The Big Brand Theory: Sony Influencer Program

Posted on February 11th 2014

The Big Brand Theory: Sony Influencer Program

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ImageWithin 50 years of the invention of the printing press, over 20 million books had been produced. While a few authorities used some of those books to burn heretics, it was not before the availability of printed material helped to overthrow established religions and political centers throughout Europe. Five centuries later, it could be argued that in blogging, the power of publishing and authoring content has been made ubiquitous.

ImageToday, many brand managers endeavor to harness some of that energy to better connect with ardent fans and bloggers. One of the most notable and successful programs has been that of the consumer electronics brand Sony. In the Sony Club, the company selects a group of established bloggers each year to participate. Callan Green, Senior Social Media Specialist at Sony Electronics, describes the program as both an influencer and brand ambassador program: "We're looking for top-tier influencers who have a natural affinity for the brand, and building the program off that."

The bloggers aren't paid, but they are provided with travel expenses and a full suite of Sony products. The concept of payment was considered. Green explained, "We had bloggers turn us down, saying, 'We don't do this type of program without being paid.' But we were really looking for people who were so excited about working with Sony that they were 'of course, that sounds awesome' - because we felt the content we'd get from those people would be more genuine than from someone who felt that they needed to be paid."

Green also said that she doesn't think there's anything inherently wrong with a paid program; it just wasn't the direction that they chose. 

The 2013 Sony Club Bloggers

The eleven 2013 alumni themselves make up a fairly eclectic bunch, and are by no means simply a bunch of "gear heads." If any one of the group could be called that, it would be Frederick Van Johnson. Even the wildly talented New York City photographer Vivienne Gucwa, like most photographers, shows a keen interest in the equipment side.

Both Dave Amirault and Amanda Brooks could be described as sports bloggers, while Ryan Gargiulo, Carol Cain, and Kristen Sarah all write extensively about travel.

The world of home, lifestyle, and parenting is represented by Susan McClean, Shivani Cotter, Diana Elizabeth, and Crystal Reagan.

When reading the various blog posts about the initial three-day gathering in San Diego, I was struck by how much the trip meant to the participants, not simply as a travel opportunity, but as a chance to socialize and get to know one another.  Green confides that this wasn't by accident. "One of our goals with the program to make it different than some of the other influencer programs out there is we really wanted this group to feel cohesive and have them get along with one another. We know that kind of momentum ultimately impacts the results."

Success and Measurement

How will success be measured?  Both impressions and links to actual sales have been relevant to the program, but much of the success has been anecdotal from the bloggers themselves sharing emails or pictures of their friends buying Sony products. Green sees this year as having established benchmarks. She explains, "We'll take a look at what worked, what didn't, where the strengths and weaknesses are, and what kind of products we'll do next year."

The task of choosing the bloggers was an intensive process that spanned many months. Green tells me that the team spent a great deal of time not only looking at how influential their potential bloggers were, but how interesting their content was. "Ultimately, we wanted something that was interesting, and not just another cookie-cutter review. There are some bloggers that will write about anything you give them; and they will write about it openly and honestly. We were looking for bloggers who were very picky about what they reviewed and what they shared with their audience."

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The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.

RicDragon

Ric Dragon

CEO, DragonSearch

Ric Dragon is the CEO and chief strategist for DragonSearch, a leading digital marketing firm in the realm of internet marketing from search to social. He is the author of the Dragonsearch Online Marketing Manual and Social Marketology (McGraw Hill 2012). In addition to being an artist and a jazz drummer, Dragon has been a speaker at events around the world including Social Media Marketing World, SMX Advanced, NMX, BlogWorld, BrandsConf, 140Conf, SobCon, and more.

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Comments

Madhava Verma Dantuluri
Posted on February 10th 2014 at 1:13PM

Good article, lots of changes in the blogging process.

CarolACain
Posted on February 10th 2014 at 5:43PM

Thanks for the feature Ric. It definitely is a fun group. We've enjoyed testing out the products, learning even more about the brand, but most importantly, we've really all become great friends. We have the Sony Club to forever thank for that. I do also think that a lot of us often hope these "free" opportunities, or investments in our part, will serve to highlight our expertise, or professionalism, and our brands in working with other brands for future paid work. Knowing the group of bloggers, we are all fans of Sony for sure and I for one was happy to commit to speaking out about, for example, their cameras - which I use often for my travel photography - but as far as overall partnerships go, for many of us they serve as a means to a profitable end, or so we hope. Thought that was inportant to mention in the contact of overall brand relationships, social media, and partnerships in general.

RicDragon
Posted on February 19th 2014 at 1:40AM

Thanks for the comment, Carol!  It really was great to "discover" all of the bloggers associated with the program. If I have the opportunity for a follow-up, I'd love to chat with you sometime. Meanwhile, all the best!