4 DTC Brand Communities We Love

Building a brand community is more than just a marketing strategy. Whether based in the physical world or digital, these communities foster authenticity, trust, and loyalty in a brand. 

Online communities are incredibly important when it comes to building brand awareness and driving word of mouth referrals. Each of these components have a role in developing and maintaining meaningful connections with the people who love your brand the most. 

Inviting the consumer into your brand experience removes any layer of separation and allows them to become an advocate for your brand. As the popularity of the brand community continues to rise, we’ve decided to share some of the brand communities we love: 

Sephora

Screen Shot 2020-02-10 at 3.01.34 PM

Beauty is personal, and this has a remarkable influence in beauty brands’ ability to cultivate such strong and active communities. There is so much to love about how Sephora built their Beauty Insider Community. Sephora created an online social platform that provides a unified brand experience for their biggest fans to connect with one another through their love for beauty, skincare, and cosmetics. 

Inside the community, Beauty Insiders post photos, reviews, and recommendations on products or looks they love. They can also chat with other Beauty Insiders to gain inspiration for the next look, product, or tip they want to try. It truly is a hub of knowledge and content that keeps Sephora’s brand community engaged — and it comes with perks. 

Through the community, Beauty Insiders have access to special events, live streams with famous beauty gurus, and exclusive discounts on products. Sephora’s combination of consumer connection, engagement, and rewards is what keeps Beauty Insiders so close to the brand. Sephora’s Beauty Insider Community is truly a culmination of everything that makes a brand community successful. 

Peloton

Screen Shot 2020-02-10 at 3.01.45 PM

Blending together fitness, socialization, and inspiring instructors, Peloton has become a cult brand. They’ve grown a community that promotes the kind of healthy competition that keeps users motivated and coming back for more, right in their own living rooms. 

Through gamification based on personal and social competition, Peloton uses both their equipment and class technology to create a fitness world that is entirely their own. Users hop on their bikes in their own home and connect with people exercising across the globe. Peloton has enlisted approachable and motivational coaches that implore their users to “show up”, motivate them, and consistently invite these users back in to be a part of a larger community. 

With a social integration through Facebook and elements like leaderboards, badges, and challenges, Peloton keeps their users active in their workout and with one another. Everyone is in it together. 

Aerie

Screen Shot 2020-02-10 at 3.01.57 PM

Aerie has always been a brand that represented women’s empowerment, inclusivity, and body positivity. With their #AerieREAL Ambassador community, the brand has taken these ideals a step further by curating a diverse group of women including students, mothers, working professionals, and more. We love #AerieREAL because it’s just that — real. No airbrush, no retouching. It challenges stereotypical standards of beauty, and inspires customers to be their true selves and comfortable in their own skin. 

Not only do their ambassadors live in Aerie products, but are inspired to promote change through Aerie’s mission of empowerment and positivity. Through body positive ad campaigns, inviting customers to tag #AerieREAL in their content, and changing the conversation about beauty standards, Aerie has built a strong community of advocates. 

Hims 

Screen Shot 2020-02-10 at 3.02.11 PM

As telemedicine grows in popularity, Hims is setting itself apart from the rest as one of the fastest growing men’s wellness brands in America. Hims has built an incredible community focused on “empathy first” and breaking the barriers of vulnerability and stigma that surround men’s health. They understand that the stigmas around healthcare, especially when it comes to topics like erectile dysfunction and hair loss, can be difficult conversations to have. That’s why Hims uses real people to drive awareness and create better dialogue around men’s health and wellness. 

Not only is Hims taking an authentic approach to their community by using normal, everyday people to talk about their products — they’re utilizing their community to educate a broader consumer audience. Hims’ blog, Instagram, and other online platforms serve to inform consumers more about men’s health and instills trust in Hims as a leader within the telemedicine space.   

Building Your Community.

What do each of these brands have in common? They invited their biggest fans — real people —  to be a part of their story. So, how can you cultivate your own brand community? Let your fans help you tell your story, engage them, and reward them. Brand communities evoke a more valuable brand experience for your consumers, and strengthens their relationship and loyalty to your brand. 

