Three ways brands must evolve to engage female influencers

Posted on: May 6th, 2016 by Amy Laski

Written by Amy Laski for Marketing Magazine.
Marketers need to recognize the shift from bloggers to creators says agency president.

In an increasingly virtual world of interactions, brands are more challenged than ever to move beyond traffic to gain traction, and in turn, to drive sales. Case in point: Only 19% of Canadian women report having had a meaningful interaction with a brand on social media. Yet, 74% of consumers say they rely on social networks to guide their purchase decisions.

Brands can and should work to create more meaningful, direct interactions with female consumers, be it through social (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) or in person. But, in today’s trust economy, this needs to be complemented with—and enhanced by—engaging “creators” —  the bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers and traditional media with whom female consumers are already meaningfully interacting.

Sounds simple enough. But, the expectations are high—and the stakes even higher—for getting it right. We conducted an informal poll with the help of digital publisher and marketing company Ehm & Co and its YummyMummyClub (YMC) network of content creators and mom influencers, and found that a shift is underway in how they want marketers to engage with them.

As Erica Ehm, CEO of Ehm & Co, explains it: “In many ways the creators and influencers are savvier than marketers, and they want this savvy to be considered when marketers approach them. An evolution is needed.”

There are three simple ways to begin this evolution.

First, is recognizing the shift from bloggers to creators. Bloggers now prefer to be referred to as ‘creators’ alongside other social-ites such as YouTubers and Instagrammers. Many have followings across a number of platforms. They are looking to be engaged by marketers who give them creative license. “Tell me your story and let me tell it in my own way,” said one creator within the YMC network. Influencers want to create content in their own “voice” and via their channel(s) of choice, be it via blog, video, photograph, tweet, etc., since they are the experts in what will appeal to their audience specifically. Their authenticity is key to their credibility—and, as such, marketers who enable this will benefit.

Second, there is nothing more social than real-life connections. Just as we have found with our own virtual agency, while we can do so much online, there are some things that are best done in person. While some may feel they don’t have time or capacity for face-to-face interactions, we believe that getting brands and media creators together in an intimate environment is the precursor to more fulsome partnerships. Simply put: the return on your time investment will pay off in spades.

One way we’re helping facilitate these relationship-building opportunities is by hosting the second annual [Wo]Man Cave brand experience and gifting lounge. The event is a cost-effective way for female-targeted brands to build media and content creator relationships while also earning coverage heading into summer and fall. Members of the YMC network will be at this invitation-only event, along with other hand-picked media and creators whom Canadian women trust. Taking the time to develop these relationships in-person is a win-win-win for brands, creators and consumers.

Finally, once the relationship has been forged, marketers should consider making room at the table for creators to join in core brand processes, and in turn, if possible, creators engaging their followers as they go. Engaging influencers in key decisions—both around product development and marketing—will ensure a more genuine connection to the brand which will inevitably be passed along to consumers in a more sincere way.

Consider how Mattel brought together a group of strategically chosen women feminists—business leaders, influencers, developers, etc.—to contribute to the evolution of Barbie and the resulting Fashionistas Line. As Ehm describes here, these secret meetings at Mattel headquarters with the top decision makers from Barbie brand team not only resulted in major changes for the brand, but also forged a strong personal connection for Ehm with the brand. She writes: “I’m so proud to have played a tiny part in re-imagining Barbie to become a doll that girls can see themselves in, no matter their size, shape or colour.” Bringing influencers to the table is mutually beneficial.

Want to understand your consumers better? Take time to hear from the women who engage with them directly on a daily basis—the women who are them.

Amy Laski is president of Felicity, a virtual communications, content and public relations agency.