Rachael Cihlar of TapInfluence: Marketers, act like real people instead of a brand

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Rachael Cihlar and 3 other thought leaders will be speaking at the next Uncharted Minds, The New Wave: Unlock the Power of Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest Marketing, Wednesday, April 20, from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (PDT) San Francisco. Click here or use the code ‘insider’ for 50% off tickets to the event.

Q. Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background.

A. I’m Rachael Cihlar, and I’m the Senior Influencer Marketing Strategist at TapInfluence, the leading influencer marketing automation SaaS platform. At Tap, I lead a team of content and strategy specialists, and together we optimize our customers’ influencer marketing programs. Prior to Tap, I was a social media manager for technology startups in Boulder. I basically started my career when most of the social networks were evolving, and introducing advertising platforms, so it’s been exciting to be part of the evolution.

Q. With this new wave of social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest now at scale, how do you as a marketer or your customers, take advantage of them?

Our customers are leveraging these platforms both through influencers and their own efforts. They are all obviously all visual platforms, but they each require different strategies. They should make them an extension of the brand’s persona - not just a place for messaging and promotions, but a true representation of the spirit of the brand.

With Instagram, the user base is very active, and as of September 2015, the network has seen 400 million monthly active users (source). It’s also global with 75% of users living outside the U.S. Our customers are using Instagram to capture new consumers through hashtags and geotagging. Influencer marketing has blown up on Instagram, especially with the millennial user base, and marketers can take advantage of this by repurposing user-generated content.

For Snapchat, which also has a huge millennial base, marketers should be focusing on real time events and being genuine. Snapchat has a very authentic, unapologetic air, so it’s okay for your Snaps to be candid and spur-of-the-moment. Of course, practice caution! We love how brands can be a little silly on Snapchat, and merge the offline events and day-to-day with their online practices.

On Pinterest, you have the opportunity to be inspirational. Our marketers aren’t just pinning their own content, but engaging with their user base and building a hub where consumers can see what the brand also aspires too. It’s a great place to show consumers you’re listening to them, by re-pinning their content.

Q. Can you give an example?

A. We work with an international drugstore beauty brand who recently extended their influencer efforts into their social media plan and vice versa. They decided to feature influencers in their social ads, and as they go live, the influencers are posting their own tutorial content featuring the brand. It’s a very cohesive blend of UGC and a brand’s own vision for content.

Q. All three platforms now offer paid marketing or advertising products. Do you have any insights into what's working well for regarding paid social marketing?

A. It’s a huge development that these channels now have their own advertising products, however they are still mostly out of reach for small brands or marketers with minimal budget. This is why influencer marketing is so beneficial at all budget levels. It might take more upfront work, but influencer marketing allows a brand or agency of any size to start small and work their way into larger budgets. If you just write off a channel because you can’t afford it, you’re missing out on an opportunity for grassroots marketing. We’ve seen brands and agencies start with a few thousand dollars and grow that to hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, which allows them to experiment with advertising platforms as they so choose.

If you do have the budget for paid advertising on these channels, consider using UGC backed by advertising dollars. It allows the brand to still have authentic content that resonates with the audience and maximize their returns on those channels.

Q. What advice do you have for marketers who are limited only to organic marketing on these platforms?

A. I recommend learning as much as possible about what works on each platform, and keep it a two-way conversation. All of your content should be providing value to your audience. Start engaging with your consumers now. Comment on their content, and keep the dialogue going. In other words—act like a real person instead of a brand.

For Pinterest, it’s about pinning your own content as well as inspirational content. Your page shouldn’t look like an extension of your website. For Snapchat, keep it real! Snapchat is all about relatable content that isn’t perfectly planned or posed. And for Instagram - comment on your followers’ content and follow new and inspirational people or brands.

Q. With the social media landscape changing so fast, what are your thoughts on social channel strategy? Do marketers need to be on every platform? Should they pick one or two and double down where they have success? What's your advice?

A. Social media is ever-changing, so my advice is to stay informed and know your goals. First you must know who your audience is, what they are interested in, and where they hang out. You have to be able to meet them at the right place, at the right time, with the right message and content. If Snapchat doesn’t work for your business right now because your target audience isn’t part of the Snapchat user base, it’s growing fast and that could rapidly change.

Understand the capabilities of each channel. For instance, we know that organic marketing on Snapchat and Instagram doesn’t allow you to link posts to off-platform content. So, if your goal is to drive more traffic to your ecommerce site, you’re probably not going to achieve that through those channels. In that case, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest are better options.

And lastly, you don’t have to be the expert at everything social. Rely on influencers to know which content will resonate with your target audience, and trust them. They have followers for a reason, and over time they can become an extension of your brand online.