Helping marketers engage communities through healthy food, fitness and outdoor fun.

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Influencer Outreach

One of the greatest mistakes marketers make in Digital PR -- or social media outreach -- is diving into a space with a strategy of "creating" an online community. Most likely, the community already exists. And it's important to recognize that this community exists for a reason, which isn't to promote your brand or product. People connect online to share the things that interest them… information, passion, values, entertainment… so it's helpful to consider that you may be crashing their party, and how you behave determines whether you are invited back.

It's important to listen and learn what your community is talking about. In order to be relevant, you have to understand the kinds of the things they value. What are the most polar themes? What kind of language do they use to discuss them? Where do most of these conversations take place? Is there a pattern to when they are occurring? Who are the most influential contributors?

In the first step of intelligence gathering, we build the keyword profile for the brand. This helps us identify the relevant conversations taking place. If the volume of conversations allow, we prefer to analyze 12 months of behavior before we seek to distill any insights. This gives us an opportunity to determine whether we're looking at single incidents or actual trends. Some marketers prefer to compare year-on-year behavior, because that's how they have systematized their own reporting. One word of caution here: due to the fluid state of the digital environment, it's easy to extrapolate disparities that have more to do with technology than consumer preferences.

Automated aggregator tools for measures such as sentiment are improving, but there is no substitute for putting eyes on the conversations. If the keyword list is broad, it's important to identify just how relevant the brand is to the behavior. We use a "ring of relevance" to determine if the conversational themes are highly relevant or "tight" versus less relevant or "loose." For example, conversations including flame or charcoal grilled are tightly connected to a brand of outdoor barbecue grills. A conversation of grass versus corn-fed beef would be loosely connected. Behavior inside a tight ring of relevance is weighted more heavily. The strategy for outreach to these content generators is far more direct that those whose behavior is loosely connected to the brand.

Once we determine the volume of conversations, where they are taking place and when, we identify who the influencers are. In an ideal world, we are able to develop a short list of content generators whom are followed across multiple platforms, such as blogs, twitter and Facebook. With this list in hand, we develop a strategy to engage them. Or more appropriately, we strategize on how to get them to engage their followers on our behalf. With The North Face, the brand's perceived value is so high, we rarely need to share much more than timely information with bloggers to inspire them to generate mentions in their posts. We developed graduated levels of participation, which may include a free trail entry to one of the The North Face Endurance Challenges or an opportunity to interview one of the elite TNF Global Athletes in exchange for branding on their blogs and promotion of our events throughout the year.

In the case of The Big Green Egg, we're able to identify leaders in the outdoor grilling conversation online. By offering a much larger, national audience, we can encourage them to share tips, recipes, and enthusiasm for the brand. If the following is large enough and the influencer is interested in converting to a big Green Egg from a competing brand, it may even warrant giving them an Egg. We often do this with popular chefs who agree to share their recipes and meals via photos and videos.

The more influencers we engage, the more content they create and share, and the more followers they accumulate. By growing the number of enthusiasts who actively share their passion about grilling, we grow our share of the community and the market.

Thanks to today's tracking technology and the ability to embed pixels via content publishing platforms, we can actually track the influence of a given content generator, piece of content or social media channel in terms of ROI.