Influencer marketing ROI

A recent report from Digiday which looked at influencer fraud, highlighted that a single day’s worth of Instagram posts tagged #sponsored or #ad was found to contain over 50 percent fake engagements. Of 118,007 comments, just 20,942 were not made by bot followers.

It’s not surprising that an increasingly competitive industry has fostered dirty tactics to help influencers lure in sponsorship deals. But, of course, bots don’t click, buy, comment or think; because they’re not real people.

As influencer marketing thrives and more marketers look to invest in the value of influencers in driving awareness and establishing genuine legitimacy, we see an increasing focus on using a plethora of data to establish the most effective collaboration, and, by proxy, the most engaging content. But as the landscape moves faster than many are able to keep up with, we must ask: are we focusing on the right data to get our money’s worth?

Influencer marketing demands a robust approach which uses real-time data to identify the best content creators to create sponsored content that truly resonates. Influencers themselves are under more scrutiny than ever- particularly given controversies around Logan Paul et al, and the imperative deep delve into historic content and performance.

But part of this process, and a box that is often left unticked, is close scrutiny of the influencer’s audience.

Without a clear indication that audiences could be potential customers, the content could (and is likely to) fall on deaf ears.

It’s widely understood that an influencer’s audience demographics are fundamental in identifying whether content will speak to the right people.  Depending on the content platform, there are many tools to help with this- Peg.co, for example, offers a breakdown of audience age, gender and location.

But we need to go deeper. We need to be looking at whether the audience is an audience at all.

Whilst it is certainly difficult to accurately determine fake followers, due to increasing sophistication of bots and changing privacy settings from the likes of Instagram and Twitter, there are tools available and manual processes to get a good grasp of credibility.

  1. Engagement rates
    This is a good indication of how many of their total followers are actually engaging with their content, and exploring whether their reach is valuable at all. Comments should represent about 2 percent of total engagement on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, according to Digiday.
  2. Comments
    If you find unrelated comments asking for likes, subscribers, or generally sound spammy, they are likely to come from automated bot accounts
  3. Follower growth
    If an influencer has an irregular or sudden spike in follower growth, it could mean that they have been purchased. Sites like Socialblade can help monitor this.
  4. General credibility tools
    There are a host of tools which do some of the above for you, by using AI to establish audience authenticity scores based on a combination of follower growth, engagement rates and followers who will actually see the content on an influencer’s feed. Hypeauditor, Influencerdb and Twitteraudit are examples of this.

 

These processes are imperative in moving away from impressive but ultimately meaningless metrics that so often entice brands, and naïve marketers.

It’s up to brands and agencies to invest in understanding these pitfalls and how to avoid them, if we are to work toward genuine ROI.


6 myths about influencer marketing

By Emily Barnes & Megan Linehan

“Reach is everything - it means you’re getting your message out to the most people”

Incorrect. It’s imperative to look more closely at who the audience are. There’s no value in getting your content into the feeds of people who aren’t actively engaging with it or aren’t invested in it. If the person seeing the content isn’t a potential customer, it’s fruitless. Worse still, they could even be a bot or fake follower.

This is why engagement rates are key; there’s been much discussion recently about how engagement rates are significantly higher for smaller influencers. There is absolutely a saturation point of engagement, which can mean that mega influencers are left with a dead audience.

When scoping out potential influencers, make sure you look at their most recent videos for accurate engagement rates- that way you know that they’re performing consistently and are frequently posting.

“It’s great to work with as many influencers as possible, to talk to lots of different audiences”

Whilst micro-influencers certainly can provide value through their highly engaged audiences and advocacy around niche topics and interests,  it’s also generally true that in order for a brand message, recollection or call to action to convert, the audience needs to see it multiple times. It’s marketing 101.  So, think about investing in multiple pieces of content over a longer period, with the same influencer.

Ambassadorship with influencers is a key focus in 2018, not only because of the value in repeat consideration, but because the content is organic and a natural-fit on the influencer’s channel- which works toward great sentiment.

“It’s impossible to really demonstrate ROI in influencer marketing”

Nuh uh. Whilst ROI and metrics for success are hotly contested and changing (pretty much) all the time, and it can be difficult to measure consideration and path to purchase outside of views and likes, there are plenty of marketing metrics which work to demonstrate effective consideration and brand sentiment, directly as a result of content.