NEW FEATURE: Advanced Analytics

SocialLadder is excited to announce a new feature that gives more insight into your ambassador community’s performance — our Advanced Analytics Tool!  

Advanced Analytics is an interactive data reporting tool, offering enhanced insights on ambassador performance. This new tool gives HQ admins a visual representation of the overall value their ambassador community is driving. Now, HQ admins are able to drill down into the metrics most important in measuring the success of their community.

Every ambassador, challenge, and reward has a value. Through these new Advanced Analytics, HQ teams are able to slice and dice data to see which ambassadors are driving the most value and which challenges have the highest rates of completion. HQ teams can also gain insight into key metrics like Earned Media Value, Conversion Value, and Ambassador ROI.

All of this data can be accessed in the Administrative Panel in the Reporting Section under “Ambassador Overview Report” and “Challenge Overview Report”.

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 1.48.58 PM

Ambassador Overview Report

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 1.49.22 PM

Challenge Overview Report

 

For more information on SocialLadder’s new Advanced Analytics, request a free demo

Keep Up with These 3 Influencer Marketing Strategies for 2020

1550592904

Influencer marketing is an effective and inexpensive way to help increase brand awareness, boost social following and drive more sales. It’s important that you’re building a strategy that includes influencers that align with your brand to create a better experience for your customers.

The strategies below include expert tips that are helpful for building and scaling your Influencer Marketing campaigns.

1. Continue Recruiting…but focus on the Right Recruits

Influencer marketing has no signs of slowing for 2020. The cost per acquisition stemming from Influencer Marketing has been proven to be lower than paid advertising campaigns. But with fake follower counts on the rise and engagement rates declining, make sure you scout for influencers who match your brand and have the highest engagement rates with an audience who will respond to your brand. 

Great content, created by experts is the key. So look for influencers who have high engagement and showcase they are sharing knowledge and you will find the ROI you are looking for, because their followers are interested in the influencers’ content and paying attention to their recommendations.

2. Engagement Trumps Follower Count

This year also marks a rise in paying attention to content creators who have smaller audiences. They often have a more relatable voice and therefore the results convert at a lower cost, but a higher rate. Marketers find themselves asking “What should I be paying for this and was it successful?”

In 2019, there were reports about influencers being too “pay to play” and as a result, were losing the trust of their following. Brands should take a holistic look into their influencers’ earned media value, including insights from each post to see the number of likes, comments, and engagement rate to see how the content is converting from a sales perspective as well. 

Look at your customer base and see who has the highest engagement and lean on them to help your team find new brand fans, evangelize new products, and share positive feedback about your brand to their networks. 

Bottom line, engagement trumps follower count, meaning a micro influencer — or even consumer ambassador — with influence over real people not bots, could be more effective than a more general influencer with 10 times the following.So don’t be afraid to build a bigger community of smaller voices to drive the results you are looking for.

3. Invest In Your Community 

As social media platforms and digital advertising continue to evolve, customers want to hear from relatable influencers who stand behind a brand’s products, services, or mission. Receiving genuine insight from real people, like active customers, resonates with consumers more deeply than a repetitive Facebook ad filling their feeds. 

DTC Trends To Watch in 2020

2020 is here, and a new decade means new trends for direct-to-consumer brands. “DTC” no longer describes solely a means of distribution, but rather, the increasingly holistic value that this type of brand provides to consumers. It’s not just about connecting with consumers through the ease of a direct and online transaction, but connecting with consumers by engaging them and establishing a sense of community. 

So what does this shift mean for brand strategy in 2020?

ACTIVATING THE BRAND COMMUNITY

As value to consumers expands beyond means of distribution, the way that investors value these DTC brands shifts as well. 2019 brought an influx of new DTC brands, unicorns, mergers, and acquisitions that have led investors to look for companies with proven and reliable market potential. 

There is incredible value to be built through establishing and activating your brand community. A strong community is an indicator of organic growth and helps you build and maintain relationships with consumers. Ambassador programs help you promote brand loyalty and incentivize repeat buyers while maintaining a human touch between your brand and your biggest advocates. 

