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How to Pick the Right Brand Ambassador

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With the rise in popularity of social media, influencers and third party content, brands are clamoring to figure out a marketing strategy that intuitively incorporates these new marketing formats in order to obtain a competitive edge.  One of the most popular ways brands are aligning with influencers is through brand ambassadorships.

 

With so many influencers showcasing large followings and a steady stream of content, it can be confusing as to which influencer would best represent your brand. Here are four simple tips on how to pick the right influencer for your brand:

 

  1. Profile - A good brand ambassador is an influencer with a decent following who has been creating content for at least a few years. A decent following ranges from 5,000 to over a 1 million subscribers. The key thing you're seeking is an influencer with experience. You want to be sure this person is consistently posting content and that there are no large gaps of time between the posts. Influencers with good sized followings treat their platforms with a sense of professionalism which ensures they will treat your brand ambassadorship with the same respect and attention.
  2. Personality - When seeking a good brand ambassador, you will want to seek someone who fits the identity of your brand. For example, if your brand manufactures healthy skin care products, your best brand ambassadors will be women and men who are health conscious, have great skin and who speak about healthy alternatives when it comes to beauty, food and wellness. The key is to seek those who are already in alignment with your brand vision.
  3. Credibility - A good brand ambassador has the trust and validation of his/her audience because of the consistent and trustworthy content he/she has churned out over the years. Take the time to sift through some videos or blog posts and see how they handle product reviews and hauls. Are they honest about the products or do they blindly endorse any and everything they receive. A good influencer will not sell themselves to the highest bidder - they will only promote and highlight products they believe in, use and stand by. Their credibility translates into brand awareness, loyalty and recognition for the products they endorse on their channels.
  4. Professionalism - In order to foster a healthy and successful relationship with an influencer, it's highly important that he/she is professional. Being that this individual will be an extension of your brand to the public, its best to pick an influencer who converses with his/her followers in a professional manner. In addition, the influencer should be open to feedback from you in regards to campaigns and content so that both parties are happy with the arrangement. You can gather a lot about an influencer just by seeing how they conduct themselves via their social media channels. Do an audit of their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms.

Signing up with a great brand ambassador can be the difference your company has been seeking. From increased consumer exposure to increased revenue, there are a myriad of benefits that come from working with an experienced influencer.

 

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10 Ways to Boost Your YouTube Subscribers Today

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In the world of influencer marketing, it's all about followers. Every day, you're seeking ways to increase your subscribers or followers so that you can garner attention from top brands and begin to make some revenue from your channels and/or platforms.

Well, here at Content Blvd, we're all about helping you create the platform of your dreams with compelling content that engages your audience and helps identify you as a thought leader and content creator.

Here are the top 10 ways to increase your YouTube followers today!

 

  1. Write out your scripts.

Preparation is the key to success. Before sitting down to film a video about your latest shopping haul or a product review, you will want to jot down a script. You may be wondering why you need a script? It will keep you organized, on task and help you describe the product and/or brand with more clarity and accuracy which equals better content and higher audience satisfaction.  

 

  1. Create evergreen content.

Evergreen content is the content that you will become known for. It's the foundation of your channel. For instance, if you're a technology influencer, your evergreen content may consist of gadget hauls, app reviews and trend reports. This is what your audience comes to you for. It's your bread and butter and surefire way to increase followers.

 

  1. Consistently post on a weekly basis.

The more often you post, the more followers you will acquire. Audiences love to see consistent posting as they feel confident you will deliver high quality content on a weekly basis. Many influencers have become one of the top sources of information for consumers when shopping.

 

  1. Personalize your video thumbnails.

Make sure your thumbnails are customized so that audiences can clearly see what the video is about before even clicking on it. You will find that your click through rate increases significantly when you start using customized thumbnails.

 

  1. Produce a channel trailer.

Giving your channel a trailer is a highly creative and effective way to showcase your channel to new followers. Make it short, to the point and a good representation of you, your content and your channel. Just like at the movies when a trailer wets your appetite, a good trailer will have followers hitting the subscribe button.

 

  1. Incorporate compelling call to action buttons.

There's nothing more compelling than including a sign up now or subscribe today button in your videos. Many potential followers will be quick to sign up when given the chance.

 

  1. Keep videos under 5 minutes.

Audiences have short attention spans so you will want to make sure your content is concise, well-thought out and under five minutes. The longer the videos, the more apt the audience will be to move on. The most highly converted videos were under five minutes according to Comscore.

 

  1. Invest in a good intro and outro.

Just like a great trailer, you will want to create a personalized intro and outro that lives at the beginning and end of your videos. This intro and outro are branding bookends that help identify your channel and lend a more professional feel to your content.

 

  1. Edit. Edit. Edit.

Great editing is the key to great content. Cut out any unnecessary footage or content that doesn't push your overall content forward. Be sure to include some interesting angles and cuts so that your videos are entertaining and  informative.

 

  1. Meta tags are your BFF.

Audiences seek out videos and content via keywords searches in major search engines like Google’s. Search engines rely upon the words you use to describe your videos, as well as the video’s titles and meta tags. Be sure to be as descriptive as possible to ensure the search engines have what they need to serve up your videos when they match a user’s search criteria.

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YouTubers: Find Your Voice!

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So, you've taken the plunge and launched a blog/vlog/website and you're posting content weekly and receiving some decent feedback from followers. You're loving the momentum of gaining new followers weekly until you hit a wall. Your numbers seem to have hit a plateau and you're noticing that you aren't making traction with the brands that you want to create content for.