Affiliate marketing and tracking links are a great way to measure this audience journey. If you’re promoting something like a service, resource, or high consideration purchase, you can get creative with incentives to click. A competition, discount code or limited edition purchase work well in these instances.

“Just put #ad at the end of the post”

No! No! When working with an influencer, be sure that the partnership/sponsorship is labelled loud and clear for the consumer to see, else it can be deemed misleading and lazy. Many platforms have clear guidelines for influencers to clearly label their content, and the ASA has outlined rulings on explicit labelling of sponsored content. No excuses!

“One post is all we need”

Cross-platform promotion means you’ll hit your chosen influencer’s audience across several channels and mediums, as well as developing a natural story around the partnership. A singular post can get lost in an abyss of newsfeeds, missing the mark with impact and looking awkward and unnatural. A carefully considered content package is important in understanding investment in a partnership and expectations of performance.

Be sure to ask about the cost of hero content with social promotion, for example, or a series of social posts with clear consideration of timings. The influencer should help guide this based on data about audience engagement with previous content and timings for this.

“They posted about the product before- they should do it again for free”

An influencer creates content for a living- it’s their livelihood and often their sole income. So, when considering asking an influencer for free content, stop and consider the size of the industry and it’s power- you’re buying into a powerful marketing tool. Where have you been for the last few years?! Whilst some influencers may be willing to post in return for a free product, holiday, or event attendance, be ready for them to ask for cash. Great, impactful content which speaks to the right audience is valuable- be ready to pay for it.


Fanclub's Top Podcasts You Need To Listen To Right Now

According to Rajar, the UK’s audio measurement company, 6.1 million adults listen to podcasts in every week. Do you?

 

We certainly love a good podcast here at Fanclub, so here a few of our favourites for you...

 

Adrian’s picks

Where to start…here are just a few to get you started that I listen to regularly - Tim Ferris Show, HBR IdeaCast, The Echo Chamber, and The Adam Buxton Podcast.

 

Emily’s picks

True Crime Garage is hosted by two guys who drink beer and discuss true crime cases. Even though they're sometimes a bit insensitive and crude, I really like the informal approach to each case and the conversations that come out of it. How To Curate Your Life talks to different creative entrepreneurs about their work-life balance. It's super interesting to hear women talk about their journey in business- including how honest they are about the hardships along the way.

 

Georgie’s pick

Sword and Scale – because I’m really into murder (I’m not a psychopath).

 

Joey’s pick

The Heatwave - it’s DJ mix sets and radio shows playing Bashment music - if you want to feel like you’re at Notting Hill Carnival all year round, these are for you.

 

Jonny’s picks

How I Built This is my go-to for awesome founder stories from Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard to Power Rangers Haim Saban. City AM’s Unregulated is a great for anecdotes from entrepreneurs too. And for a more light-hearted listen, The Food Programme have great shows, featuring interviews, trends and stories on everything related to food.

 

Matt’s pick

James O’Brien is unmissable in Unfiltered by Joe. With guests including Robert Webb, Eric Cantona and Alistair Campbell, you can be sure to get an atypically hard-hitting and heart-warming accompaniment to any commute, coffee or Cantona love-in.

 

Megan’s picks

My Brother, My Brother And Me - a hilarious and silly advice show with advice that should never be followed. I really enjoy the infamous Clt Alt Delete - interviews each week and some really interesting conversations.

 

Naomi’s picks

The High Low - perfectly combining serious, important conversations such as the #MeToo movement, the refugee crisis, and current political topics, with light-hearted but nearly as important conversations (at least to me…) about the Kardashians, Taylor Swift and prosecco.


Dates for your 2017 calendar

From National Pie Week to Learn Your Name in Morse Code Day, it can be hard to keep up with what’s happening and what’s important.

But, don’t fear! We’ve poured over the calendars, and found the key dates every PR person needs to know for 2017 as well as a few extras to help spark those creative ideas.

You can thank us later! (Perhaps with a puppy on National Dog Day in August).

