successful social media influencer campaigns

Successful Influencer Campaigns Aren’t Unicorns

PR has a number of tools in its tool belt, one of them is successful influencer campaigns & partnerships.

In consumer goods, influencer marketing is establishing a significant place in the mix. When we see some of these campaigns, a little part of our PR soul dies. Frankly, some of them are brand-damaging and unlikely to have an influence on sales. When working with influencers, you’re already taking a risk that there’s a past or future PR fiasco that could affect your brand reputation.  Influencer marketing should be considered paid media and owned media and just like you wouldn’t put out an ad or other content that damages your brand, nor should you execute an influencer campaign without consideration. Some people seem to think so long as you’re getting your product in someone’s IG story that’s all that matters, we disagree.

We believe all consumer goods PR should be executed with strategy and thought. While influencer campaigns aren’t exactly the same as ads, we take insight from advertising research to inform our recommendations. 

On average, it takes 21 brand exposures to bring someone to the purchase phase.
5-9 brand exposures to create brand awareness
more than 10 exposures during the consideration phase

While influencer campaigns are a paid opportunity (influencer rate range from product exchange to $1 million per post), there are public relations and brand opportunities and implications as well. While you might not be able to spend $1,500 per post, you should seriously balance the PR and brand implications.

 

Working with an influencer is NOT the same as placing an ad, so we also wanted to share our best practices for a  influencer campaign.

Get Crystal Clear on Your KPIs BEFORE Reaching Out to Influencers

If your consumer goods influencer campaign objective is SEO value as opposed to brand awareness, those are actually very different campaigns. They are both relevant.  Who you work with will be different. The number of influencers you work with will be different. How you CHOOSE the influencers might be different.  But even if you’re doing an influencer campaign for SEO value, we beg you to consider the brand implications.

For many CPG brands, their brand may be their most valuable asset, so treating the brand with long-term implications in mind is essential to the longevity or value of the brand. From a brand building and cannabis PR perspective, for MOST brands, our perspective is to go deep, rather than wide with cannabis social media influencers.  The biggest reason this is our typical approach is because of the importance of repeated exposure. This is PARTICULARLY important to emerging CPG brands whose other marketing initiatives are constrained.

Influencer Campaign Success #1:  Choose Your  Influencer Partners Carefully

No matter what strategy you apply to your influencer campaign, align with influencers who align with your brand. If you’re a wellness brand, maybe partnering with an influencer whose feed is about their last party isn’t natural synergy, the influencer’s audience may not receive your product well.

Why is a wellness driven product doing an influencer campaign with influencers aligned with party culture? Why not align with a nurse, a yogi, and a marathon runner? It’s jarring for customers to see inconsistent messages and creates brand confusion. Getting brand awareness is hard enough to do when you act with brand clarity, why make it harder on yourself?

Instead of looking at followers, look at engagement & reply rates. But dig a little deeper on those engagement rates, they should be consistent with typical engagement. If your influencer has 10,000 followers and 3,000 likes and 1,500 comments, that’s a red flag and suggests automation. On the other hand, if your influencer has 700 posts and 35 million followers, that’s disjointed as well. For context, as of this writing Kylie Jenner has 42M U.S. followers (164M globally), of which 1.2M are evaluated as authentic U.S. engagers, according to HypeAuditor.   Is it POSSIBLE that they reached 35 million followers over 700 posts? Yes, but there must have been a viral trigger, so look to see what that could be.

Take a careful look at the other brands the influencer has worked with and see how they align with you. Have they worked with your competitors? Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?

Since this is likely a paid relationship, you should also be evaluating their overall professionalism. How thoughtful and eye-catching is the content, how professional is their response to your inquiry?

Ruthlessly review their past content for any red flags that could cause your brand problems, and also consider ways to mutually separate in case of a brand clash in the future.

If you follow the other steps below, this stage is incredibly important.

Build a Relationship with the Influencer Before Your Influencer Campaign

Note I keep referring to social media influencers as partners. Treat them as such, treat them as humans. Social media influencers will have an emotional response to how they are treated and no matter how professional they are, how you treat them impacts the outcome. That’s because the POWER of influencers is in the PERSONAL.

Why undermine the most valuable part of the partnership? Why not turn that influencer into an actual advocate?

By inspiring your cannabis influencer, you can bet they’ll have an easier time inspiring their followers and creating content that’s consistent for both brands. Meet with the influencer if you can, engage with them as they’re experiencing the product for the first time.

Explain your favorite aspects of the product/brand and discuss your brand values and vision, so the influencer can align their value systems and genuinely connect with the brand.

This more personal relationship approach is something 90% of influencer campaigns lack, and it shows.

Another reason to build a relationship with a brand influencer is to review how you’ll mutually handle it if the account is shut down during the campaign or afterward.