 

As content creation continues to climb in importance for brands and advertisers, influencers and YouTubers are finding it imperative to treat their channels and blogs as brands. The more thought you put into treating your channel or blog as a brand, the better chance you have to gain numerous followers, acquire brand ambassadorships and get highlighted in the media.

 

One of the issues that may be causing this stagnation is not having a voice. When we say voice we don't mean your speaking voice (unless you sound like Kermit, as that has been shown to be a major hindrance for success regardless of content or platform). When we say voice, we are talking about your overall tone and style when it comes to your content creation.

 

For example, if you're a beauty blogger/vlogger and your content centers around product reviews, tutorials and trends, your voice should be fun, informative, conversational and light. You wouldn't want your content to be serious, rigid and authoritative.

 

Here are four ways to create a brand voice that will help your content resonate with followers and attract potential brand ambassadorships:

 

 

  1. Figure out your content zone

Research the many types of content you can create and zero in on the forms of content that resonate with you most. For example, tutorials, product reviews, haul videos, trend reports, giveaways , blog posts, tips, quotes, memes etc... Assembling the types of content you want to focus on will bring you one step closer to finding your brand voice.

 

 

  1. Describe your brand voice in three words 

Fun. Quirky. Informative. These are three words that can very easily describe several popular bloggers/vloggers' brand voices. When you look at and listen to your content, do you notice some consistent themes? Do you use humor to capture your audience's attention? Do you prefer to educate and inform? You will notice that there are a few key tones that weave themselves throughout your content. Once you identify these three tones, be sure to write them down so you can consciously create content with these identifiers in mind.

 

  1. Demonstrate how you want your voice used 

Even though you're a team of one right now, that may change down the line. It's important to document how you want your voice used during content creation so that when you employ freelancers or other consultants to help with your blog, vlog or website, they will have a clear understanding of the tone/voice and how to properly use it. There's nothing worse than content that has several different tones and voices. It leaves the audience confused and not able to trust that your content is authentic.

 

  1. Edit your voice 

As your brand evolves, so will your voice. Over time, the voice you started your blog/vlog/website with will change which is to be expected. A brand voice audit is a great way to revise your voice to reflect any changes or new direction.

 

The more you treat your blog/vlog/website as a brand, the better chances you have at making money creating compelling content and attracting real interest from brands and other organizations seeking content and brand alignment with influencers.

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How an Authentic Social Media Strategy Can Strengthen Brand Positioning

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In the seven-step brand-positioning process, step one on the list involves determining how your brand is currently positioning itself in the marketplace. And if a social media element isn’t part of that strategy, context will be lost in the mind of today’s ever-connected, techno-savvy consumer. In fact, implementing a solid social-media strategy is crucial to leveraging step number seven on the list: testing the efficacy of your brand-positioning statement. So if your brand’s statement of purpose falls flat on social media, it’s safe to say it won’t gain a foothold anywhere.

With that in mind, here’s some reasoning, as well as a few concrete examples, that prove how utilizing social media the right way can position your brand ahead of the pack.

 

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The earned media factor
Increasingly, earned media is overshadowing owned media and paid promotion as the more effective of this marketing-strategy trifecta. That’s because a new generation of consumers exists that places a premium on authenticity above all else. They trust people over brands, they look to peers for product recommendations, and they eschew celebrity endorsements. Brands who create a successful earned-media campaign in this endeavor will not only enjoy more conversions, they will effectively turn customers into brand advocates who spread positive word of mouth across their various social-media profiles. That’s brand positioning at its most artful.

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The influencers
Now that marketers are realizing the value inherent in generating positive word-of-mouth authentically, the question then becomes how best to accomplish this? Any earned-media campaign should utilize influencers. These are social-media personalities, regular folks, who can be enlisted to review a product or service on their medium of choice. But influencers come in two categories: those who charge for their reviews and those who request only product samples. And while it’s not an automatic deal-breaker to pay an influencer, doing so eliminates all earned-media credibility. Therefore, facilitating trust in the minds of consumers via various social-media platforms is the best way to achieve authenticity and earned-media.

 

The rise of Instagram
As a photo-sharing site, Instagram is tailor-made for any visually appealing product—especially those manufactured by beauty and fashion companies. Take this jaw-dropping statistic for example: of the 13 million social-media interactions that took place during the fall 2016 New York Fashion Week, 97% occurred on Instagram. This trend wasn’t lost on beauty powerhouse Chanel, who invited top Instagram influencers to their production facility in the South of France for a retreat that just happened to feature the company’s upcoming No. 5 L’Eau fragrance. And mass Instagramming ensued.

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Another point: there are newer businesses out there who aren’t merely saying that social-media is an important factor, but that Instagram itself is their most important touch point. Brands who can leverage the visual potential of their product and marry it with a successful Instagram strategy have the potential to draw millions of eyeballs to a single campaign.

 

The YouTube case studies: GoPro and Activision
GoPro could have been like many other consumer electronics manufacturers and relied on traditional “push” advertising to get the message out. But they had loftier goals, and achieving them meant harnessing the power of social media—YouTube to be precise. By creating a channel and allowing users to upload their own videos, they effectively turned their audience into branded content producers. This allowed them to rise above their status as a simple electronics product and become social-media powerhouse. The result is that GoPro is now synonymous with travel and adventure sports. Every indication is that it will be a while before a competing product supplants them in this realm.

