BUILD YOUR INFLUENCER MARKETING HUB

Build your influencer marketing hub with Magda Houalla 

  • The big evolution is it's less about working with these massive superstars on social media as the only influencer marketing strategy. It's about expanding who you consider being influential to your brand and evolving the ways in which you're interacting with them.
  • You can loosen the restrictions with your influencer marketing and allow access to your brand to anyone who is a loyal fan, a customer, even an employee who could have an impact on their business and work with them in a really flexible way.
  • One thing that we look at a lot when it comes to creating an influencer marketing hub is companies that invest in their customers first and foremost and because of that, they are retaining customers at a higher rate.
  • When we think about the future of where influencer marketing and where community intelligence marketing is headed, I think it really is headed in a way where people will want to see data behind the work that they're doing.

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Doug Morneau: Well, welcome back, listeners, to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. Today, we're going to talk about all things, influence, and community. So, influencer marketing will be one of our topics. So, just before you say, “Hey, I know a lot about that,” we're going to share some new insights, some new directions from a company that's taking this platform and this whole community engagement to a whole new level.

In-studio today, I've got joining me as my guest, Magda Houalla. And she is the director of marketing and strategy for a company called AspireIQ. And they are one of the leading influencer marketing platforms that empower businesses and brands like you and me to generate creative scale. So, Magda plays a pivotal role in ensuring that all the existing and new brands using this platform are set up for success by aligning their needs and best practices and world-class strategy.

We're going to talk a lot about analytics and getting ROI and measurement as well. Her guidance has helped several big brands like CVF, Freshly, Bed Bath & Beyond, L.L.Bean, and Walmart both expand their influencer marketing programs, but also to increase ROI. So, stay tuned. Listen in. And I'd like to welcome Magda to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today.

Hey Magda, I'm super excited to have you on the show today. So, welcome to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast.

Magda Houalla: Thank you so much for having me.

Doug Morneau: Well, I mean, I don't often get the opportunity to talk to somebody that's working in the influencer space, and I'm super excited to let you share with our audience. So, do you want to give us just an overview of what you do and what your company does so our audience has a full understanding?

Magda Houalla: Yes, absolutely. So, I am the director of marketing strategy at AspireIQ. And we actually have gone through a bit of an evolution as a business. We really started as an influencer marketing platform in a very organized way to help brands connect with social media influencers, manage their relationships, and analyze all of the results. But right now, really where we're headed is in this new space of community intelligence.

So, we are a community intelligence platform that empowers brands to build, manage, and grow relationships with anyone who they consider to be influential in their community. So, it could be brands wanting to connect with social media stars. It could be loyal fans. It could be employees, industry experts. There are lots of different people that can have an influence on a brand. So, with our evolution, we wanted to support that.

So, what I do at Aspire IQ is I help our clients craft customized strategies to make sure that all of the community efforts that they're doing, everything they're doing with these individuals that are considered to be influential in one way or another to the business, those are laddering up to broader business objectives. So, all of the efforts that they're putting forward have a huge impact on what they're doing as a company.

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It's less about working with superstars as the only influencer marketing strategy. It's about expanding who you consider being influential to your brand and working with them.

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Doug Morneau: Yeah. So, making sure they're getting a return for their effort?

Magda Houalla: Exactly, yes. Because there are lots of different ways that companies think about community or influencer efforts. And oftentimes, it's looked at as just something that you're maintaining. You have these initiatives that are running in the background. But it really can provide quite a bit more business impacts than just brand awareness. So, really, we want to help our clients understand the full scope of the potential behind the work that they're doing.

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It's less about working with superstars as the only influencer marketing strategy. It's about expanding who you consider being influential to your brand and working with them.

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So, we can really make sure that they get cross-functional buy-in, and their bosses are willing to invest more behind this program.

Doug Morneau: So, can you walk us through a timeline? Because this space has changed a lot over the last 10 years. And so, back in the day, the idea of influencer marketing was, “Hey, find one of the Kardashians and pitch them on your product. And that will solve all of our problems,” which simply isn't true.

Magda Houalla: Yeah.

Doug Morneau: So, I mean, you've seen the evolution. As you said, your platform is now realized that “Hey, we had a management platform for people to reach the influencers. Now, we're looking at communications and the whole picture of everybody who's talking about the brand.” So, can you share with our audience what would the evolution of influencer marketing look like? Like the stages that have been?

