Why You Should Collaborate With Brand Influencers (And How)


Guest Post – Tyler Douglas, Chief Marketing Officer, Vision Critical


September 22, 2015

Brand Influencers

Retailers are spending more and more money partnering with bloggers and social media influencers. One industry estimate suggests that brands already spend more than $1 billion annually working with so-called Instagram influencers—bloggers and social media users who have a strong following on the photo-sharing site. Fashion bloggers like 22-year old Danielle Bernstein, who runs the popular site We Wore What, reportedly makes up to $15,000 for a single sponsored Instagram image.

But while it’s true that working with influencers can build brand authority and provide a way for retailers to reach younger customers, retailers need to expand their efforts. That’s because the typical approach to influencer marketing often fails to engage the most important stakeholder: customers.

In an age when shoppers are empowered by mobile and social technologies, everyone is a potential influencer. One voice can spark a PR firestorm. One customer can do real damage to a retailer’s brand image. Retailers need to engage not just social media users who have thousands of followers, they also need to understand what most of their customers think and feel.

When it comes to targeting influencers, companies need to think about their most passionate customers—those who are most eager to be heard. The good news is that many customers today want to contribute their opinions, especially if they know that their input is being heard and is helping shape company decisions.

Here are three simple steps retailers can take to expand their influencer programs and drive business results beyond the reach of bloggers and social media influencers.

Look beyond social media.

When people talk about influencers, they often think of social media influencers—people with massive following on sites like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Vine. But that definition of an “influencer” is very limiting. While social media is certainly a dominant method of communication today, word of mouth (still) often happens offline.


In fact, 85 percent of what companies hear on social comes from less than 30 percent of the social media audience. That means if you’re relying on social media analytics to find influencers, you are excluding a great majority of your customers—people who may not be tweeting about your brand but are certainly talking about you with their friends and family.

The solution is to include your own customers, especially those who feel connected to your brand and want to give feedback on a regular basis. Create a community of customers and talk to them on a regular basis. This type of engagement not only drives word of mouth, it also helps build your relationship with customers.

Use the insight of influencers in all aspects of your business.

Working with influencers is not strictly a marketing exercise. Yes, influencers can help increase the reach of your brand, but their value is much more than that. Your customers can provide useful input about strategies and tactics in many aspects of your business.

Take research and development, for example. Since brand influencers are passionate about your brand, they can provide feedback on how to improve your products and services. Getting closer to customers can help identify the needs currently unfulfilled in your market.

Brand influencers can also help you improve the customer experience by helping detect pain points in the customer journey. When you engage influencers, they can provide insight into the type of experiences customers are looking for and how different technologies are shaping people’s expectations.

When you engage influencers only for marketing, you’re missing the chance to be truly customer-centric. Studies suggest that companies that focus on the customer are more profitable, so there’s no reason not to infuse the voice of the customer in all aspects of your business.

Engage frequently.

Collaborating with influencers should be more than just a campaign. It needs to be part of your company DNA. It should be done consistently and frequently.

Fashion Conversation

The best way to do that is to foster a community and engage influencers in a two-way conversation. Not just asking for feedback, but also letting influencers know how their input shaped your business decisions.

The biggest benefit of influencer relations is that it allows companies to be less reactive in their interactions with customers. Companies that engage their most passionate customers are more proactive in improving the customer relationship, in delivering the products and services customers are looking for and in making adjustments before something becomes a problem. Ultimately, a strong relationship with customers drives more positive word of mouth than any single blogger or social media influencer ever could. In today’s business world, where customers have more influence than ever before, two-way engagement provides the real competitive advantage companies need in order to thrive.

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