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


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.

The CMO’s Guide to Facebook Graph Search


Where does the hype end and the analysis begin with Facebook Graph Search? One answer: The CMO’s Guide to Facebook Graph Search, published January 24 by three of my iCrossing colleagues, Ashmi Dang, Amanda Peters, and Doug Platts.

According to the PoV, marketers need to get more focused on generating closer connections with audiences by sharing compelling content on Facebook. The rationale: because Graph Search indexes results (in order of relevancy) based on the strength of the relationship with one’s social network connections. Brands that forge closer connections with people will have more visibility across consumers’ networks when people use Graph Search.

As the point of view discusses, employing a holistic social strategy and active community management are increasingly essential to succeeding on Facebook under the new world of Graph Search.

Facebook Graph Search has certainly generated controversy. Intel’s Ekaterina Walter (the author of Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg) recently told me she believes Graph Search is very consistent with Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a more connected and open world. The intent isn’t to do Web search within Facebook,” she told me. “Rather, the purpose is to help people find specific answers to specific questions within their own social graph that is unique to them. Facebook Graph Search is a huge undertaking and will take awhile to fully launch, but this is definitely something the majority of the users were looking for.

On the other hand, Jeff Macke of Yahoo! Finance referred to Graph Search as a Facebook flop. And in Fast Company, Guillaume Decugis warns, “Facebook’s new search tool will either have to remain private, resulting in limited, biased content, or make private data accessible to search.”

I believe The CMO’s Guide to Facebook Graph Search will help you decide for yourself.


The Passion of Mark Zuckerberg: A Conversation with Ekaterina Walter


Mark Zuckerberg has captured the attention of the entire world, as he proved once again with today’s market-moving, stop-what-you’re-doing-and-pay-attention announcement about the launch of Facebook Graph Search. He is, of course, famous and infamous — the symbol for a social media phenomenon that has revolutionized the way we live but also a lightning rod for an ongoing debate about individual privacy in the social age. Does Mark Zuckerbrg have anything worthwhile to teach business leaders, or is his success a unique, unteachable combination of circumstance and individual talent? In the newly published Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO, Ekaterina Walter argues convincingly for the former. In a highly readable, warm discussion about Zuckerberg and Facebook, she asserts that Zuckerberg can teach us the value of passion, purpose, people, product, and partnerships. Hers is a highly instructive book that even Facebook critics — as I have been from time to time — should read.

Walter demonstrates how the rise of Facebook reflected a deeply personal passion of Zuckerberg’s for connecting people in an open world — one that gave him a single-minded focus that led to the launch of the world’s largest social network. In my favorite chapter, on the value of partnerships, Walter shows how the symbiotic relationship between Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg has made him a better leader. But since this is a book intended to help business people become more effective, Walter imparts lessons from the Zuckerberg/Sandberg relationship, such as the importance of forming business partnerships that combine imagination and execution.


What makes the book more valuable are the lessons that Walter shares from brands that demonstrate the ethos of Zuckerberg — companies ranging from TOMS to Zappos. Her examination of businesses that demonstrate passion, purpose, people, product, and partnerships elevates the book from a read for Facebook watchers to a useful guide for anyone in business.

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Social Business for the CEO

How do you talk with CEOs about social media? Speak the language of social business.  A new book by Dion Hinchcliffe and Peter Kim, Social Business by Design: Transformative Social Business Strategies for the Connected Company, will teach you how.

Social Business by Design shows how social media can have far-reaching impacts beyond its commonly known applications for marketing and customer service. The book makes a bold assertion that companies can transform all aspects of their business through social media, including HR, Operations, and R&D. For instance, Kim and Hinchcliffe, both Dachis Group executives, discuss how organizations have successfully used social for product co-creation through a network of crowd-sourcing partners.

“Until quite recently, social media were viewed either as a consumer activity, with marketing as the most useful activity for a business to be engaged in, or something workers used inside the company to collaborate, and occasionally for product innovation or customer care,” they write. “However, social media have now infiltrated every aspect of business operations, and perspectives have expanded to consider four major and interrelated activities: customers, the marketplace, workers, and trading partners.”

It’s no wonder that Social Business by Design advocates for the development of multiple community managers – and not an overworked marketer to manage your Facebook account, but seasoned executives who understand the nuances of knowledge management (for internal community management) and relationship building (for public facing community management).

To get a better sense of why Kim and Hincliffe wrote Social Business by Design and to delve into the ideas behind the book, I asked Peter Kim to discuss the book in the interview published here. Check out what he has to say – and then get ready to embrace social business.

What inspired you and Dion Hinchcliffe to write this book? 

Dion and I have been thinking about the concepts in the book for years. He comes from a technology background, I have a marketing background, and we’re both business strategists. The world has seen the rise of all things “social” over the past decade and brands are just now going on the record to report measurable outcomes as a result of participation. Now that external social media and internal collaboration technology have matured, we felt that it was time to crystallize our thinking and experience to the world in a framework of ten fundamental principles of social business for beginners and experts alike.

Social Business by Design urges companies to act as social businesses. What is a social business? What are your one or two favorite examples right now?

This is an important question, David. Many attempts to define social business are recursive and/or focus on an activity, not an entity. An effective definition needs to describe what something is, then what it does. We believe that a social business harnesses fundamental tendencies in human behavior via emerging technology to improve strategic and tactical outcomes. From that starting point, you can then consider implications on business activities like consumer engagement, employee collaboration, and supply chain management. A great example of a social business in action is IBM; among the multitude of proof points they offer, their developerWorks community saves $100 million annually in support cost deflection.

What’s the difference between acting as a social business and adding social media features to your company’s activities such as sales and marketing?

Social media are tools that offer new approaches to sales and marketing. In isolation, use of social media doesn’t constitute social business – for example, anyone can add a Facebook page or Twitter account to a campaign. Acting as a social business requires a change in the way companies operate, including designing programs so that anyone can participate and integrating social tools and techniques deeply into the flow of work. Process and culture change are key.

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