Kristen Matthews

How To Build An Opt-In Network Of Influencers

Video Transcription

Hey everyone, Kristen Mathews here, the marketing director at GroupHigh and I just want to thank everyone for tuning into my presentation. I would imagine you may be a little sick of hearing my voice at this point in the day.  Maybe a little brain dead, maybe a little tired with all of the awesome information being thrown at you so I thought I would start my presentation out with a little Bruce Springsteen.  Hoped it put a little pep in your step and will help you stay tuned and stay with us for just a little longer.

So in all seriousness, I’m super excited to be here and to be hosting our third Outreach Marketing Virtual Summit.

Each time we put on one of these conferences we’ve gotten more presenters, more attendees, more interaction on Twitter and more thought leadership content. I can’t even imagine where these conferences are going to go in the next couple of years because we will absolutely be hosting this every six months. So thank you again for being here. A special thank you to our presenters. They were all phenomenal to work with you guys. They’ve all delivered exceptional presentations and they’ve all been super responsive and interactive. So I feel so lucky to have all of the presenters that we have here with us today.

Also have to thank vConferenceOnline. This is the platform that you see right now that’s hosting this conference. They host other events like these and are phenomenal to work with, so if virtual events are in your marketing future, definitely check out vConference or ask me for any input. I’m happy to weigh in.

And because I’m fortunate enough to have everyone’s attention right now, I have to give a quick shout out to my company GroupHigh.  I’ve been with GroupHigh for over two years now and I know since they’re my employer I may be a little biased, but I absolutely love my job and I know a lot of people can’t say that, so I feel so lucky and just want to give a shout out to GroupHigh for having an awesome software that I get to market and having an awesome team that has supported me in all my slightly weird, yet I think creative marketing endeavors that I have embarked on so far. So thank you GroupHigh.

Now I’m excited to present on a topic that I’ve been writing a lot of content about lately and that’s how and why brands should be building an Opt-In Network of influencers.

This tactic sounds simple enough and, in fact, it is pretty simple to execute, but for some reason, I find that it tends to be one of the marketing strategies that is most overlooked by other marketers, yet seems to be the most effective in building an influencer network for a brand.

Feel free to ask me questions as we go along and join in the conversation about outreach marketing and obviously how to build an Opt-In Network of influencers. I welcome any and all questions, comments and feedback. So use our hash tag outreachmarketing and tweet me directly at kristenwords.

If you have any questions at all just find me on Tweeter and we will connect so that I can give you a thorough response. So enjoy the presentation.

So let’s dive right into why building a – a network of opt-in influencers is so important.

I believe that a solid marketing mix has a certain amount of components and certain branches to it and obviously a network of opt-in influencers is just part of that. So real quick. Other branches that would be included are organic influencers, happy consumers that your brand may already have, paid media, fans who don’t know their friends. This would be finding people in your niche who would be a perfect fit for your brand. They just don’t know about you yet. And then what we’re going to go over today is the theory and strategy of having opted influencers, also known as advocates, super fans, brand ambassadors or other buzz words.

There are a ton of benefits of having a network where brand ambassadors can opt-in to be part of your network.

Obviously the initial answer to that is super simple. These people are choosing to be part of your network and the authenticity is there, the passion for your brand is there and by them applying they’re already being vetted for a contextual fit.

Another benefit that I have seen from having an opt-in network is that once the time and strategies is in place, it actually cuts down on the process of brands having to activate ambassadors to promote a new product or mention. The theory behind is that these people are choosing to be there, they are choosing to be part of your brand not an extension of your brand and so when you email them for help, as long as it’s not too often, they’re usually more than happy to do it.

One of the first things that you need to consider if you are going to foster a network of brand ambassadors who get to opt-in, you need to implement a hub where you can communicate with them, where they can sign up to be part of your brand and make sure that you sprinkle around some call to actions for influencers to know that they have the option to opt-in to your blogger or social network in the first place.

Brands that have seen a lot of success with implementing this strategy and finding people to opt-in to their networks have called to actions on their homepage, they tweet and share on Facebook, invites, inviting people to apply to be part of their opt-in network and other strategies like that.

And just because someone applies to be part of your ambassador network does not mean that you have to guarantee them access to whatever deals or exclusive information that you promised to provide to your ambassadors. Having an opt-in process is just a really easy way to curate a bunch of people for you to vet, to invite to be part of different initiatives and marketing components of your brand.

One of the influencer programs that I’ve been most impressed with and am actually fortunate to be part of is the one that prAna runs.  PrAna’s an apparel brand, one of my personal favorites and they have an option on their webpage where influencers can apply to be part of their influencer program. Once someone applies, they are vetted and hand picked by prAna and if they are chosen to be part of the influencer program, they get 50 percent off all apparel.