This undated product image released by GoPro shows the GoPro digital camera mounted on a ski helmet, a hot item on ski slopes and other settings. Brian Stacey, director of new product development for Tauck, the cruise and tour company, likes the camera because it attaches “to pretty much anything _ your helmet, arm, leg, canoe” and can shoot images while you’re moving. (AP Photo/GoPro)

This undated product image released by GoPro shows the GoPro digital camera mounted on a ski helmet, a hot item on ski slopes and other settings. Brian Stacey, director of new product development for Tauck, the cruise and tour company, likes the camera because it attaches “to pretty much anything _ your helmet, arm, leg, canoe” and can shoot images while you’re moving. (AP Photo/GoPro)

But YouTube isn’t just for brands whose wheelhouse is the great outdoors. There is a major gaming market too. Activision is a video-game company probably most famous for its “Call of Duty” series, which is one of the most successful franchises in the history of console gaming. Not one to rest on their laurels, Activision took the then-risky move of focusing the brunt of their marketing on YouTube influencers. The strategy paid off, and their influencer videos were viewed almost 10 billion times, which is more than 20 times the views they received on the game’s own website. The result is that Activision positioned their brand front and center in the minds of gamers everywhere. And by utilizing honest reviews from respected YouTube personalities, the company achieved their monumental success the best way possible: authentically.

 

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So how will your brand position itself at the forefront of social-media influence? Will you go all in on YouTube and Instagram? Will you find your niche in newer platforms like SnapChat, the way
Burberry did to great success? Or maybe you’ll innovate beyond the rest and create a heretofore unheard of social strategy that boldly goes where no brand has gone before. The sky’s the limit.

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A Day in the Life of a YouTuber: Three Reasons Why YouTubers Want to Work With Your Brand

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Popular YouTubers field brand requests daily, but very few brands make the cut in this competitive influencer market. What can you do to seal a partnership with a YouTuber? Which products do they choose and which brands do they trust?

 

YouTubers value authenticity above all else. They want the brands they use to be a true reflection of their lifestyles. This authenticity benefits brands as well. When real people, in the real world, value your real brand then you have the potential to acquire a loyal customer base.

 

How do you approach a YouTuber and what do you emphasize about your product and plans?

 

1) You foster creative expression and value real experiences. Irfan Kahn, CEO of Blogmint, predicts an influencer marketing trend built around free expression. He writes on  iamwire:

 

Experiencing the product and sharing personal stories around this would drive influencer marketing in 2016. Businesses will give additional creative freedom to influencers so that they can create personalized content for their followers instead of bland product / service reviews.

 

Most YouTubers speak to their audience as they would a friend. Outsiders might not understand all the nuances within the private conversation, but should trust that the YouTuber is reaching out to their demographic in a way that the demographic understands and values. Essentially, brands that encourage the influencer to take creative liberties with the product are likely to make a positive connection with the influencer.

 

2) Your pitch is as authentic as your product. Know your YouTuber. Watch their channel. Understand how your product adds value to the YouTuber's channel and how it will add value to their demographic's lives. And be prepared to send some swag. Nikkie Phillippi, a beauty guru from Santa Clarita prefers to work with brands she already uses, likes and knows well. According to her video, and Hubspot, when an unknown brand seeks her approval "she requests that the brand send her a product to try and then makes a determination about working with the brand. She says she turns down about 90% of the brand integration deals that make it to her inbox."

 

You might send your product to multiple YouTubers without positive results. You also might find yourself wading through a sea of potential YouTubers who would benefit from your product or brand. This is where influencer marketing platforms become important. Influencer marketplaces aren't manipulative or pushy. Placing your product or brand out there for influencers to freely choose and connect with makes for an authentic relationship going forward.

 

 

3) Your brand integrates with the channel's vision, now and in the long-term.  Tyler Oakley, a YouTube personality with eight million subscribers and a strong multi-channel presence, chose a long-term partnership with Audible, where he integrates the service into his popular videos. The keyword here is long-term. Oakley explained during an interview with PBS's Frontline, that he and most members of the YouTube community spend years building their respective channels.

 

Each YouTuber earns their followers by maintaining a consistent philosophy and personality that has evolved organically alongside their channel's growth. Their followers are loyal and YouTubers are trusted. Over and over, in interview after interview, YouTubers explain that they must maintain their sincerity. Sincerity is what made them popular. They aren't fly by night and don't expect their brands to be either. As a brand, be prepared to become an organic part of the YouTuber's channel.

 

If nothing else, remember that YouTube is all about authenticity. Inauthentic product placement “could take away the one thing that makes YouTube stars so appealing,” Jeetendr Sehdev, celebrity brand strategist says. He sums it up like this:

 

If YouTube stars are swallowed by Hollywood, they are in danger of becoming less authentic versions of themselves, and teenagers will be able to pick up on that.

 

YouTubers like Oakley and Phillippi are acutely aware of their audience's predilections and most YouTubers prefer to work with brands that understand and respect their audiences and the channels they have created.

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Why Influencer Marketing Succeeds at Driving Traffic

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Everyone wants in. 59% of marketers are throwing money at it, even more plan on throwing money at it, and 60% of all fashion brands are already utilizing it. So what is this new tactic that an overwhelmingly large segment of businesses are fixated on? It’s influencer marketing, and its success turns on the ability of social-media personalities to reach a target audience. Its appeal can be summed up in one attractive acronym: ROI. The facts on the ground say that brands that invest in an influencer-marketing strategy see an average $6.85 return on investment for every dollar spent. And as long as social media remains the dominant form of modern communication, the potential for grand returns will always be there.

