more efficient, means of engaging with a brand’s fans and followers is to create interaction directly on the brand’s website and in their app.
Just as important as the engagement is the ability to track results throughout the chain of reviewing, sharing and buying.
Yet some 63% of respondents in another study said they do not currently use a tool to manage and measure the impact of influencer platforms, leading to a “gap between intent and impact.” That’s in spite of the fact that the primary impact marketers are seeking through influencer programs is the creation of additional brand visibility. (Strategy)
Technology That Delivers
What are the characteristics of a technology solution that addresses direct, performance-based engagement?
Does it support the priority objectives of enhancing the relevance of influencer posts with a brand’s message, the quality, and creativity of content, and the level of engagement the posts generate? (Strategy)
- It should be fully embeddable to enable engagement with followers and customers directly on the brand’s site or in their app, while allowing them to create amazing content and share it on their social channels.
- It should be intuitive and very easy to use by followers and fans for directly posting compelling comments and reviews with video and photos.
- It should incentivize and gamify engagement through contests and brand ambassador programs.
- It should automatically track all performance-based influencer selling via the website, app and extended social media sharing.
- It should facilitate reasonable compensation for influencers, followers, and fans who generate sales.
- It should provide the brand with consent to own and reuse the content, receive email addresses, and remarket the customer.
- It should capture robust social and sales-related data.
Brands face significant challenges in engaging with the people who matter and who can drive sales. Luckily, with the right approach, they can emerge from this tangled and unproductive landscape and into the light of powerful, transparent, performance-based influencer marketing.