5 Ways Social Media Influencers Can Help Your Brand Sit at The Cool Kids Table (Plus Helpful Tips, Tricks & Examples)

In high school two things were unavoidable: cliques and cool kids. From jocks to theater to bookworms and everything in between, high schools are filled to the brim with cliques of cool kids, some of which helped the awkward teen in all of us feel related to. If you’re like me, you can close your eyes and visualize the lunchroom or hallways of your high school (for some, this may take longer. No judgement.) High school cliques & cool kids were simply unavoidable.

Don't believe me? Ask high school me.

Despite my thin eyebrows and dark-lined lips, I was a cool kid in high school.

Despite my thin eyebrows and dark-lined lips, I was a cool kid in high school.

According to Business to Community, 92% of people trust personal recommendations over brand recommendations (even if they don’t know the person making the recommendation), while 81% of people are influenced by friends’ social media posts. What’s that mean? People don’t care what you (the brand) have to say about why they should buy your product/service. People trust people who look like them, struggle like them, live like them and are real…like them. Some people will tell you that social media influencers are a passing fad, unnecessary and ineffective, but those are likely the people who already have an impressive footprint or following. With 47% of shoppers using ad blockers, it’s getting harder to solely rely on online ads to reach customers. Likewise, more and more customers are relying on influencers to both feel comfortable sharing their own recommendations and to make purchasing decisions. Any brand, regardless of size and (often) industry, with messaging, product releases and a desire to attract audiences beyond their organic reach, will tell you that social media influencers are the cool kids with the key to getting in where you fit in. 

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What is a Social Media Influencer?

Simply put, a social media influencer is someone who influences others via social media. Times have changed. Influencers have shifted from being a traditional celebrity with endorsement commercials (Think: Ray Charles and Pepsi or even Kim Kardashian and Flat Tummy Tea) to non-celebrity “celebrities” (Think: Vloggers and Bloggers with decent to significant social followings) who are using their influence and credibility to introduce their followers to brands and products. Most major social influencers have hundreds of thousands to millions of followers. A micro influencer- a newly exploding trend- generally has anywhere from 10K to 100K followers (still a following you can’t sneeze at- especially with a highly engaged community).

Social media influencers are the butter needed to spread your brand messaging to targeted and new audiences, to build brand credibility and to increase search listings and unique brand storytelling opportunities.

Here are five ways social media influencers can help your brand not only sit at the cool kids’ table, but also flourish in the land of cool.

The Cool New Kid: (Reaching New & Targeted Audiences)

Your brand probably already has loyal brand enthusiasts. However, if you want to extend your reach to new and targeted audiences, influencer marketing is the cool new kid to do just that. Activating social influencers campaigns gives your product the opportunity to be introduced to a broader or new audience, in ways that would be hard to do on your own branded channels. Your product/service can easily reach ears and eyes that would be extremely difficult for your brand to access organically on its own. Thank the new cool kid.

Example:

DJ Khaled and Stride gum- Gum has never been the “cool” kid, but all of that changed Stride activated a Snapchat takeover with DJ Khaled (where a brand lets the influencer run their channels for exclusive, unfiltered access) for their “Mad Intense Gum” campaign. Giving your audience loyal audience access to an influencer, while piggybacking on the influencers’ existing fan base is not only unpredictable – it’s smart.

Tip & Tidbit: 

Not all influencers are created equal. Some will only entertain monetary partnerships, while others want to build their brand by partnering with a well-known brand, and will take product or service as their payment. Either way it goes, any worthwhile influencer partnership should be consistent with your brand’s look and have the potential to be long-term with the right nurturing.

The Trustworthy Cool Kid: (Added Brand Credibility)

The social influencer is the trustworthy cool kid of your dreams. When activating an influencer campaign with a reputable influencer, your brand will automatically receive additional brand credibility from their loyal following. They already trust this cool new kid. Imagine what they’ll do when s/he introduces them to your brand. Hello cross-over brand credibility.