 

But what makes it possible? Where, exactly, does influencer marketing derive its power, and what drives its success? The answers to these and many more questions are outlined below.

 

It’s authentic

 

First and foremost, influencer marketing works because it’s authentic. According to other statistics, modern teens trust YouTube personalities more than celebrities. This is part of a larger generational trend that sees a great majority of people (92%) trusting word-of-mouth advertising over traditional “push” marketing. It’s this pushiness that has turned off a modern consumer base with its own voice. They no longer want to be “talked at” by brands—they want to have a conversation with peers in the form of product reviews, social-media shares, and “likes.”

 

And that’s what the typical person sees when they follow an influencer on social media—a peer, a regular person who, like them, wants practical info and an honest recommendation. Businesses who adhere to an earned-media influencer strategy can leverage this authenticity to greater returns.

 

Its social

 

To buttress the introductory statement that social-media is today’s dominant form of communication, you only have to look at the numbers. Over two billion people from around the world are active social-media users. Facebook alone has 1.44 billion visitors, and YouTube runs a close second with a billion. And with nearly two billion of the global populous accessing social-media from their mobile devices, influencers have a direct conduit to a target audience any time of day or night via two major touch points. As far as reach is concerned, print advertising and commercials simply can’t compete.

 

It delivers the information an audience is already looking for

 

This notion has been wrapped up in a new marketing term called “Me2B” consumerism. The gist is that today the customer reaches out to the business—or in this case the influencer on their social-media channel. It’s why traditional advertising has little use in today’s world. Sure, display ads have managed to keep up (and will likely be a part of any brand’s strategy for the foreseeable future), but the statistics aren’t encouraging. Click-through rates across all platforms are an anemic 0.06%. Ad blocking grew by 41% over 2015, and that number will only continue to rise. The problem is that it’s a B2C tactic in a Me2B world. Influencer marketing is the strategy of today.

 

It blurs the line between advertising and content

 

Another reason influencer marketing drives traffic is because oftentimes folks don’t even know they’re looking at sponsored or branded content. Even with disclosure hashtags, such as #ad and #sponsored, it’s still possible to craft an influencer campaign that creates an authentic viewing experience. And businesses don’t need to focus merely on individuals. A successful example of this is when Friskies partnered with digital publisher Buzzfeed to create their “Deer Kitten,” campaign. Many found the video entertaining, but, more than that, most folks didn’t even know they were viewing what is essentially a commercial until halfway through. It proves that successful brand positioning can be a product of stealth.

 

It turns individuals into brand ambassadors

 

Even before the digital revolution, positive word-of-mouth was the ideal endgame for marketers. Indeed, according to McKinsey, word-of-mouth is responsible for twice the sales of paid advertising. And those folks who listen to recommendations by their favorite online influencers not only convert to customers, but if the product quality is as advertised they then carry the torch and tell their peers. This effectively exceeds positive word mouth, and turns the customer into a loyal brand advocate.

 

It’s time for businesses to stop doing all the heavy lifting themselves. By partnering with an influencer it’s possible to reach an individual target directly, eliminating the need for market segmentation and other superfluous noise. And if brands can deliver on their promises, they have the potential to convert millions of viewers in a single campaign.

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The Most Popular Influencer Marketing Platforms Reviewed

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Out of all the stats that illustrate the virtues of influencer marketing, this one from Expertcity speaks volumes: Influencer recommendations carry 22 times more weight than those from average customers. That’s a stark finding. And when you consider that popular social-media personalities now wield even more influence than the Kardashians and Taylor Swifts of the world, you have a trend that speaks directly to today’s authenticity-craving Millennial generation.

It’s no wonder, then, that marketing pros are going all in on this tactic. So in the interest of uncovering the brand-influencer conduit right for you, here are 14 of the most popular influencer marketing platforms in existence today, sorted alphabetically.

1. BrandBacker

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Paid media, earned media

 

This is one of the more established influencer-marketing platforms around, as it was founded in 2001. In that time BrandBacker has amassed a reported network of 10,000 influencers in multiple countries producing content in various languages. The website is streamlined, which makes signup a simple process of selecting whether you’re a brand or influencer and then requesting a video tutorial that includes pricing plans. Regarding compensation, BrandBacker influencers receive payment, discounts, or free samples, depending on the campaign.

 

One feature unique to BrandBacker is their Content Showcase. Businesses who utilize this tool can collect all brand-relevant content from across the web via a search algorithm. It then curates and organizes the content so clients can see exactly who is talking about them and when. The Showcase then allows brands to publish this curated content straight to their website.

 

Platforms supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram

 

Pros

 

  • Team Manager feature helps businesses to build a team of influencers around their brand and monitor progress and efficacy
  • Features like the Content Showcase are a welcome bit of marketing ingenuity

 

Cons

 

  • Despite offering influencer incentives other than monetary compensation, little of what BrandBacker offers meets the definition of “earned media”

2. Content BLVD

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Earned media

 

Content BLVD is a marketing and review platform that adheres to the fundamentals. Their leadership believes that true influence cannot be bought, so in the spirit of authenticity they offer good ol’ fashioned product reviews free of monetary influence. Those targeted influencers who do receive free products in exchange for YouTube vlog opinions are obligated to disclose it. Regarding service, companies pay Content BLVD a monthly subscription fee based on the number of authentic earned mentions they want each month. Content BLVD handles influencer targeting, outreach, shipping, and reporting.

