Community Marketing vs Blogs vs Influencers: Guide for driving brand advocacy in 2021
Convosight compares the three most preferred channels for effectivenes
Brand communication has changed drastically. There used to be a time when Marketing for a brand or product meant communicating with consumers across all stages of the Marketing Funnel.
However, the advent of Digital Media has led to a disproportionate focus on the Awareness & Conversion parts of the funnel, with either "Reach" or "Landing Page visits" as the key buzzwords, often ignoring the “Consideration” part of the funnel.
But, regardless of our fleeting attention spans today, our shopping journeys are about more than a cool brand visual, top 3 features, and the price point.
The route to Advocacy is via Consideration.
As a brand, you would want consumers to get to know you and what you stand for, which involves educating your potential audience about the brand & differentiating it from the competition. This has been the crucial missing piece in today’s marketing communication…Consideration!
But while brands are not answering the questions, consumers are still doing the exact same thing they have been doing since the dawn of consumption … Asking each other!
"Word of Mouth" (WOM) as a term is perhaps as old as when the first sale was made. People turning to others for advice is a tale as old as time, and even the Digital Age has hardly changed that.
So while brands tend to have focused largely on Awareness & Conversion legs, consumers have unearthed new ways of getting digital recommendations through channels like Instagram Influencers, Product led Blogs and now more recently in Digital Communities created by consumers passionate about the pain point.
Obviously, these shifts have not gone unnoticed by brands, and over the last 5 years or so, there has been a concerted effort to work with such advocacy channels. It began around 2012 with Blogger collaborations, getting well-known bloggers to write in-depth reviews & experiences with the brand. By 2015, “influencers” were added to the mix, with the rise of Instagram celebrities. Both these channels are a step towards building consideration and advocacy.
Since about 2018, we have also seen the emergence of another channel known as Digital Communities, which has enabled WOM driven marketing to increase even further, due to the network effects built into community platforms such as Facebook Groups.
Exploring the New-Age Advocacy Channels:
- Influencer Marketing
- Blogging Platforms
- Facebook Groups/Community Marketing
The above three channels are perceived to be the de facto 'word of mouth' sources of the consumers, and are meant to drive consideration, loyalty & advocacy.
But are they all created equal?
This Ultimate guide intends to help you determine the key differences between them & their importance in the Advocacy journey.
Let's have a look at each of these in detail.
Influencer marketing means getting your brand endorsed by people who have a significant following on Social/Digital Media.
Since people "follow" these individuals, the underlying assumption is that these people would have "influence" over their followers' choices.
However, the issue with celeb influencers is that the brand mostly gets overshadowed by the celeb.
A product endorsement by a celeb is almost the same as a Celeb-advertisement on Traditional Media.
People follow celebs for their lifestyle, not to hear about their product choices. What a brand gets ultimately is "Reach". Is it more relevant than Paid Reach on Facebook? Glance at the comments on a celeb post, and check for brand relevance.
Zero, or thereabouts? Well, there's your answer.
Now about the "Reach" itself, the Organic Reach of Instagram influencers varies from 25% (10-50K followers) to 14% (>200K followers). Even if a brand is paying for "relevant" reach, the actual reach is as boosted as a standalone brand post/advertisement.
However, category-related topical influencers do help in creating not only awareness but also consideration. The watch out here is that influencers often endorse competitive brands in the same category. Eventually, followers tend to disbelieve these seemingly "real" brand experiences, which can be understood by reduced comments in brand-included posts.
Brands have now started investing in real-life "Micro Influencers", who potentially have relevance across a huge range of categories, from Baby Care to Health & Nutrition to Beauty & Hygiene.
There is, however, a key point of caution, which is the Comments : Likes ratio, often lesser than 5% in such posts. Such numbers certainly do not point towards 'consideration’.
