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Digital Quicksilver – How Marketers Can Harness the Power of Influence on Social Media to Drive Brand Affinity

Digital Quicksilver – How Marketers Can Harness the Power of Influence on Social Media to Drive Brand Affinity

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This is a guest post by Rob McLoughlin, SVP Consumer Insights at Buzzmedia

Influence is a fluid social currency connecting those who possess knowledge or topical expertise and those that seek it. At Buzzmedia, we study these dynamics every day to provide insights into the complex relationships between brands, content and millennial consumers.

To that end, we partnered with NewStream Research on original research project to explore this important topic and are thrilled to present the results for the first time this Friday at the Lifestyle and Culture Hub at Hearst.

Here’s a preview of what we found:

+ Social media plays a critically important role in the dynamic relationship between brands, content and influencers. Seventy-six percent of millennials follow brands on social media and when seeking to obtain information about brands and products, social media influences four in ten millennials. Recommendations from friends and family are most influential, but recommendations from a perceived topic expert carry nearly equal weight in social media. Over 70 percent of millennials share items from brands and nearly 40 percent of millennials have had their view of a brand and site changed positively due to a mutual association. Branded content on social media is influential and helps drive positive and sometimes immediate action for brands. Influential content has driven over 82 percent of millennials to visit a brand website and over two-thirds of millennials have purchased, saved or shared something that they viewed as influential or interesting.

+ There exists a strong synergistic relationship between brands, online content and individual influencers. Each element adds logic and strength to one another in the consumer mindset. The combination of all three can help to reinforce the core values of the consumer, but it is a relationship that has preconditions and needs to be actively managed with care in order to truly be considered influential. Over 80 percent of millennials rank “trustworthiness,” “credibility” and “authenticity” as either the first, second or third most important element that impacts whether content, brands or people (influencers) are influential to them online.

+ Millennials consumers hold strong and definitive impressions about brands. These impressions are developed over time based on a mix of both online and offline experiences. Eighty-one percent of millennials view brands as a “measure of quality” and 77 percent consider brands to be “what distinguishes a product,” and therefore they are seen as “more than just companies.”  In order to build trust and foster credibility and authenticity, brands need to actively manage interactions to ensure that each exposure is constructive and fostering increased affinity and loyalty towards the brand.

+ Brand characteristics are incredibly important in creating influence among millennials. Brands that are viewed as “creative,” “innovative,” “compassionate” and “stylish” are key characteristics cited by millennials as helping to create and sustain influence. Female millennials in particular are slightly more likely to think that creativity is what makes a brand influential. Females are also more likely than men to consider “compassion” and “style” important brand characteristics for driving influence.

+ Brands can also drive influence via actions to connect with millennials and increase affinity. Millennial consumers see value in brands that provide “excellent customer service,” that create and share “humorous and engaging advertising” and “contributing to charitable causes.”  Additional actions that drive affinity include brands that “sponsor online content or events of consumer interest” and brands that “partner with companies that are perceived as cool or cutting edge.” Brands that execute these actions for consumers stand to reap significant rewards in terms of increased affinity and loyalty.

+ Millennials have strong opinions about the relationship between the type of information they seek online and the person they deem most credible at delivering that information. We asked millennials to rate four different types of influencers based on their credibility when delivering information on various product categories as well as their influence on a variety of brand dimensions. Across all product categories, topical expertise is most important for driving influence. Millennials feel that topic experts with broad fame and topic experts with contextual fame are most influential for sharing credible information across every product category.

+ Brands, content and influencers live a complex and ever changing ecosystem. In order to obtain, build and sustain influence and affinity with millennials, each must build a relationship that is based on a foundation of trust, credibility and authenticity. Influence is not an entity and therefore does not reside within one individual, site or brand. Influence is a process – and every piece of the process needs to be managed properly to have an impact.

Join us tomorrow to learn more!


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