 

Content BLVD caters to businesses with physical consumer products rather than, say, software or general services. This strategy has allowed them to carve out a niche of over 6,000 YouTube product experts and 3,000 product companies. Content BLVD’s influencer program has driven more than 40 million views for their customers since its beta launch in the spring of 2015.

 

Platforms supported: YouTube

 

Pros

 

  • The focus on consumer product companies enables streamlined fulfillment of ongoing campaigns.
  • Simple “Set it and forget it” model is a huge time-saver for product companies.

 

  • The elimination of sponsorship fees brings brand awareness campaigns within reach of smaller product companies. Plans start at just $200 per month.

 

Cons

 

  • Only YouTube influencers at the moment.

3. FameBit

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Paid media

 

If FameBit’s goal was ease of use, then their platform is a runaway success. Businesses new to the site will find a simple homepage with two tabs: one for content creators and one for brands. Then it’s a straightforward sign-up process and on to the creation of a branded or sponsored campaign. Brands choose from a variety of social media platforms, the type of content they’d like to create, and finally the campaign details. This includes a drop-down menu listing price-range options starting at $100 all the way up to $10,000+.

 

After clicking the tab to create the campaign, the advertisement goes live and is open for bidding from FameBit’s network of freelance content creators. Brands can see profiles of interested creators as well as featured influencers segmented by category. FameBit earns a service fee of 20% per transaction for accepted bids.

 

Platforms supported: YouTube, Instagram

 

Pros

 

  • Easy sign-up process for both brands and creators
  • Straightforward user interface
  • Self-service client dashboard allows businesses to create an entire influencer campaign in four steps

 

Cons

 

  • Impersonal despite a strong messaging system; it’s a fast-food method to creating an influencer campaign
  • The strict “business transaction” nature of FameBit’s platform robs influencer marketing of its authenticity
  • The hefty sponsorship fees price most small companies out of the market.
  • Many influencers complain about the time it takes to repeatedly “pitch” brands, and the low acceptance rate from companies.

4. Revfluence

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Paid media

 

Like FameBit, Revfluence has a straightforward homepage with sign-up options for brands and creators. Where Revfluence diverges from its competitor is in its expansive network and highly detailed analytics dashboard. It offers an ability to connect with some 200,000 influencers filtered by industry, location, demographics, content quality and niche keywords. They also tout a customized CRM collaboration tool that puts brands in direct contact with dozens or even hundreds of influencers at once. Businesses can then track each individual campaign’s performance and measure ROI via the same dashboard.

 

And for those brands who still have cold feet about influencer marketing, the website offers case studies highlighting specific examples of Revfluence’s success.

 

Platforms Supported: YouTube, Instagram

 

Pros

 

  • Large database of influencers from which to choose
  • Detailed analytics dashboard tracks all relevant metrics

 

Cons

 

  • Not great for first timers; brands need to be well versed in the finer points of influencer marketing before signing up

5. Influenster

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Earned media

 

Around since 2010, Influenster is a marketing and review platform that aims for earned-media credibility with product opinions offered in vlog, blog or simple review form. They also operate under the same disclosure rules as Content BLVD. On the surface Influenster appears to be doing something right, as the platform has a user base of some 1.5 million “influensters” who share their likes and dislikes across social media.

 

To further enhance the user experience, Influenster supplements their reviews and recommendations with coupons, giveaways and rewards programs.

 

Platforms supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+

 

Pros

 

  • Rates “Influensters” by hundreds of data points, including social connections
  • Mobile app allows Influensters to post reviews in real time and reach audiences at the moment of purchase.

 

Cons

 

  • Brands have no control over messaging
  • Some product “reviews” can be light on substance. This is a result of members increasing their social media activity in order to earn “badges,” which in turn help them receive free products.
  • Reports of some members being disgruntled after not receiving free product packages

6. Izea

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Paid media

 

In Izea’s world, bigger most definitely means better. In their quest to become the largest marketplace platform around they’ve absorbed other content websites, such as Ebyline. These tactics have allowed them to amass a database of over 250,000 influencers operating across multiple social platforms and filtered by reach, quality and other metrics. That’s more than enough content producers to satisfy the needs of the some 50,000 businesses and brands already signed up with Izea.

 

Those who create an account have the option of three payment plans ranging from $0 to $299, all of which offer various services such as ShareMonitor URLs and SocialSearch Groups. These are analytics tools that keep track of, among other things, URL shares and hashtag popularity.

 

Platforms Supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat

 

Pros

 

  • No shortage of content producers
  • Comprehensive website features everything from marketing research reports to investor information

 

Cons

 

  • Has so many affiliates and subsidiary companies that some brands Izea lists as their clients don’t even know they’re doing business with them
  • Since its inception in 2006, Izea has embraced pay-per-post marketing, effectively eliminating any and all earned media credibility

7. TapInfluence

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Paid media

 

TapInfluence’s mantra is “Content created by consumers for consumers.” With a database of 30,000 opt-in influencers, they seem primed to deliver on that promise. But what sets them apart from many of the marketplace options is that they focus primarily on the software, touting speedy workflow automation, precise influencer identification, audience targeting and multi-channel analytics tracking. They offer three pricing plans: standard, enterprise, and agency. The plans for enterprise and agency offer unique features such as onboarding, account managers, influencer strategists, pitch meetings and partnerships. TapInfluence’s website also features successful case studies.

