Find Your “Street Team”
Using Your Investors & Brand Ambassadors To Harness The Power of Social Media
Besides introducing two entirely unique products to fashion lovers and car enthusiasts around the globe, both startups actually opted to take a similar route when it came to marketing: Brand Ambassadors and Social Media.
The student co-founders of the fashion brand realized from the get-go that their fellow classmates at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business were their target customers. In order to sell their products, they united popular classmates and student leaders as brand ambassadors. They encouraged them not only to talk about their fashionable, affordably priced glasses, but also to snap photos of themselves trying on various pairs (via “Home Try-On Kits”) to share on social media. The result: the creation of an engagement playbook that connected with millions of Millennials on their favorite platforms. They had a 500% growth in sales and gained the ability to reach a far broader consumer network than a few MBA kids could have ever expected.
The marketing team at Elio Motors had a similar plan when trying to bring their environmentally friendly three-wheeled vehicle to the masses. So as “a multi-pronged funding strategy,” they partnered with my Santa Monica-based OPO (Online Public Offering) company, StartEngine, which offers ownership opportunities to millions of Americans using the Internet. The outcome was tremendous all around and ultimately allowed Elio to raise nearly $17M from over 6,300 investors.
Facebook, Apple, Google and even ‘luddite’ companies have all figured it out by now: social media is king. Through social networks, companies are now getting their investors and brand ambassadors to spread the word about their products. Social networking is no longer just a place for family and close friends to routinely post random photos or intimate life details. It is changing and evolving with a slew of new private and public social networks that are making companies think more strategically about how to utilize each one to the fullest.
We are no doubt living in a digital age of transparency and consumer empowerment that has in many ways shifted the marketing into the hands of the people — it is no longer directly controlled by the companies making the products. In this high-tech, high strung era, social media content is a key tool for businesses to help spread positive product news, to amplify key messages, to create peer-to-peer conversations, to manage global reputations, to improve marketing effectiveness, and to, most of all, increase overall sales.
By working with fiercely loyal customers who believe in the products, even once-lesser known companies such as Warby Parker or Elio Motors are now able to fully connect with the rest of the world by harnessing the influential power of ‘likes,’ followers, status updates, photos, reviews, and hashtags.
Social media has become impossible to ignore for every company, especially in an era when clarity and connectedness have gone from appreciated to expected by the public. People want to do business with people, it’s as simple as that, and social media allows for the creation of authentic endorsements from customers and fans without any formal obligations. It creates a platform to facilitate an authentic dialogue between consumers, brands, and their ambassadors that can work wonders versus billboards or jaw-droppingly expensive television campaigns.
It also serves as the ultimate key to building trusting relationships with your customers.
Obviously, Warby Parker rode this marketing trend early on, helping the company grow and succeed way beyond a kitchen-table startup phase. Just three weeks into business, the student co-founders had reached their annual target revenue. By graduation time, the four friends had a waiting list of 20,000 buyers to fulfill manually. The company’s first brick-and-mortar store,which opened in 2013, even had to shut down after two days because 100% of the inventory had been sold.
Today, it finds itself with a gigantic network of brand ambassadors, which includes department store buyers, maître’d’s, and a whole slew of other people who have come to know and adore their products. By taking full advantage of this generation’s information-hungry nature, their insatiable need to share, and their desire to consult with social circles before purchases, CEO Dave Gilboa and his pals essentially created a powerful social brand value.
The place to connect today is online, and there are dozens of effective techniques to reach your audience. Digitally inspired efforts such as these will not only sustain the value of your business, but also allow company executives to be actively engaged in the dialogue. Here are a simple few to get started with:
- Promote special discounts and promotions via your channels.
- Connect and interact with the broader network of trendsetters who characterize the brand’s target market.
- Make others aware of your company’s cause or message through thought leadership via op-eds, events, and conferences.
The potential reach for brands and their ambassadors on social media is huge, and its influence is both a powerful tool and a dangerous weapon. With the help of various platforms and viral tactics, it is becoming far easier for companies to maintain a strong social presence and for them to use their Street Team. These days, it’s the way to strengthen any brand’s credibility, operations, and sales all at the same time.
In what ways have you taken advantage of the modern day street team to help your burgeoning business?