• The Power of Employee Ambassadors and Micro-Influencers

    by Neil Dougherty | Nov 06, 2018

    The power of employee influencers in marketing

    It’s no secret that achieving marketing success in today’s digitally-transformed world requires looking beyond traditional communications and media channels. Regardless of your industry, simply pulling the same levers you always have in earned, owned, and paid media will only get you so far. Yes, you may have a standout website, top-notch marketing collateral, and growing social media presence. But so does everyone else in your space.

    To drive additional awareness and build trust in your mission and products, you should also be focusing on influencer marketing. It’s a buzzword that’s bandied about often – and for good reason.

    Seventy percent of millennial consumers are influenced by the recommendations of their peers in buying decisions, according to a survey of 14,000 consumers by Collective Bias. In comparison, channels like digital ads (4.5 percent), print ads (4.7 percent) and TV ads (7.4 percent) have a declining influence. These millennials are taking this mindset into the workplace, where they rely on peers and trusted influencers to help them make purchasing decisions.

    Act Locally: Tapping into Employee Influencers

    One of the first places you should start to build your influencer marketing efforts is in-house with your employees. The advantage of starting here is that 1) it can be lower cost than building an influencer marketing program outside of your walls, and 2) you have control over the message. However, this doesn’t mean it’s particularly easy to be successful.

    At Trellist, we helped our global specialty chemicals client pioneer an employee influencer program to build awareness of the brand and its innovation stories among customers, investors, fellow employees, and the media. We achieved this by helping them build their Social Media Ambassador Program.

    The effort started with the vetting of existing employee social media profiles to recommend an initial class of ambassadors. This review was both quantitative and qualitative: Did they have a significant or growing number of followers? Were they engaged and sharing regularly? And was their activity aligned with the brand’s values?

    Trellist also developed strategic training and guidance, published content, monitored performance of the pilot program, and created a leaderboard to analyze program participation.

    As a result, the client experienced:

    • A 2X increase in monthly published content
    • A nearly 2.5X increase in total engagement with the content each month
    • A 3X increase in the reach of that content
    • Recognition as a Fortune 500 company by 2017 — and now has more than 34,000 followers on LinkedIn and more than 5,000 followers on Twitter

    Choose Your Influencers Wisely: Go Micro

    It’s tempting to go “all in” when building your influencer marketing program. After all, who wouldn’t want someone with a million followers talking about your brand? But the questions you should be asking are whether or not they’re the right million, and is the influencer you’re working with the right one?

    You will hear nightmare stories about brands who have tied themselves to the wrong influencer, only to have their brand reputation tarnished in the process. Keep in mind that a person doesn’t need millions or even tens of thousands of followers to be influential. In fact, the data on social media engagement bears out that micro-influencers may be higher value on a per-dollar, per-campaign basis than celebrities with millions of followers.

    This study found:

    • Instagram users with less than 1,000 followers received a like-rate of 8 percent, and accounts with 10 million+ followers only had a like-rate of 1.6 percent
    • Users with 1,000 to 4,000 followers received 4.5 percent engagement
    • Influencers in the 10k to 100k follower range offer the best combination of engagement and broad reach

    We believe it’s a better move (especially for B2B brands) to adopt a micro-influencer strategy. Traffic may be smaller in absolute terms, but activity has the potential to be more engaged, more targeted, and less costly.

    If you’re considering your own employee advocacy or micro-influencer strategy, contact to get started.

  • The Gmail Effect: Making the Case for Social Media Promotion

    by Neil Dougherty | Oct 19, 2016

    Worldwide, there are over 1 billion people using Gmail – Google’s well-known and well-liked free email service. In terms of Email Client market share, Gmail trails only Apple's iPhone, garnering 16% of overall usage across webmail, desktop and mobile email clients combined. 

    As if email marketers don't have it hard enough keeping up with segmentation and automation, now they're faced with over 1 billion people using a Gmail that filters out brand-generated emails into a tab called "Promotions". It's the equivalent of a display ad running on a web page that only gets 10 visits a day – or a political candidate whose position is at the very bottom of the ballot. Unless your email lands in the "Primary" tab, it's effectively reached a dead end.

    This type of Inbox filtering is not new – it’s been a part of Gmail for quite some time. But it's a default setting that a large majority of users won't take the time to customize or change. So it leads me to wonder if marketers are picking up on this "Gmail effect" in the Inbox. 


    Gmail is taking it a step further now, allowing users to "Gmailify" their email addresses from other providers like Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail/ This gives them the option to experience emails classically served by competitor clients with all of the Inbox features of Gmail. Thus, the Gmail footprint grows larger. And more Inboxes are sliced and diced based on Gmail's filtering. 