Because obviously, where you guys are now is far ahead of where a lot of people are, and people may have a preconceived idea of what it is.

Magda Houalla: So, basically, influencer marketing when AspireIQ started in 2013, influencer marketing was really new, and it was something that not many brands had tapped into just yet. So, influencers came about, because, with social media, people were talking about different products or services that they liked. And these influencers basically amassed a huge following because people trusted what they were talking about.

Doug Morneau: Yeah.

Magda Houalla: And they were really excited to learn about new products or new services that they hadn't heard about before. So, brands decided to tap into this. They would then pay these influencers to promote them on a more regular basis or pay the influencers to craft a message that is more aligned with what the brand is looking for. So, we actually saw this huge boom in influencer marketing around 2015, which is around the time that I joined the company.

And this is when brands were allocating huge budgets to work with influencers. And it was really having a super positive impact. You've seen brands like Fashion Nova, like Quay Sunglasses, that have really been built on the backs of these influencers that they are working with, and built-in conjunction and in partnership with these influencers. Really, the evolution that we're seeing now is that everyone is an influencer in some way. So, you can have a massive following.

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It's less about working with superstars as the only influencer marketing strategy. It's about expanding who you consider being influential to your brand and working with them.

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And you can have people that are really eager to share brands, product services with their huge social following. You could also have someone that's wildly influential to your brand in a different way. So, an example is, if you have an office Slack group and your friends and coworkers are throwing different products into that Slack group, and people are purchasing, that has influence. That's a smaller scale, but really, that is influential to a brand.

Or you could think about an industry expert let's say in the beauty space who might not have a huge social following but has a huge network of other stylists and professionals. If they're recommending your product or service, that has an influence on your business. So, really, the big evolution is it's less about working with these massive superstars on social media as the only strategy. It's about expanding who you consider being influential to your brand and evolving the ways in which you're interacting with them.

So, that's what led us to transform our product to support that as well. So, initially, our product was focused primarily on transactional relationships with people who are considered traditionally social media influential. We wanted to loosen the restrictions there and allow our brands to access anyone who is a loyal fan, a customer, even an employee who could have an impact on their business and work with them in a really flexible way.

Doug Morneau: Well, that makes a lot of sense. And the micro-influencers make sense as well. Because I think at one point, people are doing all sorts of things to build up their following, and just because you have a big following doesn't mean you have influence. It just means you have a lot of people that you've somehow got to follow you. And if you make a recommendation or like a product, that doesn't mean they're going to take your advice and go and buy it.

So, to your point, your Slack channel, trusted channel, trusted people there. And I would say that it really comes down to like you said, getting a return. So, if somebody posts there and 10 people go buy, that's better than working with someone who's got 50,000 people on Twitter they post, and nobody reads the post.

Magda Houalla: Exactly. And it's a lot more tangible, right? Because I think with social media, a lot of the metrics you're looking at are brand awareness, engagement, which is incredible and I think it is very, very important for brand building initiatives. But as you think about more targeted goals, like brands that want to move the needle on sales, brands that want to move the needle on customer retention, that's where community-building efforts and looking at other people beyond just those who live on social media, is a really important strategy.

So, one thing that we look at a lot is companies that invest in their customers first and foremost. So, an example could be Briogeo, which is a beauty line. And they have hair products, skincare products, et cetera. And they really look to their existing customers for feedback on what to create next. And because of that, they are retaining customers at a higher rate.

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Doug Morneau: Yeah. That totally makes sense. I worked with a large skincare brand, which I won't name. It's owned by Guthy-Renker, and they're launched in Canada. And I went out to the database to say, “Hey, why don't we survey your customers and ask what else they'd buy from you?” And they thought that was a really silly idea. And the feedback that came back was, “Well if you guys sold haircare, we'd buy that from you as well.”

So, it's a simple ask, but because they had built an audience of people who liked them by asking and help them do some pre-testing, some pre-marketing, some first real-live data came back to take the next step to say, “Hey, this is a real business opportunity.”

Magda Houalla: Exactly. That's the missing link that I think we're really excited to work with some of our partners on closing that gap. So, how can you basically figure out what are your business objectives and how can your community help support that? So, there is something called the SPACE Model that we talked about a lot. It was actually created by David Spinks from CMX, which is one of the largest communities of community managers.