 

January:

Blue Monday (16th)

National Hug Day (21st)

Chinese New Year (28th)

 

February:

World Cancer Day (4th)

National Pizza Day (9th)

Valentine’s Day (14th)

The Oscars (26th)

Mobile World Congress (27th – 2nd March)

Pancake Day (28th)

 

March:

St David’s Day (1st)

British Pie Week (6th – 12th)

International Women’s Day (8th)

Beauty and the Beast film release (17th)

International Day of Happiness (20th)

CeBit (20th – 24th)

Mother’s Day (26th)

 

April:

April Fools Day (1st)

Good Friday (14th)

Easter Sunday (16th)

Easter Monday (17th)

Facebook F8 (18th – 19th)

Queen Elizabeth 2nd birthday (21st)

London Marathon, St Georges Day and Shakespeare Day (23rd)

 

May:

Eurovision (13th)

 

June:

UEFA Champions League Final (3rd)
Apple WWDC 2017 Keynote Address – Info TBC (12th)

Father’s Day (18th)

Glastonbury Festival (21st – 25th)

Royal Ascot (21st – 24th)

 

July:

Tour de France (1st – 23rd)

Wimbledon (3rd -16th)

British Golfing Open (20th – 23rd)

 

August:

Edinburgh Fringe (4th – 28th)

International Friendship Day (7th)

Film release: Emojimovie (11th)

Notting Hill Carnival (also National Dog Day) (26th – 27th)

 

September:

IFA, Berlin (1st – 6th)

International Day of Peace (21st)

Jeans for Genes Day (23rd)

 

October:

LinkedIn’s Talent Connect (3rd – 5th)

National Work Life Week (3rd – 7th)

National Animal Day (4th)

World Smile Day (6th)

International Chocolate Week and International Curry Week (9th – 15th)

HR Technology Conference (10th – 13th)

International Baking Week (16th – 22nd)

World Food Day (16th)

Halloween (31st)

 

November:

World Vegan Day (1st)

Guy Fawkes (5th)

Remembrance Sunday (12th)

World Kindness Day (13th)

International Men’s Day (19th)

Universal Children’s Day (20th)

Road Safety Week (21st – 27th)

Thanksgiving (23rd)

Black Friday (24th)

Cyber Monday (27th)

St Andrews Day (30th)

 

December:

First day of advent (3rd)

Hanukkah (13th – 20th)

Film release: Star Wars (15th)

Christmas Eve (24th)

Christmas Day (25th)

Boxing Day (26th)

New Year’s Eve (31st)

 

 


Spooky campaigns: Witch were killer

By Emily Barnes

Spooky puns are devilishly difficult.

Ah, Halloween.  Often seen as another of the seasonal bandwagons for marketers and PRs to hop on and enjoy some easy hits from a campaign tenuously linked to their client. But what is Halloween if it’s not fun? By nature, it’s the season of high jinks; to be silly and creative, which is in itself, a place where great campaigns are born.

We’re going to run through a few of our favourite spooky PR and marketing stunts and campaigns, which include some examples which demonstrate that clients with a serious brand message can still cleverly use the silliness of Halloween to keep their brand front-of-mind.

1. Tesco’s ‘Spookermarket’

Delivering on the supermarket’s recent promise to inject humour into it’s marketing, Tesco’s seasonal video content for Halloween last year garnered a social media buzz and an impressive 2.4m views to date as well as praise in trade and consumer press alike.

Delivered with BBH London, the campaign saw hidden cameras capture unsuspecting Tesco shoppers being scared by various terrifying props and actors, including severed hands in freezers and heads amongst toilet rolls. The video also prompted viewers to watch four additional videos which included a pumpkin carving tutorial and tutorial for creating a (fake) severed head in a jar. Delightfully gross.

According to Campaign, the launch day saw 805 conversation hits, of which 97% were positive; proving that even the simplest execution of the beloved hidden camera prank can create a very shareable piece of content with wide appeal, going a long way to show brand personality.

2. DigitasLBi’s ‘Internet of Pumpkins’

To demonstrate the very scary data security risks when connecting to public Wi-Fi, DigitasLBi created a pumpkin which acted as a free Wi-Fi hotspot using modified Wi-Fi penetration testing equipment, which is commonly used by criminals. Oooh er.

