Snapchat is over. Influencers are oversaturated. And content is everything.
Those were some of the takeaways from a panel discussion about social media marketing held Tuesday at the FN Platform trade show in Las Vegas.
The participants included Rollie founder and CEO Vince Lebon, Sam Edelman marketing director Lizzi Bickford, Chinese Laundry marketing manager Alle King and Karen Bueno, Blowfish Malibu’s VP of marketing. FN’s women’s editor, Nikara Johns, moderated the conversation.
All four executives agreed that the strongest social platforms for brand marketing right now are Facebook and Instagram — particularly Instagram, thanks to its highly visual format.
“With Instagram, we focus on brand awareness and engagement, and there we’re able to build a visual around who the brand is,” said Bueno. “With Facebook, it’s more of a VIP feel, and with those people, they give us their true feelings about [Blowfish Malibu]. That’s been helpful for us in finding out what customers like about the brand and what they don’t.”
Bickford added that gauging the effectiveness of the programs is twofold: “We measure success through engagement, and conversion is also optimal. We’re seeing a rise year over year of about 170 percent on a swipe or click-to-shop [tool]. Those features have definitely enhanced the platforms for us from a brand side.”
As for platforms that don’t work, the executives said they have all abandoned Snapchat completely and use Twitter sparingly. “The biggest result we’ve had with Twitter is if a celebrity or influencer is wearing our shoes and tweeting about it,” said King. “For me as a consumer, I only pay attention to big people and what they’re saying.”
When it comes to working with online influencers, the marketing experts recommended a careful and strategic approach. “Go in with a plan and make sure you’re aligning with the right people. Influencers are great, but the market has become really saturated,” said Bickford, who noted that she likes to meet — or at least speak with — every influencer who works with the Sam Edelman brand. “I want make sure that we vibe and they understand our messaging.”
King noted that microinfluencers have proved to be highly effective at driving online buzz for Chinese Laundry.
But Blowfish’s Bueno advised always checking the numbers before signing a partner. “Look at the engagement of their followers. They may have 2,000 likes on an Instagram photo but no comments,” she said.
For Rollie, while the label does work with social influencers, Lebon and his wife have become increasingly visible in its marketing. “When I first launched the brand, I tried to keep myself separate. But a brand is not what you say it is; it’s what they say it is,” said Lebon. “We found that people connected with our story. So now we’re putting up more photos of me and my wife, and we’re starting to document us living our bucket list. Because we want to empower our community, and the only way is by living what you say. We’ve become the face of it — not by choice, but it feels honest.”
Overall, the executives stressed that in today’s environment, it’s challenging to keep up with changing technologies and to stand out in a noisy digital landscape. But what is essential is having a strong identity.
“Make sure you have a voice, your tone is consistent, and make sure you have a story to tell,” said Bickford. “People want authenticity and content that they can learn from.”
And in the end, brands also need to be realistic about expectations, explained Lebon. “There’s no quick fix,” he said. “We would look at these big influencers and think, ‘If only we could work with them.’ And then you’d get them, and it wasn’t massive. Accept that and stop chasing. Just work on great content and add value to people’s lives. Instead of looking for that one influencer, create something where everyone you touch is inspired and they retell it and then become your brand advocators.”
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