Allow The Influencer Creative Freedom & Voice

Effective  influencers have their own style of content and voice, you’re likely attracted to that style and voice – let then keep it. Influencers are master content creators, they see the world through a lens that sparks enthusiasm by their followers. A great influencer will happily develop content ideas that meet your objectives, while also reinforcing both brands. This content will put a fresh spin on your brand.

Collaboration magic happens when two brands align in such a way that it seems absolutely natural. Collaborating WITH the  influencer on content as opposed to directing or scripting the content enables to you leverage the influencer’s own brand while also enhancing yours.

Know FTC Guidelines

Make sure to review FTC guidelines on disclosure. This is especially important because it’s almost always the brand who the FTC investigates. The brand has more skin in the game, so the brand needs to be the enforcer.

 

social media influencer disclosure

Because of continuing conversations with colleagues, brands, and influencers, I wanted to put some guidelines together for based on the FTC’s native advertising guidelines or influencer disclosure.

The FTC has shot some arrows over the bow in the last several years regarding native advertising disclosure, including calling out Warner Bros. and Lord and Taylor.

In both cases, the brand was held liable, not the influencers or content creators, strongly signaling that it’s the brand’s responsibility to ensure disclosure. But, the FTC native advertising guidelines make it clear: ” …the FTC has taken action against other parties who helped create deceptive advertising content – for example, ad agencies and operators of affiliate advertising networks.  Everyone who participates directly or indirectly in creating or presenting native ads should make sure that ads don’t mislead consumers about their commercial nature.”

Basically, no one is off the hook.

As if by magic, the FTC slapped 45 celebrity influencers with warning letters but didn’t forget to include their agents and the brands – in total 90 letters were issued about the FTC native advertising guidelines. It’s safe to say this isn’t going away. It’s always been best practice, but if you didn’t take it seriously before, it’s time to do so now.

My view is this: disclosure and transparency are good for all.

A brand should have no shame about showcasing its products and experiences in a real life scenario. Influencers shouldn’t have shame either, because working with a brand is a badge of honor. It’s a real compliment to a community that a brand values their eyeballs. If you’re ashamed of working with a particular brand or influencer, perhaps you’re working with the wrong partner.

Often times when I have conversations about disclosure with brands and influencers, I get questions like “what if…we do….”

Whether you are a brand or an influencer, if you’re asking questions about how to get around these guidelines, you’re on the wrong track. The guidelines make it very clear: make it obvious to an uneducated viewer that there is a material relationship (basically, anything which might effect the outcome of the endorsement). Influencers are often concerned about “selling out” their community. As an influencer, if you’re making a living from your community with native advertising and you’re not disclosing those relationships, you’re REALLY selling them out.

The Edelman Trust Barometer makes it clear: trust is in crisis. 

Establishing trust and adhering to guidelines is necessary for native advertising and influencer relations to continue. If trust is eroded the FTC guidelines won’t be at fault for the collapse of social native advertising.

So here are the guidelines based on reading hundreds of pages including all of the FTC links provided below.


When do social media influencers need to disclose a relationship with a brand?

Always.

Does this apply to me?

Yes.

Why does it matter?

The FTC says it does.
Consumer trust is important to all of us. 

How do I disclose?

Make it “clear and conspicuous” and leave no doubt.


If you want to read through the FTC’s own words on this:

FTC Native Advertising Guideline Resources

.com Disclosures (2013)

Native Advertising: A Guide For Business

FTC Endorsement Guidelines: What People Are Asking (2015)

The Lord & Taylor Disclosure Case-FTC Blog (2015)

The Warner Bros Disclosure Case-FTC Blog (2015)

Enforcement Policy Statement On Deceptively Formatted Ads (2015)

 

How much should you use for cannabis marketing budgets?

You can see the cannabis market changing daily and yet we haven’t even reached anywhere close to a zenith in cannabis purchases. It’s easy to be lulled into thinking that a growing market allows you to limit your marketing budget. Unfortunately, no. Despite the growing businesses, success in the cannabis industry is no sure thing.  So how can you take advantage of this growing market by really developing a foothold?

Establishing your brand and investing in marketing is going to be the difference between success and failure in the cannabis industry.

The cannabis industry is growing, but you need to establish your brand and foothold now to ensure you’re able to withstand the inevitable maturation and consolidation of the industry as regulations ease.

Fundamentally, the wine market is a great comparison to the cannabis industry because it’s an industry built around an agricultural product that’s highly regulated. There’s one glaring difference between the two: wine is a mature product, the market is educated about it and those who drink wine, know they like drinking wine. Drinking wine carries with it a certain life-style sophistication that some people aspire to, in other words, it’s a lifestyle product. Wine companies know investing in branding can make all the difference because the market is highly competitive and they generally budget 15%-20% of sales for marketing, this is a mature product with an established brands.  You’ll notice in the below infographic that recreational cannabis is larger than wine sales, but cannabis sales haven’t even remotely become mainstream or moved past the “stoner” lifestyle image. If you’re marketing to a “stoner” culture audience,  then perhaps you can develop a budget that’s on the low side, but if you see only 10% sales growth, you’ll know what to expect.