 

Platforms supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine

 

Pros

 

  • Comprehensive software featuring a number of resources and tools
  • Tap Library offers eBooks, videos and webinars

 

Cons

 

  • TapInfluence’s standard price plan starts at $1,999 per month, which makes it cost-prohibitive for many smaller businesses.
  • Boasts of a “200% ROI” are difficult (if not impossible) to verify

8. Traackr

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Paid media, earned media

 

Traackr operates primarily as a marketing campaign manager with a focus on brand-influencer communication. The site facilitates dialogue, so businesses can glean insight directly from influencers and sculpt their social-media campaigns accordingly. This is a good thing, since Traackr works with influencers on all major social-media platforms as well as a number of blogging sites. Besides offering robust influencer profiles, Traackr has an equally detailed analytics engine that automatically keeps tabs on brand mentions, daily post updates and trending content.

 

In keeping with the communication theme, the site allows businesses to track conversations in real-time with multiple contacts. This also applies to email and Twitter feeds between influencers and brands. Traackr also provides supplementary marketing reports and data services.

 

Platforms Supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+

 

Pros

 

  • Built-in communication tools facilitate communication between influencers and brands
  • Detailed online profiles of Traacker’s influencers

 

Cons

 

  • Poorly organized website contains too much text and too little direction
  • Some users have reported the platform as being “buggy” and prone to glitches

9. InstaBrand

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Paid media

 

Instabrand holds its own with the other players on this list regarding features and functionality. It offers the “greatest hits,” like a large database of influencers operating on all major social platforms. And signup is a simple one-click process right from the homepage. According to InstaBrand they have an extensive client list of some of the biggest names, including Universal, Colgate, Pepsi and H&M.

 

One way in which InstaBrand is looking to capitalize on new social trends is through their Snapchat Labs feature. This tool allows brands to utilize Instabrand’s pool of some 12,000 Snapchat influencers to reach that coveted 18-29 Millennial demographic.

 

Platforms Supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat,

 

Pros

 

  • Advanced search engine lets brands filter influencer results by a number of criteria including demographics and post relevance
  • Assigns campaign managers to offer personalized attention

 

Cons

 

  • Website is heavy on content but light on substance and detail of Instabrand’s platform

 

10. Instafluence

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Paid media

 

Instafluence has carved out a unique niche for itself by offering influencer services to clients looking to promote their mobile app. The platform leverages the popularity of social-media celebrities to boost downloads of the apps in question. Another selling point is that they offer to build a loyal Instagram following for the brand and then hand over the reigns so they can continue promoting on their own. Their client list includes heavyweights such as Viacom and Dos Equis, and many of their celebrity influencers enjoy millions of subscribers.

 

One interesting turn of events is that Instafluence was acquired by Disney’s Maker Studios in 2015. The platform can now utilize that production company’s some 55,000 YouTube channels and roster of celebrity vloggers to help promote client apps.

 

Platforms Supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Instagram, Vine, Snapchat

 

Pros

 

  • The purchase by Disney means Instafluence can deliver a massive rolodex of genuine social-media celebrities
  • The only platform on the list that focuses solely on apps

 

Cons

 

  • Focuses solely on apps

 

11. Niche.co

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Paid media

 

Niche is an influencer platform with quite the social-media pedigree. One co-founder, Rob Fishman, worked the social beat at Huffington Post, and the company hired Vine celebrity Cody Johns as its creative director. Starting in 2013, Niche found early success with Vine campaigns in the world of film and retail. Now they’ve opened up their platform to all the major social networks and, according to their website, work with over 30,000 content creators.

 

For the benefit of everyone involved, Niche creates a single profile for their creators that aggregates all content from their various social profiles. Then they display these profiles in a leaderboard, complete with full analytics tracking, so brands can see which influencers are moving the needle the most.

 

Platforms Supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr

 

Pros

 

  • Leaderboard helps brands decide which influencers will deliver the most engagement to their campaign
  • Comprehensive profile helps creators see which of their content is hitting the mark
  • Niche takes a hands on approach, being involved in most aspects of the campaign creation

 

Cons

 

  • Website doesn’t make it easy to engage with content creators; brands who want free reign to create campaigns and communicate with influencers directly may feel stifled

12. Octoly

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Earned media

 

Octoloy is a French platform that has also gone all in on YouTube. Billing themselves as the “first Free Store dedicated to creators,” the site is an automated marketplace that connects brands with vlog personalities. In just a few steps, brands can search a database of influencers and create a campaign by offering nothing more than free products. Most of the influencers on Octoloy are beauty YouTubers, and the site claims to monitor some 800,000 channels.

 

Like Content BLVD, Octoly places a premium on authenticity and honest reviews. They charge a fee for brands to access their database.

 

Platforms Supported: YouTube

 

Pros

 

  • Doesn’t pay influencers; focuses on authentic product reviews

 

Cons

 

  • Octoly is limited by focusing predominantly on beauty items—although they are branching out into video games
  • Only YouTube influencers
  • Lack of practical info (or even a demo or tutorial) on the homepage means businesses that sign up with Octoloy are doing so without knowing very much about how it works

13. Grapevine Logic

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Paid media, earned media

 

The last YouTube-only option on the list, Grapevine works with over 200 brands. Like Content BLVD and Octoly, the site offers influencers product packages in exchange for reviews. Unlike the two other sites, Grapevine also deals in paid sponsorships. Like some of the best options, the homepage is in simple WordPress format, and they offer their own analytics engine to help brands and agencies find the most visible influencers.