Users who connected to the network received a ‘trick-or-treat’ message, and whilst some received a sweet treat, others received a trick in the form of a digital crack on their screen, representing the risk of damage from hackers. Each was followed with some friendly advice on how to use Wi-Fi safely and without gruesome consequences.

This is a nice way to instigate discussion on key messages and brand awareness, by utilising a fun surprise-and-delight-tactic to deliver a serious key message.

3. Volvo’s LifePaint Spooky Safety Initiative

(Main picture)

Volvo used its spray-on glow-in-dark substance for cyclist safety, LifePaint, to launch an initiative to keep trick-or-treating kids in London safe in the dark.

Launched with Grey London, ‘Be Scary, Be Safe’ encouraged parents to pick up a can of the reflective spray from their local dealership and download a set of free skeleton stencils online, spray it on to their spooky sprog and feel safe in the knowledge that their child was visible in the dark of the night.

This is an innovative approach to a season saturated with pranks and scare tactics, which reinforces brand purpose and values by providing something genuinely useful for parents and fun for kids. Win win.

4. REI’s Zombie Survival Kit

zombie
Click to learn how to survive the zombie apocalypse

 

Outdoor clothing manufacturer, REI recognised the power of the shareable viral image with its 2013 campaign which saw the company put together an infographic detailing the 13 essentials for surviving a Zombie outbreak, all of which could be bought directly from their online store.

Even better, employees in one of their stores also held a class on how to battle the enemy should a zombie attack happen, also covering basic survival skills to avoid death by the undead.

This was a great way to achieve a relatively quick-win by playing on the novelty of horror whilst shoehorning in product links seamlessly. The in-store event added the bizarre to what is seen by some as the mundane, which gave it broader appeal and buzz.

So, brands or companies with an array of brand purpose can look to Halloween to successfully embrace a season of otherworldly imagination as a vehicle to create awareness in a particularly engaging and memorable way.


3 PR lessons from Bjork

By Adrian Ma

Bjork currently has an exhibition on at Somerset House: Bjork Digital. We popped by to see what this is all about, and have distilled what we learned from her into three lessons for you.

1.      There’s always a new way to engage with your audience. As an artist Bjork pushes boundaries. Her use of VR technology takes this to another level altogether. Bjork Digital is less of an exhibition, more of a show, where she controls the sensory experience through technology, in a way that no one has before. Don’t stop innovating with your audience experience.

2.      There are rewards in dividing opinion, if you’re being true to your brand. Not everyone liked all of the content. In one VR experience, you find yourself in her mouth, which distorts and contorts as she sings her song. It feels claustrophobic and uncomfortable. Yet, it’s talked about a lot.

bjork-mouth

3.      You can even innovate with the format of the press conference. Bjork appeared at the press conference of Bjork Digital as an avatar, beamed in from Iceland. This may be a good tip for Philip Green if he wants to avoid the difficult questions at his next AGM. At least he could claim that the connection is dropping out at that crucial moment when he’s cornered about BHS.

Bjork, as an avatar at the press conference of Bjork Digital
Bjork, as an avatar at the press conference of Bjork Digital

Bjork Digital runs until 23rd October. For tickets and info click here.


We went to meet YouTube superstars, and Jedward were EVERYWHERE. This is what we learned.

By Emily Barnes

On Saturday 13th July, we headed down to the second day of the UK’s biggest annual YouTube event, Summer In The City (SitC). Starting out as a small three-day gathering in London’s parks, SitC is now a huge convention, held every year at ExCel Centre, with thousands in attendance; not only to meet their favourite YouTubers, but to catch a range of panels and performances from an extensive programme covering everything from popularity, integrity and the creative process to mental health, fandom and LGBTQ+.

As an agency that uses social talent for a range of our clients and which values being hot on the pulse of how social platforms, their users and their content are always changing, we thought we’d head down on Saturday to lend an ear to some of the discussions.

Seeing so many people walking around with their arm outstretched, walking and talking to a camera is a strange experience- there were a few near collisions of camera-holding arms, which was bizarre to say the least. Some of those were snapping selfies with Jedward, who seemed ever-present and around every corner.  The crowd was certainly young- most were under 21, and many had waited in snaking queues for hours to meet their favourite social stars- testament that the YouTube celebrity is not dead.