But if you’re hoping to capture some of the market that lives beyond the “stoner” audience, then you’re going to need a bigger budget and you’ll need to think like a lifestyle marketer. You can bet that the cannabis industry is going to get incredibly competitive as time goes on. Establishing your brand and investing in marketing is going to be the difference between success and failure in the cannabis industry.

What should my cannabis marketing budget be?

Setting cannabis marketing budgets is no easier (in fact, it may be harder) than doing so for other industries and this is because of the multiple variables impacting this decision-making. We present these stats to you as a guideline to determining your marketing spend vs. sales growth.

Basically, ask yourself how much you want to grow and allocate an according percentage of your budget to the growth. You can’t expect sales to grow 100% with a 10% marketing budget. It may happen, but the more likely scenario is that by the time you realize it isn’t going to happen, you’ll be boxed into a budget that doesn’t support the other expenditures you made in anticipation of growth.

Your mileage may vary and we’re happy to talk to you about your specific niche in the industry to help you develop a plan if you don’t have one at all. Keep in mind if you’re in launch mode, your PR and marketing budgets should be on the higher side, which pretty much applies to almost every cannabis brand today.

Something else to consider are the advertising limitations facing the cannabis industry. Depending on your actual product, you may not be able to buy ads on Facebook and Google. Does that mean you shouldn’t have an advertising budget? No, it actually means you’ll need to reallocate what would be an ad budget to something else, perhaps social media marketing and community building or content marketing or public relations.

Understand this: if you don’t feel comfortable allocating this kind of percentage to marketing, it doesn’t mean you should pack up your bags and quit-it just means your progress will go slower and you should have realistic expectations.

How Long Will It Take for Marketing Efforts to Deliver Results?

There are numerous variables in the answer to this question. Including your customer, your product and your previous efforts. Let me assure you, with the right budget, all things are possible.

Marketing, PR and branding efforts all work together and they tend to compound, especially in the early days. The more marketing you do, the earlier the ball will start rolling.  You can do yourself some favors by tracking metrics along the way so you know you’re hitting the right mix of marketing and that your marketing dollars are being optimized. Consistency is key in marketing and PR, so plan for consistency with bursts of activity around your strategic sales times.

All that to say this, the bigger your budget as a percentage of sales, the faster you’ll see sales grow, so if you’re in a hurry, budget accordingly.

cannabis marketing budgets stats

brand advocacy and loyalty

Marketing to influencers and advocates is all the rage, fueled in large part by social media.
But if you’ve ever developed a campaign with influencers and/or advocates, you know it can be filled with land mines.
Part of that is what inspires advocates and influencers is different.
In the my last post about Captivation Motivations, I shared with you the secret driver you’ve already heard of behind so many of our snap decisions and just BARELY touched on rewards and lures.
But they’re actually super closely related to what’s behind our fastest decisions to click, like, join, sign up or buy.
If you’ve played an app or computer game anytime in the last 7 years, you’ve probably noticed that these games are getting more and addictive (eh, em, Candy Crush anyone?).
It’s not just better graphics and faster speeds that are making these games addictive, it’s the deeper understanding of what really motivates people to continue playing and one of those is the power of rewards.

I’m going to get to the secret successful games use in a minute, but first, I want to share something else with you.
If you’re thinking of running a give away, a promotion or even thinking of starting an app, you want to keep reading.
If you’re using digital and social media to market your brand (and I know you are), you’ll want to keep reading.
What I’m about to share with you is particularly important and will ultimately, make or break your product or promotion and even marketing relationships with influencers and advocates.

 

You Scratch My Back…Carefully.

The last time someone bought you lunch, I bet your parting words were “It’s on me next time!”
You probably said it without asking where you might go or checking your bank account or even your calendar.
You just blurted it out.
The truth is, we’re hard wired to return favors.
Think about that for a minute.
We are deeply, sincerely uncomfortable when we think we need to return a favor. Next time you run a promotion on Facebook, do a test. Ask people to like the page BEFORE entering the contest and compare that to the results if you ask AFTER you’ve given them something, even if it’s just a chance to win.
Chances are you’ll find that if you ask AFTERwards, your conversion percentage goes way up AND those people remain engaged for longer.
This is because lures trigger our sense of reciprocity.

