Marketing’s New Normal – Leveraging Consumer Platforms in the age of Advocacy & Influencer Marketing & Consumer-Driven Customer Service

Originally published by Sibi Nathaniel Grey

Kevin Kelly’s article entitled “1000 True Fans” has found more validation in the 9 years since it was first published than even Mr. Kelly could have expected. The crux of the essay postulated the following: to be a successful creator who could live off the revenue generated by their creation, the creator required 1000 true fans who would each generate $100 Dollars of profit that must be received as direct payments from fan to creator. In its essence, the point driven home was about the power of networks, and more importantly, the power of strong relationships between brands, their advocates, and the micro-networks within their reach.

Since then, several industries and businesses have grown by leveraging a similar model of platforms and networks. From KickStarter and GoFundMe Campaigns, to Influencer and Advocate Marketing – the base concept remains the same. Brands and creators alike started by asking themselves the following fundamental questions: Who are my True Fans and Advocates? How can I leverage them to grow my business? Are there networks I haven’t reached? How much money can I pay an Influencer to leverage the network that they’ve already built? How can I leverage the network I currently have, and build a sense of community and camaraderie?

The concept of leveraging a network isn’t new – it started with the age-old tradition of Charity Galas and Non-Profit Fundraisers where the cost and effort of acquiring a single active supporter of your cause was just a fraction of the revenue generated by the very same supporter who would rally their friends and colleagues – resulting in a whole network’s worth of fiscal contributions.

Another interesting usage of networks surfaced in crowdsourced customer service. UK Telecom company GiffGaff successfully implemented the concept of crowdsourced customer service on a platform – an implementation that remains an impressive case study for the power of community building and customer camaraderie for brands in the age of digital native millennials who haven’t the patience to wait for 30 minutes on the phone, only to be served by a disgruntled customer service agent who robotically follows a script despite the simplicity of the query at hand. GiffGaff’s customers raise 5000 Queries per week as posts on an open platform, 90% of which are resolved by other customers who are then rewarded with their choice of mobile credit, prizes, or donations to a charity of their choice. Thus, GiffGaff’s in-house Customer Service Centre only deals with escalated issues that require Technical or Financial Customer Service Support. As a result, GiffGaff’s true cost of providing real-time, excellent customer service is inconsequential when compared to its competitors. Vodafone Germany built a p2p marketplace site that took the concept to an even greater scale.

In the digital age where the ask is always some version of “What is my Cost Per X” – Brands and businesses that intend to leverage the network effect need to find new and innovative ways to measure and reflect the value driven from leveraging consumer, influencer, and advocate networks. While the correlation/ causation conversation remains without an absolute solution, some of ION’s Influencer Marketing Stats and Insights are already quite convincing when considering Influencer Marketing’s role in Marketing Budgets:

  • On average, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing.
  • 57 percent of beauty and fashion companies use influencers as part of their marketing strategies, while an additional 21 percent are also planning to add this strategy to their campaigns in 2017

In thinking about the art of the possible for leveraging consumer networks – a concept I’ve been mulling over recently is a hybrid between E-Commerce Platforms and networks. E-Commerce businesses, specifically in industries such as fashion and beauty, already have large existing networks to leverage and are also heavily driven by influencers. Perhaps the opportunity there is to leverage their existing E-Commerce platform as a space for their community to share their creativity and style with others, with campaigns leveraging influencers to drive engagement. If you already have a network that lives within your platform, it seems all too obvious to create spaces where social activity can be fostered and active engagement can be rewarded within an existing community of fans. Throw in a few integrations to social media platforms, and you have an Omni-Channel experience that expands your network while actively engaging your existing community. And that whole direct conversion and measurement conversation, becomes a significantly simpler one.

This article is Part 3 of a 3 Part Series about Leveraging The Network Effect For Businesses. The other two articles are linked below:

Part 1) Leveraging The Network Effect For Your Business

Part 2) The Future of Work – Harnessing the Collective Intelligence Of Your Organization’s Network & Building Knowledge-Based Organizations

About the author

Sibi Nathaniel Grey is an independent Consultant for Digital Strategy, Digital Transformation, Change Management, Business Transformation, Technology, Marketing, Data Science & Analytics. Working directly with clients or with Agencies and Consulting Firms on engagements where he utilises Design Thinking & Business Design to anticipate and solve real business problems. Connect with him at LinkedIn.