    All this said, email marketing will surely live on. It's hard to predict its true life expectancy, especially in a time when so many people claim they don't like email and are overburdened by it. For Gen-Xrs, it's a habit that will die especially hard. But for marketers in both the B2C and B2B spaces, it's another reason to expand their channel horizons and start testing more targeted social media content and promotions. 

    In fact, that email list will come in handy on social media, as networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow ad targeting using custom or tailored audiences – a process that matches email lists to active users and generates brand impressions (normally in the form of a promoted post or sponsored tweet) in the user's timeline. 

    The latest statistics from Facebook tell us that users average more than 50 minutes per day in their suite of apps (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram). That's plenty of time to serve up a relevant post based on history and interests – whether you're an insurance company, a cloud technology vendor or a corner deli. And while there are ways for users to alter advertising settings in their social media feeds and block ads, few actually do it. Most users have come to expect branded, promoted content in their social feed – which leads to engagement if the content is hyper-relevant to their likes and passions. 

    Whether your brand is looking to drive awareness around a new product, increase traffic back to your owned web presence, or influence the buying decision, micro-targeted impressions on social media can give you a similar bang for your buck to an email campaign. Add to it the visual-first nature of social media, and you're in a prime position to make an even better first (or just-in-time) impression.

    Email's loss is positioned to be social media's gain.

  • 10 Ways Social Listening Can Help Your Business

    by Neil Dougherty | May 13, 2015

    how social listening can help your business
    Neil's post was originally published by Social Media Today...

    Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. When it comes to social listening technology, there's plenty of it. And there's no shortage of tools available to get the job done, from free options like Google Alerts and Social Mention, to more robust platforms that organize conversations into smart dashboards or streams (like Sprinklr - a Trellist partner and leader among social listening platforms).

    Of course, the technology is only as good as the social listening strategy that informs it. Without an approach that sets out to achieve business goals - and ultimately create a better customer experience around your brand - businesses often strike out at being productive social listeners.

    To help you start thinking about the next steps in your social strategy, we've crafted a simple Top 10 list of compelling reasons to use social listening. 

    1. Gain competitive intelligence

    The smartest brands are using social listening for competitive intelligence. With the right guiding strategy and measured inputs, social listening can provide a dashboard view of content revealing your competitors' tactics, activity, customer engagement, and overall sentiment. 

    2. Improve existing marketing efforts

    Let's face it, people share just about anything on social media these days. Including what they do or don't like about marketing and advertising practices. Select social listening tools like Sprinklr allow you to understand these preferences and tag them back to CRM to give the customer more of what they want and less of what they don't. 

    3. Fix problems or flaws

    There are countless stories of the power and virality of social sharing pointing out a critical shortcoming in a product or service offering. Apple's #bendgate late last year, during its iPhone 6 release, comes to mind. Better to know and respond early, then to find out too late and suffer.

    4. Improve customer service

    While most social customer service resolutions are handled by monitoring owned accounts, you can also listen and learn about what customers want or what they're frustrated by outside of your company's social channels, then offer the element of surprise and delight with a solution that eliminates the issue. Think of it as an alternative acquisition strategy. 

    5. Find new customers

    Generating new leads and turning them into lifelong customers is critical for every business. By adding a layer of social media-driven intelligence based on keywords and queries important to your business, you'll be able to track the right conversations and introduce your product in a casual, meaningful and timely way.

    6. Pinpoint influencers and empower advocates

    It's important to know who likes you, even if they're not @ mentioning you. Social listening lets you follow the share path - so you can connect with influencers and advocates as an additional outlet to help you achieve short- and long-term goals. 

    7. Recruit better talent

    With a heavy focus on using social listening for marketing, business may fail to notice its power for recruiting. They shouldn't. Monitoring conversations, blogs and other communities can be a gold mine for talent acquisition teams.

    8. Design and innovate

    Using social listening for research and development is possible and scalable. For some businesses, it can help streamline the need for expensive studies and focus groups. We see a tremendous future for R&D using social data points mined from listening. 

    9. Improve your content marketing game

    Social listening queries lead to conversations, which often come with content attached to them. If you're serious about providing the best content possible to your audiences, social listening can be a reliable informant and strong addition to your content curation strategy.

    10. Anticipate opportunities

    If a competitor falls short, you need to know about it. Listening programs position you to swoop in and save the day. Or in some situations, put more heat on your rivals.

    Like the famous line from the 80s earworm “The Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics states, “you can listen as well as you hear." Businesses will quickly find that listening (not just hearing) is as critical as talking in social. With the right strategy and tools, social listening can enable these 10 things and a whole lot more. 

    To learn more about our approach to social listening and our suite of social business services, contact me at or message Trellist on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. 

  • Rumble On: An Alternative Approach to Idea Generation

    by Neil Dougherty | May 28, 2013

    A few weeks back, Trellist hosted its first event at the annual Philly Tech Week. We called it Technically Challenged, and it was an open invite for technologists, creatives, strategists, and entrepreneurs to compete in a rapid ideation and prototyping exercise – with a stash of tech-forward prizes up for grabs. It was one of many great evenings spent at Philly Tech Week. And for me, the event was a real eye-opener.