But essentially, the way the SPACE Model works is it helps brands to outline what their key business objectives are, whether it's around they need help with client support, they need help with product ideation, they want to improve retention, sales, et cetera. Looking at what that key objective is and figuring out all the different ways in which your community and all of those who are considered influential can support you.

So, for example, there is certainly still a world in which social media influencers are wildly impactful. If you have a goal around marketing and you really want to reach as many new people as possible, it does make sense to partner with people that have a strong following but a really strong engagement as well.

Doug Morneau: Absolutely. Yeah, that totally makes sense. Yep.

Magda Houalla: Yeah. Whereas, if your goal is more around product ideation, influencers might not be the best path, because they're going to be in some way or another bias towards your product if they're getting paid for it. So, instead, you might want to turn to your top 10% of customers and ask them for feedback like what you were talking about with your example.

Doug Morneau: And that's what you said. I mean, because your platform allows you to communicate with all the people who like your brand, you can separate the paid versus the nonpaid and get a different, obviously a better result, a more true result by having that conversation engagement.

Magda Houalla: Absolutely.

Doug Morneau: So, in terms of the messaging, how is the messaging chain? Because I mean, at one point, as a direct marketer myself, the idea is, “Hey, how can we sell stuff,” right? “How can we… the sales dial?” And so, I think that's where people started. But now, we're seeing more storytelling, especially in the times that we're in now.

Magda Houalla: Yes. This is a really good question. This is something that we talk about a lot at Aspire. So, really, what we've seen is a huge shift and just the power of the consumer. So, brands are really built in the minds of their consumers. And that's supercritical to understand because a brand can craft this perfect message around who they are, who they want to reach, all of that. But if that doesn't align with the way the consumers perceive that brand, it doesn't matter, because you're not going to have those customers.

So, really, we're seeing a shift in brands that want to focus on value-based storytelling. So, what is it that their community and the people that matter most of them, what do they care about from a value standpoint?

Doug Morneau: Yup.

Magda Houalla: And what is it beyond the product or service that is going to capture the attention of these consumers and make them customers for life? Because we have unlimited choices these days.

Doug Morneau: Yes, we do. Yeah.

Magda Houalla: If you want to buy a new workout outfit, you have 50 different companies that you can choose from. So, what is it that is going to make you align with one over the other? And that's where storytelling comes into play. And that's where investing in your community really comes into play because that's going to be critical when it comes to retaining customers. And you mentioned the tough times we're in right now.

We're seeing a lot of brands turn inward and invest their marketing dollar behind the people that have already been customers of them versus really pushing new customer acquisition.

Doug Morneau: Sure. That means retention, retention, retention. I mean, it doesn't matter how many groups I speak to. I'll ask the question. We've all heard it cost 10 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing customer, it was, yes. And then, my next question is, so what percentage of your budget you're spending on retention? And typically, the answer is, none, which it doesn't make any sense at all.

So, in terms of storytelling, who is a brand that you're working with now that you think is doing a really good job just hitting it out of the park, telling their story?

Magda Houalla: Yeah. So, I think one that has done incredibly well is this brand, SmartyPants. So, they are a supplement company. Actually, sorry, let me rephrase that, not a supplement company. But SmartyPants is one of our clients that just does an incredible job with storytelling. So, they sell vitamins, and they really cater to moms and kids. And really, what I love about their story and the work that we've done together with them is they've really helped to carve out their own or they've created their own space in the market through their storytelling.

So, not only are they a vitamin company, but they really are a wellness brand. And they craft their story around this idea of what it means to be healthy and well, and how this has a positive impact on families. And ultimately, they focus on educating their community on all of the details of their product, all of the ingredients, everything like that so that people have this really strong affiliation with the brand, and they really feel like they know what's going on.

They know what's going into these ingredients and they're confident to speak about it. But really, I think that the content that they create with their community and their partners of influencers, fans, et cetera, really helps to differentiate them from other brands in their space. They take the content that their community creates. And then, they use that across all of their marketing channels to really have this community first or this person first message on their own branded marketing channels.

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Doug Morneau: That's really neat. I mean, because that's an industry that… in every industry, there's good players and bad players. But that's an industry that lots of times, doesn't put their story forward. And you really wonder, where are the ingredients coming from? What's the story behind that? So, that's a great example. Do you have an example that you'd like to share with us of someone who may be a company or a brand that came to you guys and they were using traditional media?