Not only that but does PrAna – prAna will keep them updated with new deals on clothes, exclusive access to outfits that will be coming out in the next season, different infographics and videos especially from other influencers. Lately a lot has been in the travel area. Some really cool that that prAna provides to their influencers.

You can see how this would be mutually beneficial to both the brand and the influencer. They’re getting clothing that the love for half off, they’re getting exclusive content that they can share with their own networks and in return, they’re providing a story that includes prAna, that weaves prAna into their content that they get to share with their network.

I mentioned before that having a hub to organize your brand advocates to have them have a central location where they can apply to be part of your process and be communicated with is super important. So before you hit the go button on your opt-in strategy make sure that you have a hub in place in which you will communicate with your influencers as well as they can communicate with each other and get information about your brand.

One of the best brands that I have seen implement a network of bloggers who get to apply to be part of their influencer network and they foster community for these people is Best Buy. You’ll see it that what I have on my screen right now is just a screenshot of their blogger network page that invites them to apply to be a blogger or apply to work with their network of bloggers.

You’ll see that they have a couple options that people can go to. They can learn more about it, they can reach out and contact someone who’s in charge of their blogger network and then they can create their profile right there on their hub. They’re join the conversation link on their website.

If you scroll down a little farther, you’ll see what is on my screen right now and this is where Best Buy really excels in this opt-in blogger strategy. They feature blog posts from bloggers in their network. So this looks fantastic to a blogger who is thinking about applying to be part of Best Buy’s network because they’re showing their sense of community, they’re showing the fact that they’re going to promote the content they earn, they really make it appealing for the blogger to be part of this network.

Again the good examples that I have seen from brands powering an opt-in network of brand ambassadors are many. PrAna and Best Buy are to just name a few and to just give you a springboard to start brainstorming how you’re going to implement this approach.

One more important component that I like when a brand implements a opt-in network of ambassadors is to actually have a call to action on the website for people who are already passionate about your brand to enlist.

So another company I want to point out real quick is called Bhakti Chai. This is actually another local Boulder company who sells different types of Chai tea to coffee shops as well as in grocery stores and they have a very, very passionate network of fans. In fact they’ve been able to market primarily with their opt-in network of influencers. So that’s pretty cool.

And I love how on their homepage, which is what you see on my screen right now is Bhakti Chai’s homepage. They have a call to action right here that says join our ambassador team. So anybody that is checking out Bhakti Chai in the first place and already likes the brand, can know that they have a network where their voice may get heard, where they can actually apply to be part of the Bhakti Chai brand instead of just a consumer or just an extension of the brand.

Once you have had your uber happy consumers, advocates, ambassadors and what not apply to be part of your network there is definitely some filters that anybody who you are including in your brand should be run through. So this next part of the presentation is going to cover the vetting process of your brand ambassadors after they apply. I see a lot of brands run their ambassadors through similar filters, so let’s quickly go over a few that I see consistently across the board in other brands.

What do they post about whether it’s on their blog or what they tweet about socially. Most influencers are influencers because they specialize in a certain niche, so make sure that their platform or the message that they spread lines up well and fits well with your brand.

Also, check out their social presence. Find out the different channels that they’re influential on and check out the types of messages they are posting and content that they share.

Content quality is another super important one. Do they have good grammar? Are they posting stuff that’s interesting and comes across as being sleek and being somewhat educated? These people are representing your brand. Make sure that they are representing your brand well.

I also think it’s important to check for confusing, contradicting or even offensive messaging. Again this person is being associated with your brand so if they were to say anything offensive, even if your brand wasn’t in that message, they could be associated with your brand by extension and you don’t want to include anybody that may offend a big part of the population.

If they have a blog ask for the blog URL in the application process so you can go check out their blog and vet for the different information points that I just covered.

Traffic data going along with checking out their blog. How much traffic do they get to their blog? How authoritative are they?

I love when brands ask for an influencer’s hobbies. It’s good to get a well rounded perspective of the people that you’re including in your brand to see creatively how are they going to talk about you? How can you work with their strengths to market your brand to their network?

Lastly I think in the application process you should always wrap it up with asking them why they love their – why they love your brand. This is where they get the chance to share why they want to be part of this network. This is where you can also generate some awesome user and consumer content that you can use in other marketing strategies.

And I’ve seen other brands, especially apparel or Bhakti Chai, the example I just used, companies that will ask for selfies of the consumer or the ambassador, the influencer in joining their brand which I think is kind of a cool addition to any application.

Once you have created your hub for your network of opt-in influencers you invite them to apply and you vet the applications that you receive it’s time to nurture those relationships.