Tip & Tidbit: Numbers don’t matter as much as engagement does. Holding off on contacting that highly engaged micro-influencer with 10K followers because you’re eyeing the 250K followers of another influencer, who has never posted about your brand? Reach, Engagement and Relevancy matter more than how many followers they have. Who cares if 250K eyes see your product if only 25 of them believe the influencer actually uses your product? Influence strategically.

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The Know-it-All Cool Kid: (Increased Search Listings)

You remember the know-it-all cool kid from high school who knew (and shared) everything? That’s exactly what your social influencer relationship can do. Aside from word-of-mouth, your search listings will inevitably grow. Whether it’s a YouTube or blogger partnership (or Instagram, Twitter or FB campaigns), the more branded content that’s available, the easier you’ll show up in search engines. Search listings growth = the gift that keeps on giving.

Tip & Tidbit: 

Do your research on the influencer. What other channels are they popular on and is there room in your negotiation to create an entire campaign that stretches over time across all platforms? Sometimes a follower only follows an influencer on one platform, and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to share your messaging/campaign with every loyal follower they have. 

The Creative Cool Kid: (Unique Brand storytelling)

Brands talking about themselves is boring. It’s expected. It’s…a little self-centered and leaves room for a side-eye from customers who are already skeptical about whether a brand is genuine or selling to them. An influencer with a different way of telling a brand’s story- primarily from the eyes of the consumer- is not only appealing, it’s engaging. The creative cool kid allows your brand to have its brand’s story told in a unique and innovative way. YouTube influencers might engage through an unboxing video, while an Instagram influencer will probably use a visual storytelling aspect that will stop users mid-scroll and get them to pay attention to your product. If it came from your brand directly, you’d get a major ::customer side-eye::, but when it comes from an influencer you get a completely unique way to activate unique brand storytelling effectively.

Example: The Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers gave a social influencer access to capture THIS amazing photo, which has since gone on to be featured on nba.com and more! Need I say more?

The Cool Kid with Results: (Conversions, Conversions, Conversions)

At the end of the day, your relationship with the cool kids of social influencers is as effective as the cool kid with results says it is. Now, to be fair, the world of social influencers is relatively new, so metrics continue to grow. For some, it’s about how many sales the influencer brings in, brand mentions, hashtag usage, or brand credibility, while others care about the number of followers the partnership brings in.  Regardless of your metrics, your social influencer campaigns should connect you to an audience that cares and engages with your brand. If you gain 500K followers but have zero increased engagement or sales, there’s an issue with the campaign. Aim to activate campaigns that strategically speak to the audience about your brand in an engaging, relatable way, rather than speaking broadly in hopes that the large number of followers all run out and buy one of everything you have. If it smells like an ad, looks like an ad and reads like an ad, users will run for the hills. To get conversions, do less selling and more building with your influencer.  

Tip & Tidbit: Partnering with your social influencer to create content is a phenomenal way to make sure your message will be received by their audience. After all, they know their audience inside and out, while you’re only beginning to peel back the layers of what makes them tick. Let your social influencer guide you - while you give feedback on what aligns with your messaging and branding.

Example: Sperry & Micro-Influencers-

Sperry did the smartest thing any brand could do. They engaged and hailed existing customers who were already talking and sharing about their brand. Genius, right? By giving engaged customers exclusive access to a new release- in exchange for great visuals on social media- Sperry gained additional credibility as a brand who listens and cares about their customers. Who doesn’t want to buy from a company like that?

Social Media Influencers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The smartest thing a brand can do is utilize the power of influencers with targeted, strategic and impactful partnerships and campaigns, which are mutually beneficial. Being a cool brand, requires sitting and listening to what the cool kids (social influencers) are doing, saying and liking. If you’re not at the cool kids’ table, you’re talking to the lunch lady over stale fries. Nobody wants to be that kid. Be a cool kid. Try social media influencers. Your marketing ROI will thank you.

P.S. My eyebrows have grown in and I've ditched the dark lip liner. I'd say that's a cool kid winning story, if there ever was one. :)

- Ebonee, Founder of The Persona Agency

Ebonee Thompson