Outdoor Voices, one of the fastest growing DTC athleisure brands, activated their brand community by launching city and college ambassadors and has seen tremendous growth as a result. They invited their community of advocates to share digitally how they live in their brand in the real world, #DoingThings, and established relationships with their most avid consumers, which helped fueled the rise of the OV brand. 

Ambassadors are a cost effective strategy to build relationships with real people that advocate for your brand and exhibit the kind of organic growth that investors are looking for this year. 

EXPERIENCE AND ENGAGEMENT

As DTC companies evolve and begin to use more immersive marketing strategies like word of mouth, we will see them engaging the communities they’ve activated through more engaging and educational efforts. This becomes especially important as we see more DTC lifestyle, wellness, and health brands emerge. Those same brands are shifting their missions toward sustainability, which helps connect to consumers to a greater collective cause. 

DTC intimates brand, Thinx, has made “period-proof” a lifestyle through their mission of sustainability and breaking the taboo around periods. Thinx’s commitment to their mission has allowed them to connect with consumers and cultivate stronger relationships with them, not just as a brand but as a driving force of change within a larger community. Thinx tapped into their ambassador community on college campuses to start a conversation with new consumers, educating them not only on their brand and product, but on how using their product invites them into a larger community of change. 

People want to connect with a brand personally and feel that they are doing good by using a sustainable, ethical product. Engaging consumers in a personal way, like Thinx engaging women to break the taboos around their bodies, and educating them to better understand the value of both your product and mission strengthens consumers’ personal connection to your brand. In 2020, it’s connection that causes conversions. 

AN OMNI CHANNEL APPROACH

Physical and digital will become one unified experience for consumers in 2020. In this new decade, we’ll start to see more DTC brands taking a hyper local approach as they shift away from sole eCommerce strategies to include brick and mortar retail avenues. 

Brand communities that have been activated and engaged are able to take a hyperlocal approach as they have now cultivated a community of advocates that want to talk about their products in the real world and digitally. A hyperlocal, boots-on-the-ground approach is an integral component of this type of shift in strategy. 

“Micromobility” brand, Lime, is taking a hyperlocal approach with real, local ambassadors who are active and enthusiastic users of their electric bikes and scooters to create content and social impact within their communities. As DTC brands begin to live in the real world, they need to be engaging their communities not just online, but through these grassroots efforts as well. 

2020 will see more DTC brands activating and engaging their brand communities to cultivate personal and lasting connections with consumers as they shift into an omni channel approach.

What Does A Successful Ambassador Look Like?

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 12.44.11 PM.png   “Where do I find ambassadors?” and “Who should my ambassadors be?” are questions nearly every brand asks when setting out to build their community. Having the right process in place is important, but as the significance of having a strong and engaged ambassador community increases, so is having the right people. So, what does a successful ambassador look like, and where do you find them?

1. Identify the people who know and love your brand. 

At SocialLadder, we always say that your best ambassadors are those who already know and love your brand. You might think it’s difficult to find them, but there are plenty of ways to easily recruit your biggest fans. Tap into your email lists, social media followers, or any platform that your fans engage with, and invite them to apply to join your ambassador community! 

Use your application to get some more information on the people who have expressed interest in joining. Why do they want to be an ambassador? What social media channels do they use, and what is their following like? What is their favorite thing about your brand? What is your favorite thing about them? 

2. Don’t forget the real people.

Consider what kind of ambassador works best for your brand’s goals. Influencers with masses of followers are great and have a broad reach  – but don’t forget about the “real” people that live by your brand! They may be promoting on a smaller scale, but micro and nano influencers are an increasingly integral part of ambassador communities. This type of ambassador may have a higher engagement rate, and a more personal, extensive reach to their followers. 

Especially in the wake of influencer fraud, it’s important to identify how legitimate an ambassador’s following is. Look for ambassadors that have organic followers and engagement, and avoid accounts that have unusual activity. 

Learn more about influencer fraud here

3. Trust. 

Word of mouth is the #1 reason people make purchases, so you want an ambassador that puts their money where their mouth is (and gets their friends to, also). An ambassador should be passionate, positive, and most importantly: trustworthy. 