The takeaway here is not that the influencer is not relevant, but that the nature of the platform itself does not support conversations. Platforms like Instagram are Broadcast channels, with mostly "One-Way Communication". Consideration needs convincing. And that does not happen without Two-Way Communication, where each doubt & concern is discussed & clarified. However, a multi-influencer campaign will go a long way in driving ‘awareness’ for the brand.
Here's an example of a branded influencer post.
This popular influencer has 52K followers. This brand post got:
Comments as % of likes: 5%
Queries on the product: 0
The brand gets awareness, but the post metrics point towards lesser impact on consideration
That being said, YouTube Influencers are a good route for a brand, if only for the content's permanence. Good brand- endorsing videos will gain views over time, boost, & eventually rank higher in search, or be seen via Discovery Ads. Directed at an in-market audience, these will drive consideration for the brand.
Quick Tips to drive Consideration via Influencers Marketing:
- Check the Ratio of Likes to Comments for an influencer; should be at least 95:5
- Check Percentage of Category Relevant Comments; should be at least 70%
- Prolonged collaboration showcasing usage as part of lifestyle instead of one-off posts
- Use relevant YouTube Influencers, esp. whose videos rank on 1st page of search
Note here that we have said "Blogging Platforms", & not "Blogs."
It is important to understand the difference between the two since the argument for one does not hold true for the other.
Blogs work! There's absolutely no denying it. No matter what is said about the 'death of long-form content', blogs are a source of information for people searching for a specific solution or advice.
From asking if a particular nutritional drink has too much sugar to whether a motorcycle brand is a good value for money, Google is a channel people turn to for answers (No surprises there), and that's not going to change anytime soon (if ever).
A well-written blog that answers those questions in an approachable & informative manner will most likely help create consideration for the brand in question. There are tonnes of informative blogs across almost every category written by enthusiasts and category experts, that will work well for your brand. The trick is to find the ones that work!
Of course, for that, the Blog has to figure in the 1st page of Google Search!
If you have invested in a Blogging Platform, and your blogs don't rank on google, then all those blogs are NOT working for you. It's a good time to make that check. And if you find blogs of some other platform featuring relevant content, then that's the platform where you should put your money.
Blogs on your own website work really well for SEO purposes. But blogs on a platform that shows you thousands of views without even featuring on Google begs the question: Who exactly is it who's reading? If you cannot logically map what the reader’s path towards reaching your blog content is, it is better to steer clear of such "High View" platforms & invest in those that will make your brand rank higher when a customer searches for information on most universal of platforms, i.e. Google.
Here's an example of a branded blog on Google platform.
Category & Brand relevant Searches on Google reveal the platforms that will most likely influence Consideration.
Example of Brand Blog on a Blogging Platform that does not feature on Google Search:
This blog has 34 K Views, 21 Likes, and 1 Comment.
A question to ask: Will this help the Brand?
Quick Tips to drive Consideration via Blogs:
- Type brand/category queries on Google. Platforms appearing on page 1 that provide information & insights on your brand/category are your go-to platforms
- Use Blogs on websites for SEO. Get backlinks from credible sites hosting brand's blogs
- Check "Views" vs "Comments" on Branded blogs. Be wary of <1% Comments :Views
Before we get to Community Marketing, let's first understand what a Community is.
Whether physical or digital, a community is a "tribe" of individuals who have come together for a common cause. That cause could be a pain point, a passion, a hobby, a profession or even a life-stage.
The advent of the Digital Age expanded the scope of the number of communities an individual could belong to. No longer restricted by geographical boundaries, every persona of an individual finds voice within a different community. An author who is a mom and into fitness can be a part of 3 different communities, on Literature or Publishing, Motherhood or Parenting, and a Fitness Group.
Each of these communities caters to a specific need of hers. She can connect with peers relevant to that specific interest or life-stage, and be a part of conversations specific to her respective persona. Communities are where "real" conversations happen, and members have open & transparent discussions without the innate social media fear of being judged or trolled.