Want to hear an old school example of this?
Ever received mailing labels from a nonprofit that you didn’t ask for?
Did you know that sending mailing labels with a request for a donation has been shown to DOUBLE donations?
And guess what? The average donation is way, way more than the value of the labels.
Why? Because reciprocity is a compelling motivation and it comes with a quirk: what we give in exchange for what we received has very little to do with the financial value of either.
You give something, ANYTHING of some value without placing a value on it, the reciprocity trigger kicks in.
This is the idea behind successful content marketing.

 

Why You Should Never Pay Your Advocates

There’s a lot of discussion today about influencer and advocate marketing.
Lures and rewards are different.
Lures give without the expectation on the givers part of receiving anything in return. That triggers reciprocity by the receiver.
Rewards are given with the expectation of the receiver to get something in exchange, so no sense reciprocity is triggered.

Rewards (generally) kill reciprocity, but they can create habits if done correctly (like training your dog).
But it’s extremely difficult for marketers to get the consistency required to create a habit. Hell, it’s hard to get the consistency required to create a habit in dog, ask anyone who’s tried.
But marketers can more easily create reciprocity, which is an extremely powerful motivation that rewards do not trigger.
Here’s the rub though: reciprocity has some limitations too.
If you offered rewards to those who were already advocating for you to do the things they were already doing, you’d begin to see that their desire to support you moving forward would be slipping.
That’s because offering a reward on contingency (do this 3X/week and receive that reward) for something someone is ALREADY motivated to do, it decreases the desire.
And unless you understood this motivational fact, you’d probably be left scratching your head about what happened.
Tread lightly with your advocates because the way you show appreciation can actually decrease their motivation if you aren’t careful.

This isn’t to say rewards aren’t effective. They can be very effective.
“Share this and receive that…” you see it all the time. That’s a reward, not a lure.
Again, ask my dogs. They know if they do something, there’s a good chance there’s a treat in it for them. That’s a reward, they’ve been conditioned to expect it.
Rewards can be very powerful tools for increasing reach.
It creates increased reach by those who AREN’T your advocates and depending on your strategy, that can be very important.
Just don’t confuse people you give a reward to as an advocate.

Time: The Biggest Reciprocity Trigger

If you’re really interested in triggering reciprocity, then you should probably do two things:
1) get to know your customer really well
2) think beyond monetary lures (discounts, coupons, even product give-aways).

The reasons for this are two-fold:
Our 90% of the brain (the oldest, largest and most primitive part of our brain) inherently knows that time is more valuable than items.
We inherently value experiences (millennials especially) more than items, so although the default is often a coupon or discount, experiences are more highly valued.
Receiving an experience from a product or brand increases reciprocity. So if you use an experience as a reward, you can trigger reciprocity.
But to offer an experience that is highly valued, you really have to know your customer. What YOU think your customer values maybe completely different than what they actually value.
In the last post, we talked about information seeking as a dopamine trigger, but it can also be a reward. So can mastery – this is the essence of gamification. Becoming good at something is it’s own reward and the longer we spend on achieving that reward, the more we value it.
Again, what your customers value may be something else all together: inclusion in a tribe, recognition or status.
All these things can be valuable rewards AND lures for brands.

The other thing to understand is that placing a distinct financial value on a lure (or a reward) kinks up the perceived value.
Let me give you an example:
If I invited you to dinner at my house for a homemade dinner that was wonderful (of course it would be FABULOUS), but then I spent all night talking about how much I spent on buying the ingredients of the dinner, two things would happen. 1) you would view the dinner as a sum of parts rather than it’s whole value of time, effort and community and 2) you probably wouldn’t feel a sense of reciprocity at all, no matter how fabulous the dinner was.
Don’t force your influencers OR your advocates to view your rewards or lures as a sum of parts by involving money too heavily; it kills goodwill AND reciprocity.
If you’re going to use rewards or lures, remember, make it something the customer values and think about how to make more valuable than money.

Here’s the bottom line: use rewards for influencers and lures for advocates.

Can you think of a time when a marketing strategy with lures or rewards turned you off? Share them with me here or in social media, it’s a fascinating discussion I love hearing about.

 

 

About the Captivation Motivations:

The Captivation Motivations are all built around what I call our “other 90%” of our brain. The part of our brain that is the oldest and most developed part of our brain.

I didn’t make up the Captivation Motivations, I’ve simply been studying them and their effects for the last four years. I’ve been testing them in my strategies and tactics, reading and writing about them.
Simply put, these motivations are not some flash-in-the-pan-do-whats-trendy-now strategy, these are strategies which trigger reactions from the oldest part of our brain.  Over the last few years, more and more has been understood about these motivations. But one thing is clear: despite the fact that these motivations developed in the earliest days of humanity’s survival of the fittest experiences, these motivations are very much alive and well today. What triggers them in the modern world is just different than what triggered them in our earliest evolutionary days.