JEDWARD
Wave em like you just dont hair

 

Apart from vowing never to get on a fairground ride whilst hungover, especially a ride like the Waltzers where ride assistants are actively trying to make you feel dizzy and nauseous, we put together some key SitC takeaways from our experience:

YouTube for good

More than ever, YouTubers are using their platform to open up discussions about issues on LGBT, mental health and internet safety. The weekend offered a whole host of panels on these types of issues, as did the stalls at the event. The YouTube For Good panel discussed how working with charities, organisations and brands on causes can be mutually beneficial, because they can signpost their audience to resources. However, YouTubers also mentioned how working with partners on videos that discuss specific causes can come up against similar tensions to regular sponsored videos, with a lack of creative control; it remains important that the cause matches the channel brand

Working with brands must be an equal partnership

On the ‘What is the point of YouTube’ panel (yes, that’s right),  all the panellists agreed that a trusting audience is key to not feeling pressured to compromise their content with things they aren’t really passionate about when working with brands. They explained that viewers must be seen as individuals, and is of utmost importance that the YouTuber retains an element of creative control in a sponsored post, to give their audience what they respect and admire and what keeps them watching their videos. If brands don’t respect this, they’re also compromising their own reputation as well as the creator's

Millions of views doesn’t mean quality or targeted engagement

Discussing popularity vs integrity, YouTuber Sammy Paul explained that working with YouTubers who have a smaller, more engaged subscriber base can offer better quality content that they have worked much longer on, and that ‘there is something to be said about getting hundreds of thousands of views on every video- who is watching that? It’s most likely a younger crowd. Instead, people are saying ‘Hm, that’s interesting’.’ Depending of course on the purpose and content of the video, for some YouTubers, creating content that doesn’t rack up millions of views but has taken longer to produce is better for their integrity as a creator

SITC2
Aspiring YouTubers promote their own channels using the latest technology

 

So, there we have it. Creator diversity is growing evermore, with different approaches to channels, content and working with brands and organisations.

What remains as important as ever, is that clients looking to work with YouTubers must consider their approach more carefully than ever, with a well-considered approach ending up mutually beneficial.

SITC3
These two were mobbed by fans.

 


Five 2016 sporting campaigns at the top of their game

By Joey Green

June and July saw Euro 2016 and Wimbledon hitting our screens, which was an emotional roller-coaster to say the least.

We saw England’s embarrassing exit from the Euros 2016 AKA Brexit 2.0, Murray’s Wimbledon win, Iceland’s terrifying Viking clap (it’s why we lost, right? Riiight?) and the infamous scratch and sniff incident from Germany boss Joachim Low, bleeugh.

However, we also got to see brands utilising the events of the year so far, to engage consumers. With big sporting events like these, it’s inevitable that many brands want to jump on the bandwagon. As Rio 2016 approaches, let’s see who cut through with the most inspiring and creative campaigns?

Carlsberg

We’re a big fan of Christ Kamara in this office so when Carlsberg packed him off on the tube, dressed as an older gentleman to reward unsuspecting tube travellers who offered up their seat with tickets, we loved it. Part of the ‘If Carlsberg did substitutions’ campaign, it’s funny, it’s heart-warming, it tackles an on-going discussion about offering seats and it got a tonne of coverage. Kudos to Carlsberg.

Evian 

In order to engage Wimbledon fans and those that like to shake their bootay, Evian launched their ‘Wimbledon Wiggle’ (a move inspired by tennis players) campaign where they asked consumers to send in moves, which were posted on the Evian Facebook page. Here at Fanclub, we love a campaign which utilises user-generated content and the likes of Jonathan Ross, Mollie King and Holly Willoughby all got involved with the wiggle.

Copa 90

Bringing together football and current technology trends, Copa 90 created a chatbot specifically for Euro 2016 to keep fans in the know throughout. Content included everything from guides to articles. Although not in-your-face creative, we like the use of new technology trends to reach an engaged audience and actually provide value, the innovative idea received a lot of pick-up in the tech press.