Whether it was about print, digital, billboard, all the rest, and then they added influence to what they're doing and how that transformed them?

Magda Houalla: Yeah. So, we worked with a number of enterprise brands that are really in this space where they are looking to reshape their images of the brand or they're looking to freshen up some marketing tactics that perhaps are tried and true but might not be where they want to head as a business. So, we worked with one brand, in particular, that is a big-box retailer that I'm not able to share the name of. But they came to us about two years ago. And they basically said, “We need fresh assets. We need to basically freshen up our images and brand.

And we want to move into this digital-first world, so help us. You know what? What can we do that will make it impact?” So, we started with an influencer. We basically said, “Let's start by aligning with influencers that speak to your brand image that are authentic, that have a highly engaged audience.” We were looking more at quality versus the quantity of the reach. We wanted to make sure we were getting in front of people that were hyper-engaged with the influencer and have them tell your brand story through their unique point of view.

And this was something that the brand actually said they hadn't done before because they had very tight guardrails around the content that was created on behalf of their brand. They had a really tight image, which is the way a lot of brands think about it.

Doug Morneau: Yup. Yeah, absolutely.

Magda Houalla: So, we started with the influencer. And basically, they were so impressed with the stories that they were sharing. These influencers were sharing about their brand. They were even saying, “We never thought to position this product in that way.” So, that really sparked interest in actually leveraging that content across their other marketing channels. We started with organic but then moved into paid channels and moved into using it on their website.

And then, from that, they basically said, “Alright, this is working. How can we expand this?” And that's where the thought of community came into play. And it was really about, okay, these people have really great stories to tell. Let's see what other people have incredible stories to share about your brand. So, they started to do some community-building efforts so that they could gather more community source content and they can share their story more broadly, and not just through social media.

But as I mentioned before, just in regular social groups, people have this brand top of mind. And it's been really, really great to just see how they've evolved as a business as a result of something as simple or as seemingly simple as an initial influencer marketing program.

Doug Morneau: Well, and I think one of the things that you'd mentioned before when I had chatted with you, and that is that there's the engaging with the influencers, which is one side of the equation. And the other side is taking those assets that are created and then leveraging those assets through your existing digital or existing media plans to amplify them.

Magda Houalla: Yes, absolutely. So, influencers by nature are incredible at creating content. That's how they amass their following, is by creating content that people want to engage with and content that is already optimized for social. So, really, what we've seen savvy brands do is not only let that content live on the influencers channel but essentially, take that and use it across all of the brand's own distribution channels. So, email marketing, website, out of home, we've seen it.

Apple does an incredible job with their shot on an iPhone campaign. It's just billboards featuring content that was shot by their community. So, what we've seen is this works for a number of reasons. One, by leveraging the influencer's assets for your own channel, you're essentially fueling your content machine. So, no brand is ever going to say like, “Oh, we have enough content.” Everyone-

Doug Morneau: Yes. Yes, stop. We have too much. Yeah.

Magda Houalla: Everyone is starved for content in one way or another. So, influencers can help support that. Then, the other thing is if you look at influencers and you look at your community as a way to create content, essentially, you're getting that personalization that otherwise would be really, really hard to replicate in-house. So, let's say you're a makeup brand. If you work with a diverse range of influencers, fans, experts, et cetera, and get a ton of really high-quality content, you're then able to take that content and be very, very targeted in your ads.

So, the ad that I would see for a makeup company would be tailored to my preferences, where I live, et cetera, where that same company could create a very, very different ad to target someone that perhaps lives on the East Coast where the weather is different. So that the products they're showing are different that people and the scenery, and everything like that is very, very custom-tailored to the individual that's seeing the ad.

And we've seen this as a tried and true strategy. So, across the board when ads are personalized with content that's created by influencers or created by experts, fans, et cetera. It does perform incredibly well because you have that personalization. So, people are interacting with these ads at a much higher rate.

Doug Morneau: So, I mean, lots has changed to your point in terms of where influencer marketing started and now having this whole deep relationship with anyone who talks about your brand. Where do you see the industry continuing? I mean, it's a little bit of a crystal ball. So, I'm not going to hold you to it. But I mean, you guys are making some changes. So, obviously, you think there's a direction you should go in. So, where do you think the industry is going to go in the next year or two, three years?