 

Platforms Supported: YouTube

 

Pros

 

  • A database of over 60,000 influencers
  • Pairs brands with a dedicated account manager to facilitate the process

 

Cons

 

  • Only YouTube influencers
  • The option for influencers to receive monetary compensation diminishes earned-media potential

14. Popular Pays

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Paid media

 

This website offers speed and ease of use to help businesses leverage the power of Instagram to promote their brand. On the speed end, Popular Pays promises that visitors can list a campaign in six minutes, receive proposals from Instagrammers 24 hours later, and have the campaign up within a week. By focusing almost exclusively on Instagram (they have dabbled in Pinterest and Snapchat, too), Popular Pays can keep their website streamlined and simple.

 

Popular Pays boasts a network of over 25,000 Instagrammers who have created sponsored campaigns for top brands including Nike, Target and Glenlivet. As for the bread and butter of Instagram—the photos—the site offers brands the option to use original photos from the content creators themselves, or full-rights pics from Popular Pays’ database.

 

Platforms Supported: Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest

 

Pros

 

  • Straightforward website free of visual noise
  • Popular Pays stays out of the pairing process, letting brands and Instagrammers find each other organically
  • Great for sponsored content on Instagram

 

Cons

 

  • Caters primarily to just one social-media platform
  • It’s a bid marketplace, meaning Instagrammers get paid for their services, thus eliminating any earned media

 

While there is no single winner on this list, certain sites might be a better fit than others. For example, those who want an established option dealing in multiple social platforms may opt for BrandBacker. On the other hand, those who want to create an earned-media video advertising campaign could be better off with Content Blvd. And businesses without previous influencer knowledge looking to setup quick campaigns with minimal hassle might prefer FameBit or, or Grapevine Logic, or Popular Pays. It all depends on the brand.

If you represent an influencer marketing platform that you feel I should have included, just say so in the comments.

 

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Consumer Product Companies – Here are 4 Influencer Marketing Stats to Help Prioritize Your Efforts

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Influencer marketing works. That much is clear, given countless examples around the web pointing toward the fact that earned media outperforms its paid alternative. And yet, because of the lack of control they perceive to have over influencers, many marketers still shy away from the concept as an effective marketing strategy. If you have been hesitant to prioritize it in the past, here are 4 influencer marketing stats to convince you of its success.


Influencer Marketing, Defined.

First, let's clarify a few things. Influencer marketing is a broad concept, so you may be using a different working definition than your peers. To ensure we're on the same page, here is how we define the concept:

Influencer marketing means priming a target audience to speak enthusiastically about a product or service.

The idea is simple. Because they are perceived to have little incentive to be dishonest, your target audience's word carries more weight and credibility among their peers than your promoted message ever could. Everyone knows you are just trying to sell a product. But if your audience starts raving about it, other members of the same audience group will be much more likely to believe its merits.

And that's not just common sense. Consider these 5 stats that prove the same point:


1) Word of Mouth Brings Customers

As mentioned above, the basic concept behind influencer marketing is the idea that customers, not brands, spread organic ("earned") promotional messages. And this basic concept is also the reason for its success; according to a McKinsey study, word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of its promoted counterparts, and customer gained through word of mouth marketing have a 37% higher retention rate.

These statistics emphasize that brands should prioritize influencer marketing. Not only is it more successful than paid media in increasing your customer base, but it also attracts higher-quality customers that will ultimately drive your revenue more substantially.


2) Word of Mouth Adds Credibility

Make no mistake: the reason word of mouth plays such a significant role in attracting quality customers is because of added credibility compared to traditional advertising. In the digital age, most consumers have become wary of banner ads and other type of paid media; look no further than the recent ad blocking trend for evidence.

Word of mouth, however, remains immune from the increasing cynicism surrounding digital ads. 88% of customers trust online reviews by strangers as much as they would recommendations from friends. Meanwhile, 84% of consumers trust online reviewsmore than any other type of marketing initiative. Adding word of mouth strategies to your marketing means improving your credibility significantly.


3) Influencer Marketing Provides Impressive ROI

Because of the power of word of mouth, and the low expense of leveraging influencers, this marketing concept provides a higher return on investment than most (if not all) of its paid counterparts. One survey found that on average, businesses who engage in influencer marketing earn $6,50 for every marketing dollar spent.

The survey's findings may be surprising at first, but make perfect sense upon further analysis. 'Traditional' paid advertising means having to pay money each time a potential customer sees your ad. While influencer marketing does require some investment, marketers don't have to pay money to increase the reach. The result is lower spend for better results.


4) Your Competitors Do It

According to a May 2015 study, 84% of marketers said they would launch at least one influencer campaign within the next twelve months. The reason for the method's popularity is simple: the same study also found that 81% marketers who had already engaged in influencer marketing found it to be successful.

In other words, the success of influencer marketing has led to widespread use of the concept. Not engaging your audience to spread the word for you can mean being left behind by your competition.

All of these statistics come back to a simple truth: influencer marketing works. That's why it's both the fastest-growing and most effective digital channel available today. Is your company leveraging word of mouth from members of your target audience? If not, it may be time to start.

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How to Make Sense of the FTC’s Disclosure Requirements for Social-Media Promotion

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Since 2010, the FTC’s FAQs section of their Endorsement Guides has been gathering digital dust. Not anymore. In 2015, they updated their guidelines to stress the importance of full disclosure as it concerns digital marketing. It’s a hefty read—especially for all those marketers who didn’t know there were ethics rules in the first place. But don’t fret: here’s a useful mini-guide to help navigate the roadblocks the Federal Trade Commission has erected to keep us marketers on the straight and narrow.

