“It’s the Only Way to Go”: Ekaterina Walter on Influencer Advocacy and Sprinklr’s Acquisition of Branderati

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The Beyhive rallies around Beyoncé. The Mouse Fans flock to Disney. Raider Nation venerates the Oakland Raiders. They are known as super fans — the passionate followers who will go out of their way to share their love for a brand every chance they get, whether plastering their cars with bumper stickers or spreading the love on social media. Both super fans and every followers of a brand comprise a powerful source of advocacy marketing — so important that firms such as Branderati specialize in helping brands figure out how to monetize customer love. The logic behind advocacy marketing is simple: consumers trust each other more than they do brands. Savvy brands are figuring out how to cultivate relationships with fans and encourage word-of-mouth marketing. As Gartner Analyst Hank Barnes wrote recently, “I strongly believe that Advocacy Marketing should be at the top of the priority list in terms of marketing investment.” But according to marketing expert Ekaterina Walter, brands need to think in terms of influencer advocacy — or capitalizing on the influence of advocates who also have measurable followings. Walter, CMO of Branderati, has staked her future in the growth of influencer advocacy: she is becoming global evangelism lead at Sprinklr, a social platform that announced its acquisition of Branderati on September 3. The combination of the two companies promises to integrate social media and customer advocacy more effectively across the entire enterprise, making influencer advocacy a more scientific and measurable process. Consider Walter a super fan for influencer advocacy, as she demonstrates through the following interview:

How do you define influencer advocacy? How is it different from word-of-mouth marketing?

We believe that there are influencers who are passionate about specific brands. And instead of looking for influencer or looking for advocates as separate categories, brands should be finding people at the intersection of the two. People who love a brand but have decent influence within their niche communities (it doesn’t necessarily mean big following, by the way). Just paying influencers for a “one-night-stand” type of content isn’t enough (and isn’t authentic to begin with). Brands need to go beyond counting views and follower numbers and need to identify and build relationships with the right people.

Why is influencer advocacy important?

Because people will listen to their peers, they will share each other’s passions.

According to McKinsey, marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word-of-mouth generates more than 2X the sales of paid advertising. Deloitte states that customers referred by other customers have a 37 percent higher retention rate. And according to Zuberance, advocates spend 2X more than average customers on their favorite brands.

You have to build relationships with people who drive such a big impact on your bottom line.

How should marketers think of social media in context of influencer advocacy?

Well, consider this: while many brands are experiencing less than 10 percent reach across their social platforms, with direct access to their advocate influencers, Branderati clients have experienced as high as 68.5-percent social sharing engagement. They also realized that the cost of this authentic social sharing ran between 1/7th to 1/25th of the cost of incremental social sharing driven through their media campaigns. Pretty powerful numbers, right? Marketers need to change their mentality from creating one-off campaigns and TV spots to building sustainable brand advocacy inside and out (through employees and customers).

You are also renowned for your expertise with visual storytelling. How is visual storytelling affecting the way brands practice influencer advocacy?

Content is a critical part of driving sustainable engagement. Allowing your advocates to tell their stories and helping them do it in visual way will increase the number of passionate conversations around your brand. Branderati platform empowers just that.

What is the significance of the Sprinklr acquisition of Branderati?

Sprinklr bought us because Ragy [Thomas] understood that advocacy has moved from hype to real business driver. Sprinklr’s charter is to provide end-to-end social media infrastructure. To fulfill this mission, the company needed to add advocacy marketing as a core, integrated module that acts as a seamless extension of the social stack.

Branderati technology and expertise brings several things to the equation.

First, our screening technology captures API and self-reported data to align potential advocates with predefined profiles of ideal ambassadors. This technology is critical for any brand looking to create highly vetted advocacy networks at scale. By combining this screening process with the ability to identify candidates across moderation, social listening and CRM, we will deliver the most complete advocacy recruitment solution in the marketplace.

Second, from an engagement standpoint we bring the ability to create entire members-only programs that are highly targeted and personalized to each ambassador. By combing this engagement platform with the larger campaign management and scheduling functions in Sprinklr, the platform becomes a unified command center for activation of both advocates and the broader community.

Third, from a measurement standpoint there are very specific types of tracking data we provide in order to track ambassadors’ true impact. By bringing deep views of this insight into the main reporting suite of Sprinklr, we provide a single source for nearly your entire paid owned and earned social impact.

Lastly, Sprinklr acquired focused expertise. We have been managing sustained advocacy programs since 2010. The experience and best practices will be a huge benefit to future Sprinklr product development and to their clients.

What’s next for you?

With this acquisition my role will evolve. I am joining Sprinklr as global evangelism lead. It is a natural fit as I’ve been the biggest cheerleader of Sprinklr’s mission for a while. As someone who worked for/with Fortune 500 companies on social business strategies, Ragy’s vision of reimagining the front office for today’s C-suite reality is near and dear to my heart. That is the future. It’s the only way to go.

And just as I’ve done over the last year, I continue to be very passionate about the integrated advocacy message we developed at Branderati. I will work with both Sprinklr and Branderati teams to continue to spread the vision and help lead C-Suite in redefining their marketing mix to address their current challenges and meet, or rather exceed, evolving consumer expectations.

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