Magda Houalla: Yeah. So, this is something that we're really excited about. I think that where it's headed is this idea of putting data behind the work you're doing with your community. So, basically, what we're seeing is that people are able to track the results of influencer programs. They're able to track the results of affiliate programs. But where we see it headed are people really having a data-driven approach to all efforts that they take with any member of their community.

So, by investing in their fans, are they seeing an uptick in sales? By investing in their employees, are they seeing increased retention? Things like that where basically we want to, and what we see a need for brands to really understand the impact of every initiative that they're doing that's revolved around brand building through their community. So, with that-

Doug Morneau: You brought up something that's really interesting. You mentioned employees. And often, I've worked with companies and I've worked on government boards, and not for profits, and there's normally a whole set of rules around employees or volunteers talking about the brands. So, do you see that changing? And is that part of the strategy that you just help your clients to execute?

Magda Houalla: Absolutely. So, what we see is that employees can be massive advocates for a brand that they're working for, that they love. Even just our brand partners, the people that we're interacting with, are really regularly promoting the brand that they're working at because they love it. They are treated well. So, we see employees as a huge point of influence for brands. So, there certainly are a lot of guardrails in place just from an HR perspective when it comes to how brands interact with their employees.

But really, that engagement where you're empowering the people that matter most to your brand based on their values and based on what matters to them, they're going to be inclined to have positive sentiment when speaking about that brand to everyone in their own circle, their family, their friends, their community. So, that certainly is a tactic that we've talked with a number of our clients about is, how do we rope in employees to this idea of community?

Doug Morneau: Yeah. For me, that makes sense. It's always made sense. I mean, obviously, there are some parameters around posting for the brand. I mean, they're not being paid to post. So, if they're going to post, and they do, make sure that it's mindful and congruent with the brand and the image the brand wants to convey. So, I cut you off there for a sec. You were talking about how to measure the influence. So, you want to pick that up and just keep on that vein of how do we measure the impact if we're going to invest time and money in this?

Magda Houalla: Yeah. So, that's really where this idea of community intelligence comes into play. And this is a term that we coined, community intelligence marketing, and it's really about marrying these creative community strategies with data that is actually going to make a huge impact on your business. So, when we think about the future of where influencer marketing, where community marketing is headed, I think it really is headed in a way where people will want to see data behind the work that they're doing.

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So, that's going back to the space model that I talked about earlier. That's why it's so important for brands to identify what their business objectives are so we can help them customize whatever solution they need to hit those goals. So, I think that sometimes people look at community efforts or influencer efforts as, let's just throw everyone into a chat room and let them have conversations with each other, or let's just work with 10 influencers on a monthly basis to try to move the needle in some capacity.

But really, what can we do beyond that? How can we invest in these individuals in a way that's going to really have proven results that CEOs and CROs are going to say, “Yes, this is something that's worth investing in”?

Doug Morneau: Now, what about getting the customers involved? How do brands get their customers involved to be part of this process?

Magda Houalla: Yeah. So, this is really something that's been an interesting shift. So, we're seeing that this idea of participation is coming up a lot from both brands and consumers. So, brands want their customers to participate in their brand building, and customers really want a brand that values that participation. So, we actually did a study that we're going to be releasing in the coming weeks where we interviewed a number of brands and consumers, and really got a clear understanding that over 90% of customers reported that engaging with their favorite brand in some capacity meant a lot to them. So, whether that's joining a referral program, whether that's getting a customized email that's saying, “Thank you for your purchase of these products. Give us your feedback.” Whatever it may be, consumers are craving that engagement and brands need it. So, there's a lot of different ways in which this can start. It could be something as simple as creating a loyalty program.

So, if you go to a number of direct consumer brands and you click on their community tab, a lot of times, you'll see a beautiful page. It's basically explaining what their product is all about, what their brand values are and how you can get involved. So, this is actually a great way to start engaging with your customers on a deeper level, is talk to them about your brand values. Talk to them about your products and services, and give them a way to join.

Another thing that you can do, and this is actually something that I've been targeted with a lot, and I really, really appreciate, especially with newer brands, is sending out surveys after purchase where you're basically saying, “Your feedback matters to us. Tell us what you liked, what you didn't like. Do you want to be involved in more of these types of surveys?” So, that's a way for you to suss out who you can go to in your community of customers to get valuable feedback on a regular basis.