Nurturing is a really important yet another overlooked part of the process for some reason. A good strategy that nurtures relationships for a brand does so A) to get a pulse on all of the people that you have out there saying good things about your brand. It also keeps your brand on their brain, so instead of just earning mentions when you reach out directly and ask for them, if you’re sending them different content and different forms of communication about once a month, you’re brand is going to stay on their brain and it’s going to elicit authentic and more ongoing shout out from your network of advocates.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure your communicating about once monthly with your network, so whether it’s personal outreach emails, even a phone call, something as simple as a tweet, make sure that about once a month you’re communicating with your network of influencers. You’re giving them the chance to weigh in and communicate with you, your making them feel like part of your brand and you’re giving them a chance to have a voice. Everybody just wants to be part of the bigger picture.

But you don’t want to come across as too needy so I like everyone to, before they enact or activate their strategy of opt-in influencers or start creating their network of influencers I like everyone to list a couple of creative ways that they plan on maintaining that communication and creative ways that they plan on interacting with their network of influencers once they’re opt-in and vetted to stay on the brain and to score brand mentions.

So what I’ve listed here are just a few creative ways. This is designed to get you brainstorming, get your mind going. Obviously at different communication methods and strategies are going to be different pertaining to your brand.

Obviously once in a while you want to produce creative content, usually in the form of videos or infographics that your influencers can share it with their own network. Keep in mind that this content shouldn’t talk about your brand directly, rather try to make this content touch on a pinpoint that your average consumer experiences. This will make it so much more shareable by your network and enjoyable by their own network.

If you’re marketing a product, definitely send your influencers packages for their birthdays, whether it’s clothing, a simple cooking item, a gift certificate to go enjoy a meal. Possibilities are endless. This touch is actually not too time consuming – excuse me – on the brands and – but the message that it sends to your network and the emotional cord that it strikes when you send them a package on their birthday, is worth the weight in relationship, scoring and brand mentions that you’ll get in gold.  Trust me. A great one to implement when applicable to your brand.

Providing your network with exclusive product and information pertaining to your brand, a great way to stay on their brain, great way to make them feel a part of your brand and have them feel like they have something valuable to share with their own network.

When you can it’s a great idea to have events just for them so if you can get your influencers in one place and have some sort of dinner or event at your retail location, whether it’s just a party or a lecture, giving them information that they can share, having an in person event is a great way to maintain contact because you get to have that face-to-face personal interaction with your network of influencers.

Not only that, but an in person event gives them a bunch of different forms of content that they can share. So think about it. You host an event, they’re taking selfies, maybe they’ll have a short video of the event, they’ll write a blog post, a tweet, a Facebook post. It’s a well rounded topic for them to share about on their own social channel, so definitely recommend this when that applies to your brand.

And lastly, find different ways to share your brand’s human element with them. So personal stories of values of your company, how your company came to be, an occasional happy hour selfie really helps make your brand seem more like a human than a robotic element that they’re communicating with through email.

You definitely want to establish that person-to-person human-to-human connection when possible. Another mutually beneficial branch for everyone involved.

Another last strategy to maintain creative contact with your network would be to survey them and send them a specific invitation to weigh in on different aspects of your brand. This just makes them feel like part of the group and this also provides valuable information for you on different changes to make in the brand or different information or opinions on products or services that you provide.

At the end of the day your opt-in network of influencer strategy has one primary goal and that’s for marketers to position their thinking away from one time earned mentions and the quote traditional campaign model to fostering authentic and ongoing brand experiences.

If you just remember that you are not marketing your brand, that you’re fostering an experience and a story for people to share you’re going to be in good shape.

So to wrap this up, you just want to give your network something to talk about.  It really is that simple.

And actually I have recently published an e-book that contains all facets of brands owning their marketing relationships, including what we went over today, The Power of Fostering an Opt-in Network of Advocates and it even includes six more examples of brands who are knocking this strategy out of the park and case studies on how they made it happen.

Definitely recommend this e-book. You can go to the GroupHigh website resource page to download your free copy of this e-book.

Sorry, just had to add that last little bit of music from Bruce to just up the vibe in here and make sure everyone’s in a good mood as you continue through the rest of the presentations at today’s Outreach Marketing Virtual Summit.

Join the conversation please. Again use hashtag Outreachmarketing to ask me questions, to ask any of our presenters questions or to simply network with other marketers.

Again we have 2,000 people tuning in today, some great networking opportunities, as well as the obvious learning opportunities. And feel free to reach out to me directly at kirstenwords. I love to chat, love to talk collaboration or anything else.

So thank you so much for joining my presentation today. Enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy the rest of the presentations at the Outreach Marketing Virtual Summit.