It’s been shown time and time again that influencer marketing can be one of the most effective ways to grow your brand. When done well, influencer marketing can:
- Get your products in front of an audience likely to buy
- Use the power of trust and social connections to increase conversion
- Develop more content for you to use repeatedly
- Build your brand image to be a credible, worthwhile and contemporary one
The way it works is you pay or otherwise incentivise someone who has a significant following on social media to review or show off your product. They’re usually a celebrity or someone who has built a name for themselves in your industry. Hiring influencers can be an extremely cost-effective alternative to paid ads, or a complement to a larger marketing campaign.
Here’s the glitch. As with any form of advertising, being overdone can cut to the core of its original purpose. Because influencer marketing has become so commonplace, people are catching on and starting to get weary of celebrities they know have been paid. And celebs that have sponsorship after sponsorship makes any individual one less important. Influencer marketing is supposed to feel more genuine than traditional ads, so when it gets to the point where every Instagrammer you follow is showing off sponsored products, it loses its charm.
While influencer marketing is still often a good marketing strategy, there’s another strategy taking the stage: User-generated Content (UGC). UGC is when your customers are the ones sharing their experiences on their social media or through reviews and comments, in a way that you can capture and use for marketing. We’ve written about it a fair bit before (see this and this).
This guide sits somewhere in the middle - how do you get your customers to create content that helps influence people to buy?
Why your customers are your best influencers
While direct paid advertisement and normal influencer marketing (ie through celebs) do have a role in getting wider brand recognition, having your customers be your PR reps has a key role in developing trust and credibility.
They’re walking testimonials
There is really nothing that can beat a real person giving a genuine testimonial to convince someone. It’s far more effective than seeing an ad. It’s why influencer marketing is popular in the first place. But when it’s your customers, the authenticity is amplified.
They are your target market
When you pay a blogger or Instagrammer, you’re hoping their audience is your target market. When you utilise your customers, they have already shown that they are your target. And, there’s a good chance the people they interact with on a day to day basis will be too.
Their reach is beyond their phones
Dinner conversations, waiting in queues, hanging out with family or friends - it’s hard for an online business to tap into these offline conversations. When you make a customer so excited about your product that they’re talking about it offline, you’re reaching more people - and at a different level of attention - than another brand on the small screen.
Encouraging your customers to do your PR
So how do you do it? How do you turn an excited customer into a sales rep?
Give your customers a platform to share, always
When you have a good product and have proven your brand to an excited customer, just asking a customer to share and telling them where to do it can go a long way in generating some buzz.
Make sure that in all of your emails (especially receipts and order follow-up emails) you have a clear Call To Action that leads customers to share reviews, photos, videos or feedback (see this and this).
On your business’s social media accounts, retweet, share posts and highlight anything positive customers are posting about you. You can feature photo submissions or give shoutouts to customers who use your products in creative ways.
Find incentives that are useful to your customers
Incentives for professional influencers are straightforward. You generally are expected to pay them money in a straightforward transactional exchange for content.
With customers it’s different. It would probably be weird to give a customer cash directly, though you’re welcome to try. Instead, offering discounts, sweepstakes, giveaways and other rewards that are related to your company might be a better choice. You’ll be able to offer them to a broader swath of customers, and your customers will have extra goodies that build their understanding of your brand. You’ve probably used discounts and coupons before, where the objective was to increase sales. This time, the objective is to get your customers to share their thoughts about your brand directly with their social media and personal networks.
Use a loyalty programme
There are several loyalty programmes out there that allow you to set up incentives and rewards for customers who refer their friends. When you use a loyalty programme service, you should look for ones which:
- Allow you to give points for sharing
- Have a referral programme
- Let you track who your top referrers are
You can even consider starting a brand ambassador programme or something similar, where there are extra VIP perks such as swag and exclusive content for people who sign up and prove they’ve convinced their friends to join.
Hone in on the right people
When you go with normal influencer marketing, you always try to find people who are in your field and have a dedicated and active following.
When it comes to finding which of your customers are going to be bringing in lots of new people, it can be hard to tell. You can make guesses based on people that fit your ideal customer persona but just because someone is likely to buy doesn’t mean they’re likely to chat with their friends about your brand.
Instead, you’ll probably need to do a bit of tiered incentivising. Make an easy incentive that doesn’t cost you much and allows customers to share with a bunch of people for a small reward. (“Share this code with your friends and get $5 off every time a friend uses it”). You can give higher and higher rewards for people who bring in more friends (“Get $100 off when five friends sign up). Notice who is sharing with the most people, and who has high rates of bringing people into the club. Then, give those folks a little bit of personal attention to thank them and see if you can use their influence more directly. You can see these stats from the dashboard of most loyalty programs or CRMs you use.
Elkfox can help
We make sites that are beautiful, work as they should and give meaning to your brand. If you’re interested in help with marketing strategies, setting up custom apps or e-commerce websites through Shopify or learning more about customer retention, get in touch with us.