Imagine if a brand could find its way into those conversations and position itself as a solution to the discussed issues.
Imagine the wealth of conversations that the brand would then influence while also ingraining itself within the community's specific interests.
That would drive consideration for the brand, as it starts to feature in and drive conversations. What if the most preferred solution to building Immunity in children would be a particular brand of Nutritional Drink, and the most likely solution to hair fall a certain brand of shampoo? Well, that's advocacy right there.
So where do these communities exist in the Digital space? Well, you have Discord, LinkedIn & Telegram, among others. But the absolute biggest community out there is…you guessed it, Facebook, or specifically, Facebook Groups!
Today, Facebook has 1.8 Billion people connected by over 70 Million Groups. It really doesn't get any bigger than that!
In fact, Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Facebook is making communities on the platform at par with friend connections, putting Groups at the app's centre. In his own words, "Groups are at the heart of the experience."
Now more than ever, Facebook Groups are most important for brands aiming for Organic Engagement.
Organic? Yes, you heard it right! All engagement in a group is 100% Organic. There simply isn't any way to "boost" anything on a group. If the topic is 'engaging', it will lead to 'conversations'.
Brands engaging fruitfully with these groups will be rewarded with conversations, ever-increasing 'Brand Mentions' within these conversations, recommendations & testimonials.
All of this is driven by what is called 'Community Marketing', done typically via 'campaigns' run by the group admin & moderators, designed to subtly integrate the brand within relevant category conversations, increasing the brand's association with category over time. Moreover, such campaigns have a cascading effect, with Admin posts resulting in conversations and UGCs by the group members.
When a brand gets consumers to start creating & sharing content for it, and defending their choices in a conversation-led medium, the brand is well-positioned towards creating advocacy.
Here's an example of brand campaigns within communities (or what we call community marketing)
A Branded post gets 77 Reactions & 174 Comments! Nature of Post is Usage Linked & not promotional Comments are more descriptive
One post leads to additional posts, with Brand Impressions & Engagement increasing in a cascading manner.
Quick Tips to drive Consideration via Facebook Groups:
- Selecting groups where category relevant conversations are already taking place
- Try to integrate brand messaging in the language of the group; Avoid being "Brand-y"
- Understand tangible metrics for activation & do not measure success in "Reach", "Likes."
- Track Category conversations, Brand Mentions & Brand Share of Voice & Sentiment
- Work with partners that can provide scale in execution & tracking like Convosight
Balcony vs Hall Communication Approach
In layman's terms, the regular Digital Marketing channels like Facebook Pages/Ads, Instagram, YouTube, and even Influencers are examples of the "Balcony" approach to communication. The communication format is like someone giving a speech on dais and is essentially one-way. You measure your success by the people you see in front of you. You do not really know if your message "landed" or not.
On the other hand, Communities or Groups, are like the hallways of college campuses or offices, where the actual points of interest are being discussed & debated. This is where people talk about what matters to them. Groups provide an opportunity for brands to talk to their consumers by "becoming one of them". Here you measure success by understanding if consumers talk about you at all, and of so, what & how much?
So, to realize their aspirations of driving consideration and finally advocacy, brands need to come to terms with measuring conversations, mentions & sentiments rather than the age-old definitions of "Likes, Shares & Comments". The Digital landscape is changing and the challenge for brands is to evolve similarly, or get left behind.
As marketers, we have to employ every tool in our toolkit. But it pays to understand what each tool is meant for, and what might be the most optimal use of each.
Digital Marketing is not a surrogate for the TVs & Radio of old. It is a universe in itself, & each element within this universe has its own unique playbook. Brands would be best served by recognizing this differentiation & then mapping each channel's advantages to the brand objectives.
But, if you are a brand on a quest for advocacy, then Community Marketing is not a medium you can ignore.
Convosight works with more than 25 national and global brands as the preferred partner to drive ROI based campaigns via Community Marketing
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