Orange

Continuing with the innovation theme (oh, we do love to see how people use data), we want to give a nod to Orange who analysed each day’s tweets during Euro 2016 to see which nation’s hashtag was used the most and lit up the Eiffel tower in that team’s colours. Again, use of data, a landmark, and some great colours, made a lovely GIF.

Morrisons

After Andy Murray took home the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, Morrisons rebranded its Wimbledon store to Murriwins, complete with sign. Although the store did it before after Murray’s 2013 win, you have to give some credit for recycling a great, quick-fire idea (and hopefully the sign).

With Wimbledon and Euro 2016 out the way, we’re looking forward to seeing what Rio 2016 will bring.


Does PR work on Reddit?

How to tackle the Wild West of a reluctant social community, by Emily Barnes

For brands, Reddit it is new and relatively unchartered territory- and for good reason.

For those who need a quick briefing, the social news networking site is a space where registered users share news, thoughts or images as either links or user-generated content, which are posted to areas of interest called “subreddits”; with topics ranging from worldnews, movies, politics and gaming (it even has a subreddit for PR pros) to more niche subreddits like the ever popular ExplainLikeImFive (does what it says on the tin). Posts can be voted up or down by other users, with the most popular content going to the front page of that subreddit and potentially of the whole site.

You might’ve seen Reddit gain traction in mainstream media; mostly thrown around in publications like The Huffington Post and Daily Mail who use the more sensational user-generated content for their own stories. The self-proclaimed “front page of the internet” is a monumental platform for discussion and content-sharing, with front-page content going way beyond Reddit’s 234 million unique users and into viral territory. Access to so many engaged users all over the world is an amazing opportunity for PRs to learn more about their clients’ demographic as well as to implement some clever campaign tactics.

But Reddit users, or ‘Redditors’, are notoriously savvy to bullshit. Reddit is fundamentally a frank and honest space that users understandably want to keep that way, and self-promotion is rejected with particular hostility. It goes without saying that employing Reddit as a brand or representative has to consider a careful, honest and informal approach.

So, how do we crack a quick-witted userbase with a reputation for pitchfork wielding scepticism of corporate activity on the site, and use Reddit productively for PR? Don’t be scared- it’s not all bad. Let’s look at how PR fits in.

  1. Research

Since Reddit is essentially people talking about pretty much every topic you can think of, it’s a great go-to for looking at sentiment on a topic, brand or person- or simply learning about them.

When looking at brand sentiment, Reddit is also a great place to check on customer service- when a redditor voiced his anger at being ignored by Samsung after his phone battery melted, a rep from HTC offered to send him a brand new HTC phone on the condition that if Samsung replaced his old one, he donate it to charity. The community loved it.

The site’s structure and function make it a fantastic way to talk reach otherwise hidden, niche audiences, which can be great for pitch research, for example. Use this scope to access focus groups that would have marketers chomping at the bit, including experts and professionals as well as consumers, to impress prospective clients and keep your finger on the pulse for current ones.

  1. Get involved in discussion, or start one

Bear in mind that Redditors are famously creative, witty and honest, use this to you advantage by hosting a discussion as part of your research, as part of a campaign or simply for brand awareness. Transamerica (whose reps also happened to be actual redditors)  launched a financial advice session for users in a personal finance subreddit, which went down particularly well.

  1. Brand image and reputation

A go-to PR channel is an AMA (ask me anything); which is essentially an online press conference for your client that shows honesty and transparency through an informal Q&A session. Ben and Jerry (of Ben and Jerry’s, of course) even developed a new ice cream flavour as a result of theirs.  As the name suggests, the consensus is that your client can be asked anything, so be prepared and don’t push back.

We’ll leave you with some friendly and cautious advice:

Think and post like a user and not like a brand

Be transparent, informal and genuine. Think like a user- from the types of questions you’re asking to the way you word your posts. Relax and strip away the buzzwords- it’s not often you feel obligated to do that in PR!

Play by the rules

Each subreddit has its own rules and guidelines for posting and commenting. Ensure you’re familiar with these, else you’ll get booted out by the mods and, if you’re really foolish, you’ll be banned.