 

 

 

The new requirements

 

requirement

Even more pertinent (and frustrating) than the new regulations is that the FTC released them with all the fanfare of the parking authority when it changes the cleaning times on your street. That is to say, quietly. There was no national news conference or even a press release. They’ve placed the onus firmly on the marketers to sift through their Endorsement Guides. A little dubious, to be sure, but the solutions to many problems are fairly straightforward.  

 

Of tweets and hashtags

 

hashtag-fail

The more creative advertisers out there thought they had some wriggle room as it regards Twitter. Because the text is limited to 140 characters, they reasoned, the social-media platform should be immune to disclosure rules. Not so, and the FTC is making that clear. They even have a primer on their website that offers approved disclosure options (for example, “#ad” only uses three characters). Their view is that people have learned how to condense big ideas into 140 characters—so it’s not impossible to condense a disclosure into fewer than 10.

 

Eschew the “likes”

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For a long time certain marketers engaged in unethical practices to rack up Facebook “likes.” This was for the simple reason the FTC never really cracked down. But not only are they now coming down hard on buying and soliciting “likes,” so is Facebook. In November the social media giant ended “like gates,” or the process of requesting “likes” in exchange for viewing content or participating in contests on FB. This is no great loss, since any marketer still hanging their hat on Facebook “likes” as a social media strategy probably thinks PPC advertising is the wave of the future. The “likes” just aren’t important anymore.

 

Muddy waters

 

instagram-tricks-644x250

Not all of the FTCs rules are cut and dry. For example, if a local restaurant offers a dollar or two off a meal in exchange for folks posting Instagram photos of themselves enjoying a meal, the FTC won’t likely be kicking down any doors. Having said that, there is no clear line, so a local business might think they’re in the clear by offering a contest or discount reward, but then they receive that notice letter from the FTC. That’s why legal experts who are weighing in on the recent changes advise to err on the side of caution—which brings us to our next point.

 

To disclose or not to disclose

 

transparency-e1459203526433

The FTC seems to have a modicum of respect for the general public’s intelligence. For example, when Payton Manning hocks pizzas on TV, it is assumed the public understands he is cashing a paycheck. But the same doesn’t necessarily apply to online marketing. If a popular YouTuber has garnered millions of channel subscriptions showcasing various health and beauty products, they may think it’s assumed their audience knows they are receiving free products or even money. This is in error; full transparency is now required. And YouTubers in particular will want to take the next point to heart.

 

YouTubers need to disclose upfront

Video

Literally. The FTC recommends all video disclosures must appear at the top of the video, not in the description body. And if it is long-form content then it ideally needs to appear multiple times throughout the clip. That means YouTubers with a habit of livestreaming are under particularly intense scrutiny to be forthcoming about whom they’re working with.

 

Are bloggers immune?

blogging-inside

Yes and no. The FTC acknowledges that they aren’t monitoring bloggers specifically. But that doesn’t mean a blog is a haven safe from the ethics patrol. If a regular reader of a popular blog suspects backroom dealings are afoot between the blogger and a brand, they could contact the FTC, and the FTC will pounce.

 

In the end, brands everywhere should be eager to engage in full disclosure and show their audience that they are above board. This has nothing to do with altruism and everything to do with the dominant target demo of the moment: the Millennials. This is a generation that places a premium on honesty and authenticity. Marketers who want to reach these whippersnappers in an effort to build brand loyalty will meet them on their terms—they’ll come clean about the nature of the relationship of the influencers with whom they do business.

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Quick Tip: Let the Great Marketing Ideas Come to You

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How many brands can you name that rank among the most popular YouTube channels, podcasts or blogs? Oh, you can't? That's because there are none. Brands aren't in the business of entertaining and informing an audience; they make stuff. Let the content creators create the content.

 

As a marketer, you're likely to have a hard time getting into the mind of your target audience, unlike their favorite YouTubers, bloggers and podcasters who've already cracked that code, and manage to do it again and again, day in and day out.

 

It doesn't matter how you judge their content, whether it makes sense to you, or if you think you could come up with something "better." The fact is, their audience and engagement numbers prove they have the secret sauce.

 

Hiring more social media interns or a hip creative team might help... a little. But consider this from Paul Brown in Forbes, quoting Don Kingsborough:

 

You cannot hire enough people so that you have all the good ideas. That is a bad concept. I think the right concept is to figure out who has the best ideas and figure out what you do best. You concentrate on that, and if someone else has a good idea, buy it and make it successful.

 

The good news is,

 They're happy to do it! They are much more inclined to help hone a message their audience will enjoy than to insert an ill-fitting marketing message into their audience's experience.

 

 In the world of start ups, we know that doesn't work. We know that to find the best ideas, you've got to get out of the building and speak with people who are not on your team.

 

Internal teams are subject to creating and fostering illusions. I would even argue that, sometimes, individuals and teams become so invested in their illusions (aka: bad ideas), that they work to justify and protect them, rather than find new ones. According to Michael Siepmann, PhD., in his article on Entrepreneurial UX State of Mind,

 

Groups as well as individuals are subject to this illusion. Teams and organizations naturally develop commonalities in how members experience aspects of the world relevant to their work. We've both observed countless meetings in which teams discuss how users will interact with products – with an unspoken assumption that the only source of uncertainty is differences of opinion within the team. By ironing out differences of opinion without seeking information from outsiders, these discussions merely merge individual illusions into a collective, typically even stronger, illusion.

 

Don't allow your marketing messages to fall victim to your own invisible illusions. Bring in the creators who already know and understand your target audience to create messages that really resonate.

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