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Building brand affluence through influencers

September 27, 2016

As social media becomes central to a brand’s marketing activities, we’re seeing that it’s not the quantity of followers that matters as much as the quality and influence those followers have when it comes to engaging their network. So how do you connect with an influencer? We discussed these questions and more with parenting author, journalist, and one of Parcel’s resident social media experts Ann Douglas.

PD: You have a very large following on Twitter. Who follows you? And how did you gain so many followers?

AD: My followers are a pretty diverse bunch: parents, educators, mental health advocates, writers, and social justice enthusiasts — basically anyone who shares one or more of my passions and interests.

In terms of how I gained followers, I don’t have a social media strategy per se other than sharing content that I find genuinely interesting and compelling. When I share something, it’s because I’ve felt that rush of excitement that comes from knowing that I’ve come across something other people need to know about, too.

Also: I resist the temptation to send out an endless stream of self-promotional messages. Yes, I have written books. Yes, I speak to groups on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean I need to bombard my followers with endless tweets about those activities. If they want to find out more about what I’m up to, they can tap into that information via the links in my Twitter bio.

PD: What advice you would give brands that are thinking about engaging with an influencer?

AD: My number one piece of advice? Make sure that your product/service is a good fit for that particular influencer. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and theirs.

My second piece of advice? Look beyond social media metrics alone when you’re considering the reach and impact of a particular influencer. Is this person recognized as a thought leader in his or her field? Has this person earned a reputation for being a respected and trusted source of information and advice? Or are they simply the social media flavour of the month (or even the hour)?

In terms of anyone who is interested in working with me specifically, my advice is pretty simple:

  • Learn a bit about me so that you have a sense of who I am and what I bring to the table.
  • Convince me that we can do exciting things together.
  • Tap into my expertise and creativity.
  • And entice me with your commitment to making things better (and not worse) for parents/kids/families.

That should give us plenty to talk about!

PD: Tell me about a paid engagement. How were you approached, how did it work, and what was the result?

AD: Last fall, I was approached by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. They wanted me to write about my experiences beta-testing their <30 Days App: an app that allows you to commit to making small but significant lifestyle changes. They approached me because I had written an article for Canadian Living detailing my experiences using two other apps (MyFitnessPal and Fitbit) to make some pretty far-reaching lifestyle changes. (In a nutshell: I went from being completely sedentary to being active on a daily basis—and I managed to shed 130lbs. along the way.) I documented my experiences in this blog post for the Heart and Stroke Foundation website. That, in turn, resulted in this interview with The Toronto Star and a follow-up interview with CBC Radio Syndication early in the New Year.

PD: Sometimes, you’re approached about non-paid work that benefits both parties. How does that work, and can you give me an example?

AD: I can give you two examples, actually — one involving the Canadian Red Cross and one involving Amnesty International Canada.

Back in July 2011, I was invited to join the Canadian Red Cross’ social media team — a volunteer commitment that involves (1) helping to disseminate important information via social media when the Red Cross is responding to a disaster;  and (2) helping to spread the word about the important work that the Red Cross does year in and year out — like their anti-bullying initiatives. I have written blog posts and participated in Twitter chats to help raise awareness about the work being done by the Canadian Red Cross.

Last fall, I was approached by Amnesty International Canada. They were looking to involve some Canadian authors in spreading the word about their annual Write-a-thon for Human Rights which takes place each December. I wrote this post in support of the campaign and helped to spread the word via Twitter. I also volunteered to write this follow-up post spotlighting the fact that the Amnesty International Canada has a volunteer team of 10- and 11-year-olds who help to craft the organization’s social justice messages for kids. (I was really excited to learn about this initiative and I knew that many of my social media followers — parents and teachers in particular — would want to know about it, too.)

PD: In order to have a social media voice with integrity, influencers have to draw a lot of lines about what they will promote or not promote. How do you decide?

AD: I have two basic criteria:

  1. Is this in the best interests of parents/kids/families? Will this product/service make things better (not worse)?
  2. Will this be of genuine interest to my followers?

PD: How did you start Tweeting? And how has your Tweeting changed over the years?

AD: I started tweeting after noticing that a lot of other people I liked and respected were on Twitter a lot. That made me curious about what they were doing and what Twitter had to offer.

At first, I couldn’t see the value of Twitter at all. And then, about 100 tweets in, I suddenly grasped what the excitement was all about. Twitter was making it possible for me to connect with people who shared my passions and interests — who cared about the very same things that mattered most to me.

It was a eureka kind of moment as I suddenly grasped the potential of this simple yet powerful tool. And I’ve never looked back. Sometimes I have to take brief sabbaticals from Twitter (when I’m working on a big project, like a book, that requires a lot of focus and attention), but whenever I dive back in, I am hit by this wonderful feeling of warmth and connection — a feeling like I’ve arrived back home again.

In terms of how my tweeting has changed over the years, I don’t tweet quite as often as I did during the early years. There were times when I could lose myself in the platform for hours at a time. These days, I’m a bit more restrained in terms of the amount of time I spend on social media (simply because there are so many other competing demands on my time), but that doesn’t mean that my passion for Twitter has waned. Not in the least….


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