Our latest Business Impact Workshop took us to Deka Lash, the quickly-expanding eyelash extension brand that owes much of their traction to social media. It’s no secret that Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the like are critical components to a successful brand in 2019 -- but understanding how to actually use these platforms effectively isn’t quite so simple.
Greg Forsythe is Deka Lash’s senior director of innovation and brand strategy. The importance of a role like this can’t be understated for a company that brand markets to Gen Z. The new influx of consumers has grown up on social media. They see right through inauthenticity, and, to be blunt, they have little interest in brands that don’t “get” how to use trendy platforms like Instagram.
It’s worth noting, too, that Greg has taken some cues from his own teenage daughter. Combining his first-hand research and business prowess has helped Deka Lash become a rising power player in the beauty industry.
Great news: Your product has already developed an enthusiastic fanbase. Congrats! The next step is carefully identifying which of those fans are influencers who can help you attract even more excited customers.
The best influencers, Greg explained, are already in your database. They’re vocal fans of the product who purchase it -- repeatedly. Most companies make the tempting but fruitless mistake of looking outside their existing clientele for potential influencers. That’s a tedious process: You’re combing through photos, hashtags, tweets, and, perhaps most frustratingly, devoted customers of competitors. After identifying these people, who are currently total strangers to your brand, all of the weight falls on you to convert them into genuine ambassadors.
The key word there is “genuine.” Greg learned from his own daughter that Gen Z has a particular love for YouTubers, who become popular by showcasing their own personalities, interests and favorites. It’s extremely transparent and obvious to their viewers when they attempt to sell products that they don’t care about. When influencers are just out to make a buck by shilling random products, the dishonesty isn’t lost on their audience, even those who are very young.
“You really want to be genuine, and that’s where influencers have the most impact -- when it’s from the heart, and it doesn’t sound like something a boardroom wrote for them to speak,” Greg said. “They’re talking about how much they love it and how much they use it -- ‘I use this product every day’ -- and they can mean it.” Instead of wasting time and energy desperately seeking out influencers, reach out to select customers who already know and love your brand. That’s when you can make your pitch.
“I’m going to reach out to them and offer them something incredible. Not like $20 off. Not a 10% off coupon,” Greg said. Rather, they’re going to get free products -- everything the brand has to to offer: “I’m going to keep doing that for you, and maybe I’ll bring them into a discussion and make them a part of a group that’s testing new products. What better way to make them fall in love and adhere to the brand than include them in real decisions?”
Later in our conversation, we returned to this topic, asking Greg how he keeps influencers engaged after the initial novelty of the brand offers start to fade. There are, he answered, two schools of thought: One, you can monitor closely, constantly evaluating the results of their affiliate codes and other types of referrals. Two, you can hand over the products, let the influencer do their thing, and check in after a few months to see the results and decide if you want to do it again.
In either scenario, you’ll ultimately be able to determine how well the influencer does at keeping his or her followers interested in their content. LIkely more often than not, you’ll decide to move on to a new set of influencers. Sorry, influencers, but better to hear it now than later: You almost certainly have an expiration date. That’s a lesson that both sides of this type of business partnership need to know.
We’ll just put this bluntly: A lot of people, especially Gen Z and millennials looking to profit off the social media space, buy followers and likes. And a surprising number of companies don’t realize they’re being duped.
If you take a general scroll through Instagram, you’ll come across dozens of accounts with thousands of followers and likes -- but when you look closer look, you’ll see that legitimate engagement isn’t there. It’s possible to fake engagement, but anyone with social media savvy will be able to see through bot-type comments.
Engagement -- real engagement, not just the relatively convincing appearance of it -- is critical, Greg explained, if you want to see real-life results. “Referral is still the #1 source of marketing -- word of mouth,” he said. “[Social media] is really our best way to solicit that. You can hand out coupons … but the new way of building that word of mouth, referral, is through influencers.”
So how can you separate the fakers from the real power players? A little bit of common sense can go a long way. Don’t be fooled by the numbers. Take a real look at the people who are commenting and liking each post. Are they local to the area? Are they of the same age range? Are they writing personal comments that clearly show some sort of friendship? These are all indicators that an influencer is legit.
As Dave put it in our debriefing session: “It gets challenging at times, as a marketer -- you want that instant result, you want to see a top of a funnel that’s significant. But when you’re a brand or a retailer, you have to sift through the noise and get to the real, meaningful people that you want to reach.”
There are three primary social media platforms: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Four, if you count Yelp, which is business-centric. Most brands maintain presences on all three. But, unfortunately enough, many of them are making the same silly mistake: They’re treating all of these sites as though they’re interchangeable.
Creating one singular piece of content -- be it a video, a text post, or a photo -- and distributing it identically on all three platforms is, Greg said, “the worst mistake [a brand] can make.” The trajectory tends to start off strong as existing customers quickly follow the brand on each of its social pages. And then, after just a few months, the numbers totally plateau. Where’s the growth?
That’s not a minor issue. It’s a glaring sign that you’re not optimizing your social media, using each platform’s best qualities to showcase your brand in different ways. Familiarize yourself with all of the platforms and you’ll find that your followers and engagement will grow accordingly. When you use them properly, they’re invaluable in building and maintaining customer satisfaction.
If you’re just now learning what influencers are, you’re a bit behind the curve: They’ve been major players in retail for at least 3 years now. But, as we all know, things change quickly. To put it succinctly, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse. New apps and platforms are always in development, and even on the existing ones, trends change.
Get to know this online world and the results for your business can be seriously remarkable. (And if you’re really struggling to “get” Instagram, well, just ask your kid.)
To see how your business can improve employee engagement and internal communications, learn the Audience Engagement Framework.