But yeah, there's a number of different ways in which brands can get started with building a community within their customers that will be wildly influential to their brand. So, we have a lot of resources on AspireIQ's website where brands can see a number of eBooks, blog posts, webinars, et cetera, on this exact topic. But it really can be a lot easier than I think a lot of brands think it will be. And once you get the initial program off the ground, that's where we can dive in and understand, “Okay, now that we have the skeleton here, how can we 10X, as in how to be much more impactful?”

Doug Morneau: That's a good point. I mean, it makes sense when you stand back and look at it. So, if the customers on your website and you've got that information there, it's going to be a lot easier for them to participate because you've given them some guidelines, some information as opposed to letting them have to figure out on their own. They say, “Hey, I really love this brand, fill in the blank, X brand. How do I share that out without having to create everything myself?”

So, if you've got some guidelines and backstory there, it will make life a lot easier for the consumers who love your brand.

Magda Houalla: Exactly. I think a really good example of this is Lululemon. They have a number of different ways in which customers or even just fans of the brand can engage and participate. So, it doesn't necessarily have to be purchasing their products. They offer yoga classes in-store. They offer the ability to become a rep where you can make a commission off of products. They have an influencer program. They have a lot of different opportunities to engage with them as a brand in a more meaningful way.

And I think that that's something that I really look at as the gold standard for community engagement because it's not just this is the only option. This is the only way that you can engage with us by being a customer. It's, okay, maybe you're not a customer on a monthly basis but you're attending our free yoga classes, or you're giving feedback or you're a rep yourself. There are lots of different entry points and ways that you can participate in the brand.

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And that's I think what sets the really elevated brands apart.

Doug Morneau: Now, you're talking my language. I probably have more Lululemon gear in my closet than I do suits these days, and they are a great brand. And I like them because they're close to where we live. Another brand that's similar to that is Sage. My wife writes for a health and wellness blog. And so, they give her a discount in-store to use the products. So, they don't pay her to post, but it's a product that she likes as you said.

And so, Lululemon is the same thing, great product. We use a lot of their product. And so, they have that connection with the consumer who wants to talk about the brand.

Magda Houalla: Yeah, and I think that that's so critical, and that speaks to this idea of why it's so important to invest in your community. Because in your example, your wife is going to be inclined to share Sage with others in her community. And not just because she is paid for it and paid on purpose, but also because it's a brand that she has another interaction with by writing about them. So, I think that one thing that we were talking about is this idea of community really being recession-proof for brands because that's a wholly-owned channel.

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So, if you're investing in your community, if you have this group of people that are really passionate about what you do and they are participating with you in whatever way possible, whether it's creating content, writing posts, attending yoga classes, whatever it may be, these individuals are going to be by your side through thick and thin. And Facebook ad prices are only going in one direction. We see that people are at the mercy of other channels.

The community can be a wholly-owned channel because you have that one-to-one interaction with those individuals. So, when times are tough like they are right now, that's why we see so many brands turning inward and saying, “Okay, what can I do to invest more heavily behind the individuals that really matter most to us, individuals who have their own personal values that align with our brand values?” That's really where it becomes critical.

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Doug Morneau: And what I've seen is that you get more engagement from asking and having that conversation with your audience. I know that even on my personal social channels when I said, “Hey, I want to do some rebranding,” most engagement of any posts have been put up.

Magda Houalla: Totally, yeah.

Doug Morneau: Right?

Magda Houalla: Absolutely. And we saw this a lot. Brands like Reformation, Bouqs, a small flower company in Southern California, when the COVID crisis hit, a lot of these brands, their first post was, “What do you want to see from us right now? Do you want us to give you real-time updates around what's going on in the world? Do you want us to just post beautiful photos of flowers to brighten up your feed?” And the engagement on those posts were really, really through the roof.

We were seeing not only tons of likes but tons of comments that were incredibly valuable. So, Bouqs, for example, the flower company, did this incredibly well. They asked their community, “What do you want to see from us?” And a lot of the people in their community said, “Your photos just brighten up my day. Let's keep seeing photos of beautiful flowers.” And they did just that. And they were receptive to what their community wanted to see.

And then, they took it a step further. They said, “All right. We want to brighten people's days in real-time.” So, they did this incredible gift back campaign where they were allowing their community to nominate individuals who deserved a bouquet of flowers, people that were working on the frontlines, people that are in essential roles. And it just was truly something that brightens so many people's days, both online and offline.