Having people that are naturally motivated to talk about and are familiar with your brand means more authentic promotion, and authenticity fuels trust. Trust is what allows your ambassadors to build better, lasting relationships between consumers and your brand. 

4. Keep it professional. 

A person’s online identity should align with their beliefs and values, and those values should ideally align with your brand’s principles. Identify the ambassadors that share your mission and will promote with positivity and professionalism, putting their best face (or #selfie) forward. 

5. Communication is Key! 

Your ambassadors know your brand best. Keeping the lines of communication open and allowing them to provide you with valuable feedback helps keep your brand and community aligned, highlights areas of improvement, and strengthens the relationship between your brand and your biggest fans. 

At SocialLadder, we understand that communication is key. That’s why we’ve streamlined more ways to better engage your community. With in-app chat features, message boards, and access to brand resources, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Way We Think About Influencer Marketing Is Changing — Are You Ready?

Marketing professionals aren’t the only ones getting turned off from working with paid influencers. With the rise of influencer fraud, consumer– especially millennials and Gen Zers– are losing their trust in paid partnerships, and are instead looking for more authentic voices for new recommendations. 

To reach this hard-to-reach audience, it’s important to first understand how they engage with each other online and in the real world. They’re no longer looking towards celebrities and macro-influencers with millions of followers for insights — they want to hear about new brands from people that are actually like them and relatable.

This means your audience is starting to move away from social media sites like Facebook and Instagram and shifting their focus elsewhere. Texting, DMs, email, and even real-world communication are playing a bigger role than ever in word-of-mouth marketing. 

Once you identify where communication is happening and how your top customers are talking about your product, you’re ready to tap into that community of super fans. These fans thrive off feeling like they’re part of a community, and they want to get their friends to join the community as well. Creating a brand ambassador program will give them exactly that, and allow you the insight into what makes these consumers successful so you can amplify their power. 

Building lasting relationships with your ambassadors is about more than just offering them free products or payment in exchange for posts. It’s important to make sure your ambassadors feel valued for their work and that they’re an integral part of your brand’s journey. Through community chats, meet-ups, and even hosting exclusive events, you can help ensure that your ambassadors feel valued and that your brand is growing via word of mouth referrals.

With this changing landscape, it can be overwhelming to think about how to engage your top fans in a way that fits your growth goals for the new year. That’s why we’re here to help you think about your ambassadors and keep you updated on best practices to continue to authentically and strategically grow your brand.  

5 Tips to Boost Your Black Friday & Cyber Monday Sales

In 2018, more than 174 million Americans shopped from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday and spent an average of $335 per person during that five-day period. Thanksgiving Day brought in $3.7 billion in online sales, Black Friday brought in $6.2 billion and Cyber Monday topped out at $7.9 billion. 

5-Ways-an-Ecommerce-Business-Can-Earn-More-Sales-Through-Ecommerce-Marketing

How can you make sure your brand is getting a piece of these whopping sales numbers? Black Friday is a great opportunity for marketers from every business to get out in front of the holiday buying season and maximize profit. 

From eCommerce to concert promoters — brands should engage their ambassador teams to help drive sales and create more organic impressions.

This is the chance to really create buzz around your products and get early bird sales rolling before the end of the year. 

Here are five ways to get the most out of the biggest shopping holidays of the year by utilizing ambassadors:

  1. Harness the power of word of mouth – Referrals work, plain and simple. Get your ambassadors engaged and ready to promote your upcoming deals and products out to their friends.
  2. Save money – Because organic referrals have the lowest cost of acquisition and the highest LTV of any other marketing spend, why not utilize referrals during this time when ad rates are at their highest?
  3. Think different – With brands like LuluLemon – they didn’t use famous athletes, they hired elite local yoga instructors to be ambassadors so the brand could take on a hyper-local neighborhood feel. You don’t have to break the bank to run an ad campaign this time of year, think about your audience, and find a way to reach them.
  4. Find your advocates – These are the “diamond in the rough” consumers. Every brand has them. They will talk about you wherever, whenever, however and to whomever, both online and offline. Utilize your advocates to drive organic content & create the strongest referral sales conversions. 
  5. Amplify your socials – When you have your ambassadors create or engage with content on Instagram or Facebook through SocialLadder, that’s money that stays in your pocket, not the pockets of a tech giant.

