A Lesson in Influencer Marketing with American Express

“Influencer marketing” has become much more than a buzzword — it’s an entire world of tools, methods, conferences and major brand players.

Brands large and small are incorporating influencer content into their marketing strategy. A recent survey found that a whopping 85 % of marketers are planning to execute at least one influencer marketing campaign over the next 12 months.

In a predictive Forbes article, the writer surmised: “The best influencers work to integrate their branded campaigns into their unique stories without skipping a beat. They know their audiences are fickle and can quickly leave, so they treat each and every post with care.”

The same care has to be taken by brands who wade into creating content with social media influencers. Today’s viewers are so overwhelmed by the abundance of stories being told on their screens every day, that they are loathe to give any precious screen time to content that doesn’t seem worth viewing.

“Working with bloggers, athletes and recognizable Canadian personalities has allowed us to personalize the stories we tell, reach more people and develop more authentic content.”

American Express is a brand that showcases deliberation in their approach to partnerships with influencers. Lauren Dineen Duarte, Director of Public Affairs &  Communications for American Express Canada, lives and breathes social media, and in her role, she consistently challenges her team to “find new and exciting ways to break through the noise and reach target audiences more effectively and creatively.”

Putting Emphasis on Video

Duarte and her team have steered American Express towards branded video content, making it an essential part of their overall marketing strategy.

Duarte explains, “We have prioritized video campaigns having worked with a number of notable influencers to create engaging content.”

“Working with bloggers, athletes and recognizable Canadian personalities has allowed us to personalize the stories we tell, reach more people and develop more authentic content.”

That search for authenticity in their storytelling has lead American Express to create video series such as “My Travel Style”, a YouTube series that asks major social media players like Marcus Troy, Krystin Lee and Adam van Koeverden, questions about their personal travel style like “What’s your packing style?” and “What do you bring with you every time you travel?” The responses from the influencers are warm and full of personality; there’s a reason they’ve each amassed such formidable followings.

Another American Express video features a partnership with influencer and Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman. The camera follows Stroman as he sweeps through a day in Toronto with his trademark effortless cool. “Before moving up here, I’d never been to Canada,” Stroman says. “But it wasn’t long before I fell in love.”

Avoiding Inauthenticity When Working With an Influencer

Advertisers looking to get into influencer marketing, beware: it’s paramount to work with influencers as partners rather than treating them as actors that can be molded and fit into your brand’s voice.

“It’s crucial to understand what’s important to them as people and as a business and truly see what their life moments are,” says Duarte. “What’s more, there must be an appreciation for how your brand can fit into their story and enhance their content in a meaningful and authentic way.”

“We measure success with organic metrics like comments, views, likes and how it’s received by their audience.”

It’s clear that, when done right, working with influencers can lead to more honest storytelling. For Duarte, the proof of influencer content marketing is in the metrics.

“In the last year, we have seen tremendous success as a result of our video campaigns,” she says. “Not only have we achieved better engagement, we have been able to tie video content to business results, showcasing just how much this type of content resonates with consumers.”

Getting Receipts: What to Measure

When it comes to metrics, American Express uses a flexible approach, tailored to the particular campaign. Duarte explains that the metrics they use change based on the goal, though there are a few key things they focus on throughout most projects.

When it comes to content that is posted to the influencers’ owned channels, “we measure success with organic metrics like comments, views, likes and how it’s received by their audience. We essentially want a post that is extremely engaging and encourages and influencer’s following to participate in the post,” says Duarte.

On American Express’ own platforms, they measure based on views and landing page visits, and their ultimate metric is the percentage of viewers they are able to direct towards downstream metrics such as conversions.

No matter your company’s story and voice, tapping into an influencer’s unique storytelling abilities is an amazing way to create content for your audience that they’ll find valuable, relatable and — most importantly — watchable.

(This article was originally published in our magazine – The Science of Storytelling Issue 3: Financial Services)

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