Using influencers to maximize your social ROI

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Chrissy Teigen is a style influencer for Revolve, where she sells an eponymous line of clothing.
Chrissy Teigen is a style influencer for Revolve, where she sells an eponymous line of clothing. Credit: Revolve

The e-commerce retailer Revolve is on a hot streak. The company did roughly $400 million in sales last year and, this month, it got the business press buzzing with the announcement that it plans to go public.

A ton of ink has since been spilled about the secrets of Revolve's success: its data-driven approach to everything from design to fulfillment; the development and success of its in-house fashion labels; and, most importantly for the marketing community, its innovative use of influencers as incentivized models and endorsers. As Marc Bain of the website Quartz pointed out, Revolve's IPO filing mentions the word "influencer" 79 times.

For the past decade, Revolve has been swiping market share from so-called "youth culture" companies like Pink and Abercrombie, which still haven't learned that youth culture is driven by influencers. Revolve, on the other hand, has built a self-sustaining marketing ecosystem by engaging thousands of influencers at once and giving those influencers the freedom to promote products as they see fit.

Revolve has long understood that the only way to build a scalable influencer-marketing strategy is to share creative control with your influential talent partners.

Reza Izad
Reza Izad  Credit: Photograph by Ad Age

Trusting that talent and their voices is essential for online success.
If you're worried that the talent doesn't align with the brand, don't invest. But if an influencer's audience aligns with your brand, give them a shot. Then optimize what works and get rid of what doesn't. If one of the influencers you sponsor happens to launch a viral video, that's a bonus. But one spectacular piece of content is not the goal.

The goal is to scale. The goal is to launch thousands of pieces of content simultaneously that directly drive revenue.

When I explain this new reality to CMOs and marketing VPs, they almost always respond with the same question: What about quality control?

The question they're really asking is: What can we control? It's two things:

Messaging: Scalability begins with attribute-driven messaging. Geico's "15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance" is a great model. Regardless of what chaos or creativity dominates the screen in a given video, Geico's content is always tied up with the same value proposition.

Audible has similarly done a great job on social campaigns by letting influencers supply their own hooks as long as they communicate the company's core message of "I read an awesome book [insert title and description] and you can buy the audio version of the book at Audible. Add this promo code and save." As with Geico, business attributes drive Audible's online messaging because it knows that new consumers search for attributes (audiobooks, bestsellers, etc.) more than brand names when Googling products and services.

Calls to Action: Ironically, discussing "calls to action" puts a lot of marketing execs to sleep even though the strategy is essential for tracking and scaling Social ROI. Look, I get it. It's much more fun to dive into creative campaign concepts and brainstorm viral online movements than it is to break down the straightforward messaging that directs online audiences to redeem special offers for products and services.

But here's the thing: Only one of those conversations is tied directly to sales.

The best social marketers view influencers as a function of their digital sales channels as much as cultural endorsers, which brings us back to calls to action: The best calls to action are repeatable, shareable and scalable. They can become the fabric of a content-creation cycle for years.

Drilling down a little further, it's important that your calls to action have binary accountability. Do you have a clear way to ask viewers to click, purchase, or attend an event? Can you directly measure whether or not they follow through? Great, you win.

Reza Izad is CEO of Studio71

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