Influencer marketing is not a new concept. Brands have long worked to establish relationships with celebrities or sports icons who can influence the opinions of their fans. But now the focus for marketers has shifted to identifying and harnessing the power of a far larger number of consumers who are brand advocates–and who now have the online and social media tools to influence hundreds or thousands of their friends.
These “superfans”–people who are brand loyalists, who have the passion to share or even create content on behalf of brands–represent a powerful opportunity for marketers to earn valuable, influential media impressions. The problem, especially for a large brand: how do you scale an influencer outreach, engagement and relationship management program–without losing the authenticity of the engagement?
This is the problem that SocialChorus is designed to solve. In April of last year, advertising network Halogen Media acquired social marketing firm YouCast. In February of this year, the combined company relaunched with new technology and services under the SocialChorus brand, with a mission to “build and manage influencer networks to drive influencer relationship marketing (IRM) at scale.” The product: an integrated influencer marketing platform, that combines influencer identification and relationship management, a social content management platform, and the ability to track and measure programs.
The key, according to SocialChorus Senior Business Development Manager Bobby Isaacson, is to give influencers social actions that they can take on behalf of brands, and to create experiences for them to share.
Own Your Influencers
SocialChorus CEO Greg Shove defines influencers based on two or three of the following characteristics:
- the size of their social graph: what is their potential reach and impact?
- their familiarity with the brand: how authoritatively can they speak on behalf of your brand?
- topic authority: are they considered an expert on the market you serve?
One significant difference between SocialChorus and a Perks delivery platform like Klout: you own the relationship. Instead of renting the list of influencers and mailing a Perk to people you don’t know, the brand is intimately involved in establishing the target list and then building a relationship over time. Influence measurement tools do come into play, but so do customer lists, or lists of influencers identified through traditional PR outreach programs, making it easy to manage programs targeted to the “magic middle” set of influencers.
Shove points out another important source of potential influencers: your employees. They can be among the most passionate brand advocates, and some of them could influence large networks of friends and family. Dealers and distributors are also an untapped source of earned media impressions.
The platform replaces the Excel spreadsheets that PR agencies have long used to track influencers on behalf of clients, managing profiles, tracking the activity of individual influencers, even connecting in to Salesforce and other CRM platforms. SocialChorus does track influencer scores, but the context is a brand index: how much influence do they have around the conversation about your brand, based on actions they take as part of SocialChorus-powered programs.
Tapping Into Superfans
Once the target list has been established, the SocialChorus team will work with a client to develop programs based on sharable content that are designed to make it easy for influencers to engage. ”Brands underestimate the power of content as a form of social currency,” CEO Greg Shove told me. Shove believes that we are entering an “age of superfans” — fans who are excited to share brand content in exchange for access to unique experiences, access or the experience of being an insider. Brands can provide different levels of content, access and experience, based on the level of commitment that fans are willing to make to the brand.
The content could be a coupon, a video, an image, or even the tools that fans need to create and share their own content. The platform automates the process of delivering sharable content to influencers, most of whom are contacted and invited to participate via email. The content can be transactional (do this and you get a discount), or it can be a question of giving influencers access to a variety of content assets, and then allowing them to tell the story in their own way. Brands don’t necessarily need to have a large content library at hand: Intel recently ran a successful program in which the content was entirely created by the influencers themselves.
All of the SocialChorus team members I spoke to emphasized the goal of creating an outreach program that can scale–but still offer an experience that’s “authentic.”
What’s the ROI of the IRM?
Managed correctly, these types of Influencer Relation Marketing (IRM) programs can be extraordinarily effective. Tropicana used SocialChorus to run an advocacy campaign that resulted in 36,000 social actions and more Facebook engagement and traffic in one month than the brand had in an entire year. Other case studies include a Turner Entertainment campaign to engage 1,400 influencers across a number of programs, and a Williams-Sonoma program that included the ability for bloggers to add personalized widgets to their sites and earn revenue from products sold through those widgets.
The company claims that CTRs average 10x that of paid media programs. The SocialChorus platform integrates with all major social networks, and includes an analytics module that allows marketers to track the actions taken by influencers, and to quantify outcomes such as traffic and earned media impressions.
According to Isaacson, a SocialChorus license starts at $22,500, including training, and outreach programs can run $50,000 and up. That investment includes full use of the management platform, and the ability to export and integrate all of the influencer data generated by the programs. SocialChorus also plans to introduce a full Facebook module later this year, designed specifically to nurture and amplify the voices of superfans on Facebook brand pages.
As the focus of social media marketing moves from listening, to publishing content on social networks, to ultimately finding ways to encourage others to talk about your brand, budgets for programs designed to generate “earned media” impressions are climbing. SocialChorus is well postioned to help brands manage complex programs efficiently, and integrate the analytics with other tools they might be using.
How are you managing influencer marketing programs? Would you consider using a platform like SocialChorus?
Don’t forget to check out The Realtime Report’s Guide to Influence Measurement Tools, our detailed analysis of personal and contextual influence measurement tools.