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The remarkable power of micro-influence with Stephen Bartlett

Posted By HEDNA News team, Wednesday, December 12, 2018

This article is the second in a series of articles inspired by HEDNA Lisbon. Read more coverage on the HEDNA blog, and for more videos live from Lisbon, head over to the HEDNA YouTube channel.

The psychology of influence online

Within 35 minutes of posting a tweet about the trade of ‘legendary’ footballer Rex Secco, Stephen Bartlett saw success: thousands of people were discussing the trade, pushing the topic to the top of Twitter trends -- all without realizing they were being pranked. Indeed: the mysterious Rex Secco was not a real sports player. Bartlett was using this as an instructive example of the way information, true or not, spreads around social media rapidly.

With that case study, Bartlett’s nascent social media marketing firm Social Chain had arrived. Sharing this story on stage in Lisbon during HEDNA’s annual conference, Bartlett captivated the audience with his tenacity and enviable mastery of social channels. Often, marketers approach social media with trepidation, as if it’s something different than the physical world. It's not, Bartlett says as a reminder that influence is influence:

“People act in the same way the crowd acts. They follow the crowd. It’s a survival technique.”

Understanding human psychology is part of what it means to be a marketer; the psychology is emphasized by how much time users spend on digital platforms. The driving forces behind much of the engagement on digital channels are cultural relevance and emotional resonance.


Cultural relevance and emotional resonance

With U.S. President Donald Trump as a leading example,  cultural relevance creates emotional resonance. The Social Chain team actually made a bold prediction that Donald Trump was going to win the election, chiefly due to his ability to reach 22 times further with his “super inflammatory message at a time when culture cared about certain issues,” in contrast to Hilary Clinton’s more “vanilla” approach, Bartlett said.

“Emotion, making people feel, is fundamentally why things travel online.”

Some of this emotional resonance stems from the ego, which is a fundamental driving force for much of social media. Active contributors online are looking for content to post regularly; by offering a “hint of personalization...that plays to their ego,” there’s far greater emotional resonance that triggers the desired behavior: sharing the experience online for that organic marketing lift.

Social Chain saw 7x lift from simple personalization of a box sent to influencers for French Montana.

The power of distribution

For those of us in distribution, we certainly get the power of distribution. What's the point in having all the great inventory if there's nowhere to place it? The same applies to content: No matter how great your content is, it's meaningless without distribution.

Most marketers focus heavily on one or the other: Either there's a big budget for content, and none for distribution, or the campaign leapfrogs the content creation stage and goes straight to distribution.

  • Owned channels. A company blog and website are powerful tools for marketers. Pushing users to owned channels allow brands to capture the attention without having to pay a fee to a platform.

  • Paid amplification. Organic reach is difficult. When the content is strong and well-crafted, often paid amplification can push it over the top.

  • Human influencers. Individual influencers are now global tastemakers. Distribution through these key cohorts can be efficient and affordable when done with care (see micro-influencers, below).

  • Social communities. There are thousands of online communities dedicated to a variety of niches, offering both behavioral insight and potential engagement for travel brands.

Investing in distribution is really about prioritizing where to spend money, and which channels have the right blend of cost and reach. One benefit of the dizzying proliferation of channels online is that brands can now micro-target down to the individual, and avoid wasting money on “spray and pray” mainstream campaigns with expensive media outlets or global influencers.

The rise of micro-scale

Friends are the most influential force in most peoples’ lives. Now that technology has developed to the point where micro-targeting is both simple and measurable, it’s easier and more useful to leverage micro-influencers rather than major celebrities.

Bartlett used the example of his company’s campaign to get students to download the new Apple Music app. The goal was to make existing customers influencers for the brand, or to become Apple ambassadors.

How Social Chain identified potential ambassadors, offered a gift and then enticed them to share with their social networks.

The steps were simple: the social media campaign pointed to a landing page which asked three music-focused questions, which built goodwill and put the person in a musical mindset.


Following the questions was a button offering three free months of Apple Music in exchange for one post on the person’s social media -- all automated, and at the time of Social Chain’s choosing. The results? A staggering 97% of students clicked yes, exchanging three months of Apple Music for one relevant social post to their network. The keyword here is relevant, says Bartlett:

“We have that custom information that they’ve just filled in to make sure that the post is completely relevant and specific to them. And then all at once, you have 1,700 students all posting that they love Apple Music, they listen to it in the gym while they’re listening to Drake, Adele, Kanye, which makes them feel XYZ.”

According to Bartlett, it’s the single most signups Apple Music has had since launch.

Like music, many hotel brands benefit from an emotional connection with guests. There’s a strong attachment to hotels among many guests, so the key question is: how do you make your existing customers influencers for the brand?

The opportunity is there, it’s about engaging at the micro-level to not only encourage word-of-mouth ambassadors but also make customers feel ownership and emotional attachment to the brand itself. Nurturing this type of relationship with customers transforms the narrative and expands a brand’s organic sphere of influence without heavy marketing spend.

How to do this? By focusing on parts of the experience that might resonate more deeply and give guests a reason to become a natural ambassador for the brand.

“Make an awesome experience that’s unlike any other. In the hotel industry, it’s just all the same. The experience is the same. It’s like you’ve all read the same book. I think a little more naïveté and a little less reading about what convention says you’re supposed to do. I’d love to create a whole new experience of a hotel, using what we know about people today.”

Watch Stephen Bartlett’s full keynote

Our next global conference is in Los Angeles. Register here.

Tags:  events  keyno  social media  video 

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