Social Strategy

Let Customers Tell Your Story

It’s one thing for a company to tell its own story. It’s an entirely different animal when customers tell your story for you.

Trader Joe’s  – who does relatively little in the social space – has inspired legions of rabid fans. One of them created their own “commercial,” a video homage to the store and its products, which has earned more than 882,000 views as of this date.

In the past year, I’ve developed Social Influencer programs in which we recruit socially influential customers and partners. Whether they’re active on Twitter, blogs, user forums or another venue, each is using our products in different ways. So we’ve started giving them early access to information or inviting them to special briefings with some of our internal product experts. Both sides have found this valuable: the influencers get to ask their questions directly to those developing the product, while our product team gets to hear what users are encountering or wondering.

And then they write about it.

Some are nervous that we don’t control the message, but overall, it’s been very interesting and useful. Influencers often raise ideas or perspectives we hadn’t thought about. Their fresh vantage point, unpolluted by layers of product development and internal meetings, can cut through the noise and really spell out how features will affect them and the market.

Some advocate paying influencers to write blogs, but that’s counterproductive and flies in the face of true influencer marketing. When you pay a blogger, they become part of your advertising strategy rather than a true advocate. While we do help our influencers promote their work and raise their social profile, they’re doing the same for us. And really, isn’t that the heart of social media?

While traditional media won’t go away, I definitely encourage the shift to a more organic form of storytelling.

What has your experience been? Do you have a horror story about influencers gone rogue?

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