Have a play around

As with any new platform, it’s important to explore for a while to get to grips with functionality and user culture. Non-posters are known as ‘lurkers’; get lurking, you creep. Even better, emerge from the darkness and get involved early to establish yourself on a non-business level. If you immediately jump in with your PR hat on, you’ll get thrown right back out. Take it as a warning!

And lastly, if you’ve got places to be and want a condensed version of how to use Reddit as a brand you can read its official ‘brandiquette’ guide, or, if you’re a PR or journo, the pressiquette guide is worth a read.  You’re welcome.


Five things I took from the Brands as Publishers talk at London Tech Week

By Joey Green

Sarah and I headed down to Hackey House during London Tech Week to listen to Mary Ellen Dugan, WP Engine, Paul Mikhailoff, Forbes, and Scott Wilkinson, Virgin Media talk about brands as publishers, all moderated by the very personable Julian Blake, Digital Agenda.

Quality content and placement is critical

You might think ‘well, duh’ but it’s surprising how many brands a) don’t produce enough content and b) don’t put enough effort into it and c) don’t think about where and what time they’re placing it. As Mary said, brands need a unique perspective, they need their own content and it needs to be delivered continuously to build customer loyalty. Forbes famously said ‘publish or perish’ before launching a place where brands can publish their content onto the Forbes website. A conversation will happen whether a brand is involved or not and so brands really should get involved.  The success of the content is down to its quality and audiences expect effort to be made if they’re going to engage with it.

In terms of placement, grown-up brands understand human psychology and will respect the demographic of the audience and where they’re consuming the content – whether it’s their own customers on their own channels or whether it’s Forbes’ readership. Forbes also help brands to learn to use data, something which is critical if you want engagement. Understanding channels and timings is also vital and comes with using data correctly - long-form content doesn’t work late at night when everyone’s on their phones instead of their desktops and posting ten Instragram shots in a row is an unwritten no no.

Don’t try and bullshit your audience

Although people are more willing to engage with a brand’s content (providing its of a good quality) they certainly don’t like it when you try and bullshit them with fake stuff. Audiences are savvy nowadays, more than ever before, and they know when content has an agenda so don’t bother to try and trick them. Paul said that brands need to move away from a glossy façade and start representing the people – he clarified that brands he sees that publish the best content are the ones who allow their employees to be thought leaders. We agree. Having Jeff from HR take over the brand’s Twitter for the day and post pictures of his cats and terrible yet great puns will make content more authentic and more real and in return audiences will trust the brand more. On of our clients, Tesco Mobile is great at having a funny, personable Twitter presence and often gets covered in the likes of Buzzfeed for it.

Equally, the likes of Forbes doesn’t try to hide anything from their audience and doesn’t dress up a brand’s content as journalism. If content is coming from a brand then they make that clear – according to Paul this doesn’t affect results either, a recent article from a brand received over one million views and counting.

Red Bull sets the bar high

All panellists agreed that Red Bull is at the forefront of brands as publishers. People are not only willing to engage with the content Red Bull produces but actively seek it out. Every campaign is a success – people want to know about it and journalists want to write about it – it’s one of the best examples of how decent content can deliver earned media and results.

Branded content’ is not the same thing as brands delivering content

The term ‘branded content’ doesn’t sit well with Scott as it suggests that its self-serving to the brand, not the audience, which isn’t the case anymore if you do it properly. Scott believes, and we agree, that the future will see branded content become smoother and smoother moving toward brand’s producing content as a natural thing. Could certain brand’s blogs overtake news sites? We’re not sure but it’s certainly possible. On one side, a journalist is still more trusted by the public than a brand’s employee but Red Bull, for example, regularly releases news and is arguably no less of an online publication than a sports or music site. It also boasts around 850k users per month yet isn’t listed on the PRs best friend, Gorkana. There’s still two sides to the story but we could see this changing in the next five years.

Content should be at the heart of everything

Content should be at the heart of your campaign, according to Scott from Virgin Media Business and we at Fanclub couldn’t agree more. Scott talked us through how the ‘Pitch to rich’ (now Voom) which produced tonnes of user-generated content and took Virgin Media Business from 12pc awareness to 45pc awareness over just two years.