My name is Ben Young and I’m the founder of Young & Shand. We’re a digital agency who build products.  Nudge is the name of the product we’re currently launching in the US market.

As the name suggests, myself and Duncan Shand started the company. I’m here in New York expanding the business and Duncan is in New Zealand growing the company there.  So far, it’s been a wild ride full of challenge, mistakes, learnings and thankfully (or ultimately), success.

When we started out we didn’t think we’d start an agency, we just wanted to do good digital work. Over time we found the agency model worked well if you squinted a bit and looked at it.  So we adopted and refined the model, bringing what I call our ‘hacker values’ to it.  All our team are big users of technology and believe that when you boil digital down, we’re solving communication problems in a digital world.  And right now technology is eating communications – so that puts us in a nice spot.

When we’ve found gaps in the technology, we’ve (as many people do) built little tools and platforms in-house, in order to help us work more effectively.  And now, we are doing what people say you should do but don’t often do – we’re getting a meaningful technology product into the market.

The first thing we built was what we called a Javascript CMS. It allowed us to drop in one piece of code, then add in extra pieces later.  But at the time (2010/11) we couldn’t crack the security concerns – our methodology wasn’t quite right in how we were invoking the javascript when adding additional code.  So we had a good insight but didn’t crack the problem.  Within a year however, this was a massive business called Tag Management.  Idea validated – yuss!

This validation gave us the confidence that we could achieve our goal.   So naturally, we set about finding the next insight.  Our focus shifted to Facebook. As the social platform grew we noticed the need for customized promotions. The first kinds of promotions were very templated (as they had to be to get scale) yet our clients wanted something more bespoke.  They wanted app-like experiences that achieved a business objective and sometimes would have a sweepstake like component.  So we built Nudge.

Nudge would power the promotion and collect a lot more data than the templated promotions.  We knew that promotions are a big form of data bait, that get a whole lot of people exposed, usually line up with other marketing activity and consequently get a healthy amount of media support. For these reasons, promotions are bursts of time where we can collect a lot of data and valuable customer insights.

What we did with Nudge was analyze the data and find out who the influencers were; those that were able to convince their friends to take action when they talked about the brand.  This is the truest and simplest definition of influencer marketing.  Over the next 18 months, we rolled out over 150 Nudge promotions for our clients and were able to kick start loyalty programs, influencer marketing initiatives and most importantly, gave get our clients far greater insights into their customers.

Fast forward a little bit and we established that we’d bring the good ship Young & Shand to promote Nudge.  That was me in August 2013, up here, bright eyed and bushy tailed, like many new arrivals to New York. .  I spent the first few months meeting with people, learning the market and getting valuable feedback.  What I confirmed was that Influencer Marketing wasn’t executed the same way we did it. Instead, it revolved around finding Twitter or Micro-celeb influencers who would tweet your message out.

The challenge with this approach (which is probably why you’re reading this post), is that Twitter and micro-celebs generally have no loyalty to your brand. You are also competing with other brands to talk to them and their audience. The other risk is that if the celebs over promote, their credibility and the message become fatigued.  They’re great at helping seed new campaigns,but true ongoing influencer marketing?  Not so much.

What we believe is that influencer marketing should revolve around these very simple rules:
1) Influencers should know and like the brand.
2) They should be able to get their friends to take action.
That’s it.

So then the question is, what do you do right now? What do you say when your boss asks you to do influencer marketing – but you don’t believe in the popular methodology of using Twitter or micro-celebs? Here are a couple of solutions.

Look at your existing data sources
Relook at your data through a different lens, and ask these questions:

  • Who are the people that consistently open your email newsletters and consistently click?
  • Who shares your email newsletters?
  • Is there a group of people always posting to your brand’s Facebook page?
  • Who retweets or favorites most of your stuff?
  • Who writes you letters?

Put all of these people in a special database and treat them like brand royalty. Remember you already know they love the brand, so just treat them better, give them early access to new campaigns, new products and ask for their feedback.  It’s not about throwing free stuff at them -it’s about satisfying their appetite for learning more and helping them build a stronger relationship with what you’re doing.

Implement Nudge
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Call me bias, but if you don’t like how influencer marketing is done now, give Nudge a try:

  • We can systematically identify your influencers by those that are sharing your content.
  • We replace your regular social share buttons with ours.
  • We then drop a cookie on those that are sharing.
  • You can then target ads to those people over time – when you need to.

Nudge is the simplest, smartest way to build a list of people who are truly engaged and will respond when you need them to.  We have a few case studies of it in action, getting a 32% response rate (like, comment or clicks) to an influencer ad – give me an email to get a copy.