 

 

Sources:

Forbes – “Every Result You Need To Know From Black Friday, Cyber Monday And The Holiday 2018 Season So Far”

Washington Post – “Black Friday’s not dead yet: 70 percent of American adults shopped Thanksgiving weekend”

Are You a Victim of Influencer Fraud?

$1.3 billion. That’s how much influencer marketing fraud will cost brands in 2019. Influencer fraud can do more than just financial damage to your brand. It can also weaken your brand’s reputation and affect its credibility. Fake influencers seem to be legit at first glance, but their biggest identifier is that their followers are almost entirely fake accounts or bots. It’s important to identify some of the key warning signs that you might be experiencing fraud. 

Some warning signs of fraudulent activity are: 

  • Recently created accounts with tons of followers, but very little engagement
  • Unusual spikes in followers or engagement soon after a post 
  • Generic comments that have nothing to do with the post 

This is why more and more brands are shifting their focus away from influencers to ambassadors, who typically don’t have the same high follower count, but instead have a much more engaged audience. Brand ambassadors are real people who already love your brand and want to spread the word about your products or services to whoever will listen to them. 

Ambassadors are experts on your brand, and rather than searching for them through databases or hiring agencies to find them for you, they’re often living right in your backyard. Your employees, interns, partners, and existing customers are already engaging with your brand on a daily basis and they make great ambassadors. And you already know they are credible people who post authentic content about your brand. 

The numbers don’t lie — it’s time to make the shift away from focusing on follower count, and more on the things that actually drive results: organic content creation coming from real people your audience trusts.

What is an Ambassador?

The word ‘ambassador’ can mean a lot of different things to people. We’re going to break down the different types of ambassadors to help you identify the best strategies to get the most out of your word of mouth marketing strategies. 

What is an ambassador

 

1. Street Team

These are people who are paid to rep your brand in the real world primarily creating physical impressions. They’re doing things like hanging flyers, or passing out samples, or even hosting events. And they live 100% offline to drive awareness, which is why we’re completely integrated with Google Maps so you don’t lose track of your street teamers. 

2. City / College Reps

These are the key opinion leaders who you gain access to their circle of influence in the real world. They have some online presence, but are hyper-local and really help your brand develop a pulse in the real world, with REAL people. Building relationships with your reps is huge because they want to feel like they’re a real part of the team. 

3. Advocates

Your “diamond in the rough”  consumers. Every brand has them, and every brand should be tapping into them. They will talk about you wherever, whenever, however, and to whomever. Both online and offline. They’re your organic content drivers and generate the strongest referral sales conversions. 

4. Influencers

With this group, we start to move into the digital space. From nano to macro, these people have influence over a specific audience. 

5. Affiliates

Living 100% online, your affiliates typically have a broad audience and they use their platform to drive leads and referrals. Often getting paid per click or conversion, their main purpose is driving awareness to your brand.

Looking to boost referrals or simply learn more about the benefits of an ambassador program? Request a demo to see how SocialLadder can help you achieve your goals. 

 

5 Tips for Building a Campus Ambassador Program Without Losing the Human Touch

Looking to tap into the nearly $574B spending power that 21.4M college students have? With school back in session, college students are a great way to expand your brand’s footprint & discover a new crop of brand loyalists–the key to success is building a campus ambassador program.

Whether it’s flyering around the dorms, hosting events on campus, or driving social engagement, college ambassadors can help you increase brand awareness and sales with the target Gen Z audience.

 

studentambassador

Check out some of our best tips & tricks for activating your brand on campuses.

1. Choose the Right People

Hiring students who are naturally motivated to talk about your brand to their friends is important. Your brand has an identity, so the people who represent it in the real world should share some of its qualities and the brand should seem like it authentically fits into the ambassador’s lifestyle. 

Lululemon, for example, when they built their ambassador team, they wanted the brand to feel like it had a hyperlocal feel, so instead of paying for traditional endorsements with celebrity athletes, the yoga-focused brand built an ambassador program of local influencers, elite athletes & top-notch yoga instructors who create a community, provide feedback on product and partner with the brand for social impact programs. 

