More and more brands are partnering with social media influencers to help share their brand story with a broader online audience. Marketers are collaborating with social media users with large followings and small followings alike, however, what these users have in common is consistency between the lifestyle portrayed in their social media accounts and the lifestyle of the brands that they work with. Whether these users are social influencers or everyday influencers, they can help to positively affect brand trust, browser engagement, and ultimately sales.
Brands looking to grow influencer marketing into a bonafide inbound marketing channel should look no further than Quiksilver Inc. The company's Roxy brand took a strategic approach to building a brand ambassador program, making sure to outline its goals ahead of time, correctly manage influencer relationships, and measure its success.
As Roxy's SVP of Global Marketing Activation, Rochelle Webb led the charge for the program, beginning with an in-depth analysis of the typical Roxy customer.
1. Plan Influencer Marketing Goals and KPIs Early
The most important thing that you can do to build a successful influencer program is to understand your customer.
Many retail brands only take a general approach, looking at geography, age, gender, etc. However, the customer mindset cannot be ignored - if you understand your customer's mindset you can craft a message that resonates.
"I'm a data-led marketer and am big on data collection to inform process," Webb says. "For the Roxy ambassador program, we commissioned Nielsen to do syndicated research on our customers. By the end of our in-depth analysis I could tell you how our customers think, what other media they are consuming, and the activities that they like to do."
Once you've done your research, you can turn your attention to choosing KPIs. The research process will enable you to be more specific and to create meaningful targets that will conversions.
To ensure that your KPIs are scalable, do some cross-functional research between your teams.
"With Roxy, I worked very closely with the sales and ecommerce team to gather as much data from them as I could and mapped it back to Nielsen panels to make sure that we create the right overlay to give us the right KPIs."
For companies that don't have an agency or consultants who have access to data from Nielsen or Forrester, immerse yourself in reports about your target customers.
2. Select the Right Influencers for your Brand
"At the end of the day, the Roxy customer likes to express herself and to be involved. We built an ambassador program that would allow our customers to display their personalities and be active members of a community."
To apply to the influencer program, Webb and her team asked passionate customers to create a 'slambook' style collage. In the collage, potential influencers showcased inspirational quotes, photographs, and described what being the ultimate Roxy girl meant to them. "This helped us to understand how they create with the brand and how they express themselves. Through this process, we were able to curate a very diverse set of ambassadors. We had a very coastal community and then we had a very concentrated audience in the mid-west who had a viewpoint that was a little more aspirational." Roxy chose to work with brand ambassadors across the entire nation.
These influencers wore many hats for the brand: from serving as a focus group, to writing white papers, to helping shape the directional trend visions for Roxy collections. Once the model was set up, Webb scaled the recruitment program.
"We wanted them to bring in other women like them. This helped us to double and then triple the size on the program."
After building out a larger pool of brand influencers, Roxy was able to identify the group's super-influencers: the women with the most engagement from their followings.
"We would cherry pick certain social influencers of the larger group to help us with new initiatives such as the launch of a new swim collection. Based on the different social campaigns that we wanted to run, we would siphon off sections of the influencer group to be involved."
3. Closely Manage Ambassador Relationships
"If we dropped contact with our influencers, we would hear about it."
Webb believed that the influencers would most relate to one another, so she and her team created opportunities for them to foster community. Influencers tuned in for monthly conference calls, participated in the Roxy Girls closed Facebook Group, were invited to meet world-class athletes, had access to VIP shopping days, and more. Roxy also gave influencers a clothing allowance and sent influencers products from their collections and would ask influencers to describe feedback on the pieces that they received from friends while sporting Roxy products.
"I'm not a fan of buying influencer programs where you have to put a disclaimer, I would rather have an influencer program that's all organic and where influencers participate because they want to post."
Marketers often assume that all brand influencers want to be incentivized with money, however other incentive programs, such as the ones that Roxy offers, are almost more effective to help keep influencers' engagement and momentum up.
4. Measure the Results of the Program
"One of the KPIs that Roxy had identified for our influencer program was to grow our social channels that we could market to our own audience without having to spend a lot of money on outside ads. In the past, we'd been running ads over print mediums and it wasn't giving us the scalability that we needed."
Influencers can play a central role in growing a brand's social media following. And while this element is relatively easy to track, it can be more difficult to measure how influencers affect conversion. Roxy was able to measure each influencer's effectiveness based on both their posting engagement and sales.
Consider placing tracking links on influencers' social channels, or giving brand influencers VIP cards with unique discount codes that influencers can pass along to their friends. By implementing some of these techniques, Roxy could see which ambassadors were driving the most sales for the brand - it could even measure what percentage of its influencer's followings were purchasing online versus in brick and mortar.