So, I think that that's an incredible example of the power of community-sourced creatives.

Doug Morneau: Well, and not being afraid to ask. I think that's a really brilliant strategy. And because to your point, they asked instead of assuming. I mean, I don't need any more news channels. I don't need any more emails to tell me what's happening in the world. There's a million of them out there. I haven't subscribed to your company or support your brand for you to become CNN or Fox.

Magda Houalla: Exactly.

Doug Morneau: I only subscribe to your brand because I love your brand. I love your products. And to your point, or I love your photos. So, that totally makes sense.

Magda Houalla: Yeah. And that's the thing that it seems so simple to just ask. But I think that some brands, that's where they have this preconceived notion that they have to be the experts, that they have to be the one delivering the message. And it's totally okay to say, “Hey, we're at a pause right now. What message do you guys want us to share?” And I think that that's why some of these brands that are a little bit younger or brands that are perhaps built more in the social media era, they have had a lot of success with this early on because it's how they initially started thinking.

So, it's really exciting for us to see massive companies that are following through and are doing this as well.

Doug Morneau: Yeah, I totally agree. I'm in your camp, for sure. I mean, I love looking at the direction that a lot of these companies are now starting to take and getting away from the traditional billboards scream at you, communications, and more engagement, and authentic, and caring, and pulling back the curtain and saying, “Hey, here's what we're doing or here's new products that we're considering.”

And starting to get their potential customers involved earlier opposed to sitting off in a lab and creating something to say, “We've figured out the problems, your solution,” without asking the customer.

Magda Houalla: Yep, exactly. We say a lot here like the days of Don Draper in a corner office crafting this marketing message and then shouting it to the world, those days are over. It really is about co-creation and engagement first as a way to have a super successful business. And again, with limitless choices when it comes to products or services. That's really what helps brands break through the clutter, is by asking the community what they want to see.

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By working with real people outside of their brand or real people who are employees of their brand, and getting them involved in a more meaningful way. And ultimately, having the brand built not just internally but built with all of their consumers in mind and with all of their consumer's feedback.

Doug Morneau: But also, having the business case behind it as you said. So, having a platform to organize. Have some structure and have some systems in place so you can effectively communicate, track the conversation, reward people, engage people, contract people. You can't do this on the back of a napkin if you want to scale it.

Magda Houalla: Exactly, yeah. So, that's where a tool like AspireIQ comes into play because we essentially allow our brands to have a system of record for every single group or community that matters to them as a business. So, you can have your affiliates, your influencers, your fans, your experts all in one platform. And you can basically do quite a bit of tagging and segmentation, and really understand all you need to know about not only the community but the individual.

So, that you're making data-driven decisions when it comes to how you're engaging with them. So, again, for example, if you were really looking for product feedback as your main goal, you could have a community of people that have been customers that have raised their hand and said, “I am open to giving you product feedback.” Through our tool, you're able to have that system of record where you can send them surveys and track responses.

You can see what they're speaking about when it comes to your brand on social media. And you can really have these metrics that will help you support why it's worth investing behind them. Same with an influencer program, you can have your communications all in one place. You can collect the content that they're creating. You can request rights to that content. You can reward them through payment or a product, whatever it may be.

But that's why the tech side of things is really critical, because it is quite a bit of information, and it can be overwhelming if you don't have a centralized place to store it all. And I think when it comes to a CRM tool, we wanted to make sure that we're building something that goes beyond that. So, it gives you the organization and the structure but it also gives you actionable insights and the metrics behind things. And then, we marry our tech with our strategic services.

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So, we are providing this holistic program for our clients. We're saying, “Here's the tool. Here's exactly the strategies that you need to implement to hit the goals that you guys have expressed to us as being your top priority as a business. Here's all the information.” And it really makes it pretty turnkey.

Doug Morneau: Yeah. I love this segmentation part. And it's just respectful of your audience when a lot of times you'll ask somebody how they want to participate. And if you don't have a tool to segment that, you treat them like everybody else. You've really insulted them. You've asked them, they've told you. You haven't listened, and then you just put them in a bucket and treat them like everyone else, which obviously isn't the ideal situation.

