Friends with Benefits

Forget mega-bucks, mega-reach celebs and YouTube creators. Use fans as micro-influencers and you'll have a small but mighty voice for your brand

Friends with Benefits

Forget mega-bucks, mega-reach celebs and YouTube creators.  Use fans as micro-influencers and you’ll have a small but mighty voice for your brand.      

I got an email from a certain clothing retailer this week.  I won’t name names, but they’re big on jaunty-print capri pants and there’s usually a bandana-wearing fox terrier featured somewhere in their catalogues. 

Instead of the usual discounts to tempt me out of my lapsed purchase status, it was an intriguing invitation to attend a clothes party in my area.  Given the last thing I bought was a pair of baby tights in 2013, I was mildly curious to think I’d be a prime candidate for trading the comfort of my own home and a forgiving mirror in favour of a 9 mile drive to a total stranger’s house to touch and feel a rack full of this season’s clothes.

But had this email come from one of my pals….

At a time when so many of my clients are defining a campaign’s success by its mass reach and ability to deliver multi-channel, multi-market scale and “bigness”, I’m fascinated that one of Britain’s best-loved fashion brands is choosing to plough the same furrow as plastic food storage systems and sex toys with the “hostess at home” selling format.  

I imagined pitching to those same clients the idea of a consumer event with one tastemaker directly influencing at best a dozen women?   No “content strategy”.  No “real time brand publishing”.  No influencer-mapping via Klout or Traackr.  No big-spend celebrity ambassador.  No multi-platform integration.  Just a few bottles of Pinot Grigio, some chips and dips, and a bunch of mates gassing about the hot dude from Poldark, all while trying on some new summer threads and giving each other an honest answer to the question “does my bum look big in this?”  Basically, it’s hijacking what happens at school gates, kitchen tables, coffee bars and pubs every single day: instead of loading up the Facebook feed of someone you last saw at the end of term disco in 1993 with a lazy “like” of a brand’s video, it’s real mates talking to real mates about the stuff they all care about. 

The more I think of it, the more genius it sounds. Some might criticise the approach as small and inefficient, but if executed with precision (i.e. filtering sales data and tracking customers who actively give positive feedback to identify the true brand fans that would be happy to host a clothes party) it’s a brilliant micro-influencer strategy.  If the party hostess is empowered (and rewarded) to invite her own pals (or friends of friends), you can easily assume a 100% sales conversion.  (There’s nothing like being egged on by booze/cake/caffeine-fuelled pals to buy something out of your comfort zone).  Brand relevancy and reappraisal.  First time purchase.  Deeper loyalty.  Yes to all of the above too.  Not to mention social advocacy – online and offline - as a consequence. 

We all get a bit Gollum-esque about collecting views, likes, shares and fans.  And we want our brands to part of the digital lives of our target consumers.  But what does that really give us in return?  Brands want everyone to know them and talk about them – but if the brand isn’t for everyone, what’s the point?  And what if a real-world interaction with your products would help propel a consumer towards the point of purchase?

Sometimes it pays to look beyond the numbers and recognise that micro-influencers are a great way for brands to grow connections and community.  It’s simply a question of finding the right people who are truly aligned to your brand and can deliver your campaign goals.  To define who that might be, start by deeply understanding your target audience, which platforms are the best way to reach them, and what your desired outcomes are.  And don’t necessarily rule out face to face interaction.

Of course, we all know that mums are a chatty bunch.  They are driven by word of mouth recommendation more than any other consumer group.  They are more likely to talk about a brand experience more than any other buyer.  But this micro-influencer approach shouldn’t be exclusive to a mum audience, by any means.

People don’t share your brand’s stuff because they like your brand.  They do it because they like their friends.  No matter what category your brand is in, instead of just trying to be friends with your audience, give them content and experiences that will oil the engines of their own friendships instead.  And they might invite you to join the party….


Claire Candler

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search