In today’s digital age, consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and discerning about the brands they choose to engage with. And, as a result, the demand for genuine, audience-aligned brand values has amplified.
We’ve spoken at length in previous articles about the value of values: more specifically, the strategic advantage to be gained by envisioning your audiences’ values as a metaphorical north star, towards which you can plot out your activations, advertising and digital content.
But, once a brand has defined their audiences’ values, and aligned their marketing and communication strategy with them, how then can brands enter the wider cultural conversation, and ensure this alignment is effectively communicated, in order to connect with consumers?
The answer lies in social media. More specifically, in the harnessing of a paradigm shift, caused by the pandemic and subsequent world events, that has fundamentally altered the way consumers interact with and across social media platforms.
Traditionally, social media has been a tool used primarily for entertainment, commercial inspiration and artificial persuasion, with brands placing their products on the feeds of whichever influencers have the most eye-wateringly large followings. And, in the past, this strategy has been hugely successful.
However, as a result of drastic societal restructuring during the pandemic, this has changed. With lockdowns and quarantines in place, people turned to social media as a way to stay informed and educated about the pandemic, its impact on society, and how to stay safe.
Fast forward to 2023, and this new form of content consumption has led to a lasting focus on education and information-based content, rather than traditional influencer content that focuses on the desire-driving platforming of products and services. This has put greater onus on influencers to act as gatekeepers for social media advertising and to present authentic, verifiable content, whilst disclaiming paid brand partnerships upfront.
As a result, conversational social platforms such as Discord and Substack have gained popularity as people seek out authentic and meaningful educational content, with Discord alone reaching 140 million monthly active users in 2021, a 40% increase on the previous year. These platforms allow for direct communication and engagement with creators, which has redressed the balance of power in favour of unconventional micro-influencers.
The use of such niche influencers, whose voices chime uniquely with the brands they partner with, is rapidly on the rise. In many cases, these influencers, coined by WGSN as ‘Genuinfluencers’ may well partner with one singular brand. For instance, recent data from influencer marketing platform, Lefty, suggests that 15 per cent of Mac Cosmetics’ influencer are unique to the company.
This goes to show that, whilst these kinds of influencers may not have large followings, their connection to important messages, and their possession of unique perspectives, resonate with audiences and lead to the formation of value-aligned online communities.
In fact, one study from Marketing Dive found that micro influencers have nearly double the engagement rate of those with larger followings, with an engagement rate of 3.6% for those with 10,000+ followers, compared to 6.3% for those with 5,000-10,000 followers.
The good news is, brands and organisations can take advantage of this trend in order to open up more meaningful and authentic dialogues with audience members on social media, based upon shared values and trust, instead of throwaway demand.
By collaborating with so called ‘genuinfluencers’ and amplifying their messages, brands are able to join wider cultural conversations and meet consumers where they are already emotionally and ideologically invested. This approach allows brands to build credibility with audiences, which is essential for creating long-term relationships.
For example, were a brand looking to advocate progressive policies for women in the workplace, with a particular emphasis on engaging with young female professionals, identifying a micro-influencer on a platform such as Discord who creates educational feminist content would be a powerful way to enter the conversation and build trust with your audience.
This logic applies fairly ubiquitously across most complex social issues. If you can find a voice to speak authentically to the challenges your brand is looking to address, you can find an immediate and genuine entry point to your target audience.
At this point, you may well be thinking, ‘this all sounds great, but how do we begin to find the right voices to champion our cause and help us connect with our audience?’ Well, actually, it’s quite simple. Let’s take a look at a couple of ways your brand can go about it.
Listen up – the strength of social listening tools
Social listening tools are a priceless resource for brands looking to connect with influencers who share the same values as their customers, especially if that brand has a relatively constricted budget.
These tools, which feature widely across social media management platforms including Hootsuite and Sprout, enable brands to track and analyse social media conversations. You need simply list a group of key phrases or words that align with the values your brand is trying to promote, and you’ll be notified about when and where those phrases are being used, and who’s voices possess the most influence.
This, in turn, enables the identification of key topics, influencers, and communities that are relevant to your target audience, and can be particularly valuable when looking to identify micro-influencers who have a more authentic and personal connection with their followers, but who’s influence may not be immediately apparent outside of their niche.
Social listening can even help you to identify pre-existing brand ambassadors who are already expressing genuine interest in your mission and values on social media, enabling you to tap into their advocacy, and their existing audience, to reach new, value-aligned customers.
Finally, once the right voices have been discovered, brands can then use their social listening tool to and reach out to influencers and arrange collaboration on campaigns and content.
Nothing beats a network
Social listening tools provide fantastic immediacy and accessibility to voices one might otherwise have overlooked. However, these tools alone may not give brands the sway needed to optimise engagement with genuinfluencers, nor the resources to seize important cultural moments as and when they arise.
This is where connecting with an interdisciplinary marketing network can be invaluable. Not only can such networks help you to more rapidly and accurately discover impactful voices in your given target area; they can also provide the support, talent and resources to plan, produce and place your content in order to maximise impact.
For brands looking to act quickly in order to inform consumers of their shared values before those values evolve, a marketing network with facets across multiple sectors, geographies, languages and time zones will provide the fluidity to capitalise on every opportunity.
What’s more, a global marketing network can leverage localised knowledge to pick up on trends and discover voices that social listening tools alone may miss. These insights can then be actioned at every step of the marketing funnel by dedicated specialists, making your message more likely to resonate with value-aligned audience members.
At mci group, we leverage our presence in over 32 countries to ensure we always have boots on the ground to detect developing cultural conversations, shifts in values and burgeoning opportunities. Our talents pass these insights on to our clients, before helping to plan and implement campaigns, content and live activations that centre their brands in the conversations they want to be having with their clients.
If you’d like our help in finding the right voices to cut through to and create meaningful, value-aligned connections with your audience, call +41 22 33 99 500 or Email: email@example.com.