Magda Houalla: Yeah. There are so many different ways in which customers want to interact. So, by asking them, you're exactly right. I think that you want to start by asking them, but then, you have to have the follow-through, right? You have to actually-

Doug Morneau: Yeah, absolutely.

Magda Houalla: … do what you promise. So, if you're saying to your community, “Hey, we want your feedback on our product.” And then, you never implement a single piece of feedback, that's actually going to have quite the opposite impact on your brand.

Doug Morneau: That's true.

Magda Houalla: So, that's where the segmentation piece I think is so important, because you can keep everything super organized. Okay. These 500 people said that they wanted this product. Even if we're not going to build it, we're going to do something to interact with them and let them know that they were heard.

Doug Morneau: Yep, absolutely. So, I have three questions and I'll let you get back to your day. So, one, I'm going to steal from Tim Ferriss. If you're out for dinner at a cocktail party business event and you're over listening or overhearing some conversations, what's the bad advice that you hear people giving around influencer marketing?

Magda Houalla: Oh, that's a really good question.

Doug Morneau: I'm not asking for a brand, just the advice.

Magda Houalla: So, bad advice around influencer marketing. I think bad advice is working with anyone and everyone who is “influential on social media.” I think that a lot of people could think that getting your product in front as many eyeballs as possible is the best approach, and you can do that by working with hundreds of, if not thousands of influencers, but that really can decrease credibility and also read as pretty inauthentic, if you're just working with anyone.

Also, I think that this transactional approach to influencer marketing isn't the best strategy either. If you're working with someone for one post and they never speak about your brand again, consumers are going to pick up on that. And they're going to say, “Okay, well, that influencer just made a couple of hundred bucks.” I'm pretty tone-deaf to what they're posting about. So, the bad advice is working with anyone and everyone, and working with them in a transactional way where it's just one post, maybe two. And then, the relationship is over.

Doug Morneau: Yeah, that's a great couple points. Who is one guest I absolutely have to have on my podcast?

Magda Houalla: Oh, that is a really good question. So, I've actually worked quite a bit with a woman by the name of Carrie Melissa Jones. And she is the expert in all things, community building. She has studied it for years and years. She's actually currently writing a book all about community. And she just has incredible insights when it comes to the mutual value that community brings. So, not only the value to the brand but also how a brand can create the sense of belonging for their individuals in the community.

And I think that that piece is sometimes overlooked is we're focusing too much on the value to the brand, which I catch myself doing sometimes. It's being brand facing. So, she's really done a great job of closing that gap and saying, “Okay, this is the value to the brand, but let's really dive into the value that we're providing to these individuals.” So, I would recommend Carrie Melissa Jones.

Doug Morneau: Oh, if you could make an introduction, that'd be really appreciated. And I'll reach out to her.

Magda Houalla: I absolutely will.

Doug Morneau: So, the most important question of the whole podcast interview is, now that our audience has been exposed to this great opportunity, what's the best way for them to learn more about you, start a conversation, engage with your brand, take the next step?

Magda Houalla: Yeah. So, we actually created a landing page for this podcast. So, anyone listening can go to aspireiq.com/real-marketing, so real with hyphen, then marketing. And there's going to be a ton of resources on that page. You'll be able to contact me directly. There will be an email dropped there. There's also going to be a number of eBooks that relate to the topic of the evolution of influencer marketing as a whole and of course community building.

So, that's going to be a great place to go. So, it's aspireiq.com/real-marketing.

Doug Morneau: Excellent. That's what I thank so much. I really enjoyed this conversation. I could have this conversation for a lot longer, but obviously we both have things to do today other than the podcast interview. So, thanks for sharing with our audience and being so generous.

Magda Houalla: Thank you so much for having me. This was really, really fun.

Doug Morneau: Well then, you're listening to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. I really like Magda for a whole bunch of reasons. One of them is she talks very fast, which I enjoy. I do not have to listen to her podcast at one and a half speed. I'll be right up to speed with what she's talking about. I hope you gleaned a whole bunch of information. I've got a page of notes here based on this podcast. As usual, we'll make sure that the show notes are all transcribed.

I'll make sure there's a link to the website in the references that she's made. So, thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to serving you on our next episode.

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Get in touch with Magda:

Find out more about Magda:

Links to other related podcasts and or blog posts:

HOW TO BUILD LONG TERM CONNECTIONS WITH INFLUENCERS

HOW TO INCREASE SALES WITH INFLUENCER MARKETING