Social media influencers, as the term implies, are entities that have some sort of influence or persuasive power on online audiences. This is achieved through amplifying content via various social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. Accounts with large followings are paid to promote brands via their posts on these platforms.
While the concept of brand ambassadors or endorsers is not new, what makes social media amplifiers different is that you don’t have to be rich or famous to become one – you just need to have a substantial audience base. However, a big account is not all it takes. Here’s a short crash course on the world of social media amplification.
What is Social Media Influence?
Social Media influence or amplification takes place when content is shared online within (and across) social media platforms. This includes both paid and unpaid (organic) sharing by stakeholders like your employees, your customers and your online audience. It also includes sharing by influencers such celebrities who may not even use your product or service but are paid to promote your brand online.
Types of Social Media Influence or Amplification
There are many categories and sub-categories of influencers online, but we will look at the three main types of amplification, namely: Social Media Influencers, Employee Amplification and Customer Amplification.
Social Media Influencers
The most well-known type of social media influence is endorsement by celebrities or people who are in the public eye. These include actors, musicians, sports stars, politicians, prominent business people, well-known thought leaders and other public personalities. Notable celebrity influencers include former First Lady Michelle Obama and pop sensation Selena Gomez. But, unlike most traditional brand endorsement, fame alone is not enough to make you a social media influencer. Celebrity or not, you still need a large online audience to your name. Conversely, if you are not well-known but you have a substantial online following, you can earn yourself “celebrity” status on social media purely due to your audience size. Some social media users are even “anonymous” yet get paid to endorse products or services. How is this so? Because it’s all about leveraging off the existing relationship between the influencer and their (sizeable) audience.
Micro-influencers are another type of social media advocacy. These are accounts that may not be huge but have a significant following within a certain industry or niche market. For instance, consider a food blogger that has an audience of a few thousand people. While this may not seem much in comparison to the major players, such a person has the potential to make a tangible impact within a given market. For example, by posting about the quality of food and service at a specific restaurant.
Employee Amplification (also known as Employee Advocacy) is a powerful yet somewhat untapped form of social media influence. It refers to harnessing the endorsement value and online presence of key employees. It starts with positioning your expert staff members as thought-leaders and trusted advisors within their field. The employees then act as passionate and knowledgeable brand ambassadors through their posts on their personal accounts, positioning the business in a positive light. Not only does this boost desired public sentiment for the brand and the employee, but it also promotes extensive organic (free) audience reach through the employee’s personal audience as users are more likely to share content received via their own network than a business page. In fact, statistics show that company-based messaging reach is 561% higher when shared by employees as opposed to the business itself! (www.falcon.io). Click to read more on Employee Amplification.
We all know the importance of customer service, but the growth of social media has now exponentially increased the impact it can have on businesses. Your customers also have the potential to be brand ambassadors and influencers when it comes to your products and services. Brands can make the most of this opportunity by ensuring that positive customer experience is at the core of all business activities. Excellent business offerings, engaging social media content and responsive client-centric service is likely to result in your brand receiving glowing recommendations online. Think about personal experiences – if a business impresses with its quality of service or products, the user is more likely to talk about the experience with friends and family. The same applies to their online community. Only when it comes to social media, its word-of-mouth marketing on steroids. Not only is it great for promoting positive brand affinity, it also acts as free advertising through authentic client endorsement.
Implementing an amplification strategy
Navigating the social media influencer landscape can be tricky. Here are some points to keep in mind for a successful campaign:
Creating great customer experience at all touchpoints (through advertising, in-store and especially social media activities) can promote loyalty and affinity for the brand. This then drives customer endorsement online.
Social media posts should be highly customer-centric and hold some sort of value for the user, such as informative, intriguing, attractive and high-quality content. This promotes customer engagement and sharing of the content – resulting in increased organic reach. Content should also be optimised for each platform as well as for mobile viewing to increase engagement and share potential. Responsiveness and personable communication are crucial elements of good customer service as well.
While both Employee Amplification and Customer Amplification are driven by the users’ loyalty and passion for the brand, a little incentive doesn’t hurt. Employees can be incentivised (financially or otherwise) to publish posts about the business on their personal networks. Customers can also be encouraged to engage and share through polls, giveaways and rewards (such as accessing online resources).
Type of Influencer
Choose the type of influencer based on their strengths and how well it meets your objectives. For example, social media advocates like celebrities have extensive reach as well as influence over their audience. Micro-influencers can be highly valuable due to their niche (and usually highly-engaged) audience. Employee advocacy is an excellent way to position the brand and its employees as industry thought-leaders. And your customers can act as (unpaid) brand ambassadors that promote your business through their genuine love for the products and service you offer.
Influencer Vetting & Content
When using the services of an influencer, you need to partner with people that are credible and genuinely resonate with your brand. You also need to do thorough due diligence to ensure that their audience consists of real, engaging human beings (as opposed to a bought audiences or bots). You are, after all, paying them based on the number of people a post from them is estimated to reach.
Also, it’s not as simple as just telling the influencer the product or service to pitch – you need to craft the actual post content in terms of your objective or, at the least, review and approve content prior to publishing. The digital community is a discerning bunch, so make sure your content has a level of authenticity. It’s also imperative that the influencer does not post messaging from competitors or publish contradictory posts (for example, tweeting about how amazing your restaurant’s steak is, and then the very next day mentioning her vegan lifestyle).
Brands can send their employees on courses such as Personal Branding and Employee Amplification training to aid in positioning staff and executives as thought-leaders. Business decision-makers can also be equipped with knowledge regarding online risk mitigation and understanding social media data metrics – both of which are valuable when it comes to social media amplification. Beyond training, there are software systems that can be implemented to assist employees with resources, such as pre-approved content, from the company they work for. This improves efficacy of the content and cuts down on time taken to create content.
While there are pros and cons to social media influencers, the one thing that’s undeniable is the sheer impact it has on the business and consumer landscapes. And whether you “like” it or “unlike” it, it is certainly here to stay 😊.
Social Media 101 assists businesses in driving online influence, whether that be improving customer sentiment or sourcing, vetting and managing macro and micro influencers. We also offer training for: employee amplification, creating content and implementing software tools for an employee advocacy programme. Get in touch if your business needs influence and amplification. CLICK HERE to contact Social Media 101.