By fostering more on a grassroots model the ambassadors feel connected to HQ and therefore take pride in their role. For example, if you have a women’s clothing brand you probably don’t want members of a men’s basketball team representing you on their campus.

2. Clearly Outline a Path for Success

If you don’t have a strategy with a quantitative plan in place — with clear expectations mapped out —  managing hundreds or even thousands of college students will immediately feel like herding cats. Don’t forget — their #1 priority is being in college — so don’t make it complicated for them to spread the word about your brand.

Once you have hired the right people, you should make sure you give them a clear checklist of what they will need to do and give them tips and tricks on how to be successful. By being transparent about the standards and the goals you have for the program your ambassadors will be more likely to stay engaged. Checklists and leaderboards will help you keep everyone on track. 

For example — if your ambassadors are expected to hang 50 door hangs, ask them to submit evidence and then automatically verify via photos and Google Maps that they completed the task.

Once you have your foundation tasks in place, give ambassadors easy ways to unlock more rewards / payment in exchange for creating increased value for your brand. For example — if your #1 goal is new subscribers, increase the compensation model for your ambassadors to get more emails/downloads/sales. 

3. Establish Expectations

Don’t forget that most college students have never been salespeople — in fact, most have probably never had a boss or even a job (other than maybe walking dogs or mowing lawns) — so you need to give them the tools and training they will need to be successful critical thinkers and problem solvers who can — most importantly — meet deadlines, without losing the human touch between you and the ambassador. 

Create an onboarding experience that clearly communicates your expectations so you can get them set up to succeed from the start.  For example, use calendar reminders for important deadlines or create forms for them to fill out that makes it easy for you to collect important information rather than going back and forth via email.

For teams really looking to scale, identify Team Leads and empower them to take ownership of managing the ambassadors on their teams and then compensate the top-performing Team Leads when they deliver great results. The key is to continuously reinforce the ambassadors and what they are contributing to the business so they feel that they have ownership in the process and help to validate that their relationship with you — the brand — is priceless.

4. Streamline Communication

“I don’t want to lose the relationship we have with our ambassadors, our program needs a human touch,” and we agree. But this doesn’t mean that your brand’s full-time employees need to be bogged down with every individual request that comes from an ambassador. Trust us, it’s a slippery slope and it actually means your ambassadors are confused if they keep reaching out with questions.

Use community-focused tools like group chat, message boards, and Team Leads to help keep your ambassadors engaged.

Put everything in one place — like a Google Drive — so they can easily find answers and get back to repping your brand in their voice. By giving them access to things like up to date logos/brand guidelines, knowledge banks / FAQs, articles, receipt folders, event recap forms, templates, and approved sales language, you are empowering your team to quickly discover the resources they need.

This will give ambassadors an easy path to get their questions answered quickly and your brand team time to focus on the overall strategy of the program. 

5. Empower the Team to be Creative

Now that you have your team selected, on-boarded and have clearly communicated expectations — unleash your team and challenge them to tell you what will work on their campus. For example for a Big 10 School, a tailgate for a homecoming football game might provide the perfect backdrop for your brand, but for a Northeast city school a St.Patrick’s Day event might create a bigger impact.

Create event forms for ambassadors to fill out. When approved, set a budget and set them loose. Just remember to make sure you give them the checklist of things you need in your event recap at the end like photos, surveys, etc.

Always remember, campus reps are there to give you feedback about your brand. Listen to them. They know what will work with their friends so trust them to meet your expectations. This way your brand’s persona will match what works on their campus vs trying to give your ambassadors a “one size fits all” list of tasks that work for your brand. Ultimately this will feel more authentic which will result in more conversions & organic impressions.

A college ambassador program can act as a powerful tool for all kinds of businesses– festivals, consumer apps, retail brands, political candidates, privatized campus housing, and more. And the best part is that there is mutual value because college students are hungry to learn and to improve their skills. By giving them a meaningful introduction to the world of business — and more importantly, teaching them the fundamentals of sales process & entrepreneurship– you can develop a network of lifelong brand advocates–and potential new employees after graduation.