    Twenty-six motivated participants – flanked by forty-five or so curious onlookers and judges – were arranged into six teams with just over an hour to complete the challenge. They were presented with a fictitious business case, then went off and developed a solution using only simple craft materials and their collective brain power.

    Observing the teams in action and watching the final presentations, I couldn’t help but think this type of format – and its core constraints – had the potential to be a difference maker in business environments of all shapes and sizes.

    Here are a few things I took away from the event – considerations that might benefit productivity and creativity in your neck of the woods:

    Less clock makes for better outcomes

    In business, time is often a double-edged sword. We want a lot of it to do our work, but we rarely use it wisely.

    At Technically Challenged, the participants had only ninety minutes to come together, generate ideas rapidly, create their prototype, and present their work to the judges and audience. What they came up with in this short period of time was impressive. The presentations were incredibly polished and well-sequenced. One of the teams even arranged their time in the spotlight to include a skit.

    What does this tell us? In reality, sometimes we do our best work and make smart, instinctual choices when time isn’t on our side. Think of ways to add timed challenges and impromptu projects into your business model – their effectiveness may surprise you.

    Unfamiliarity breeds contentment

    Here you had teams of five to six people who didn’t know each other when they walked through the door. Surprisingly, it took them only a few minutes to jell.

    Unlike university or corporate environments, where study groups and project teams develop a unique dynamic over time – one that often favors the most extroverted and outspoken individuals – the teams at Technically Challenged quickly realized that rapid idea generation and opinion evaluation were critical to finishing their prototype in time. There were no major power struggles.

    This suggests that applying randomized, impromptu team structures on a weekly or monthly basis can bring new enthusiasm and heightened focus to even the most mundane tasks.

    Cross-generation collaboration works

    There’s a general misconception that innovation in this new age of bootstrapped startups belongs only to the twenty-somethings. Add to that a cultural bias against older generations whose lives aren’t rooted firmly in technology, and you might think we’re on the brink of a generational turf war.

    Refreshingly enough, the pool at Technically Challenged featured an impressive cross-section of Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. These generations can, and do, work together better than you might think.

    In a way, it’s the ideal gap control. The Millennials understand the digital lifestyle because it’s their natural environment. The Gen X population is ready to take over leadership roles and poised to make their mark. And years of trial and error gives Boomers the strength of perspective, a prized intangible.

    Foster an environment of respect and communication, and you’ll find productive working relationships across these generations. When they click, it’s fascinating to watch.

    You can catch a video recap of Technically Challenged now on our YouTube page. We love to talk business strategy, so don’t hesitate to start a conversation by following us on Twitter @trellist , liking us on Facebook , or connecting with us via

  • 2013 Social Media Resolutions

    by Neil Dougherty | Jan 21, 2013
    2012 social resolutions

    We’re believers in the power of sharing. We love telling the world a little more about our business each day and listening to what others have to offer. And we’re passionate about helping our clients make the most of every new blog, wall post, tweet, or pin. As the social media landscape evolves minute by minute, businesses and brands must continue to optimize. Stick to these social media resolutions for 2013 and start seeing improved ROI from your social media investment.

    Get Your Story Straight

    Take the time to remember (or find) your brand voice. Know the story that makes your brand special and how that story gets told. Develop a content strategy that reinforces and expands that story. Stick to content that tells little bits of that broader narrative—one piece at a time. Let that content remind people why you’re different and valuable every time you speak up.

    Pick & Choose Your Channels

    Being everywhere at once can dilute quality opportunities to connect with and build your social customer base. Even if your competition jumps head first into, let’s say Pinterest, you don’t have to. Especially if you’ve done your homework and know that your customers aren’t going to be pinning any time soon. By resisting fads and Johnny-come-lately services, you’ll stay focused on reaching your most attentive audiences. You’ll want to keep an eye on the latest developments in social media services and communities, but resist the urge to commit until you know you’re working with a proven impression maker.

    Publish Better (Not More) Content

    Many consumer and B2B brands talk simply to be heard. If you fix elevators or sell antiques, a Facebook wall post asking people how they’re ringing in the New Year does you little good. Instead, work on publishing more refined content in 2013. And make it more appealing, through the power of a new medium like online video. You can create a YouTube channel and use it to connect subscribers to an assortment of branded content, including case studies, product demos, thought leadership features, and customer service FAQs. You can even share features on office culture and corporate philosophy, creating a subtle but effective recruiting device. And it’s free to set up.

    Encourage Two-Way Conversations

    Are your social media efforts legitimate two-way conversations? If we’re being honest, very few organizations have accomplished this two-way goal. Resolve to get there this year. Allow followers to share your content easily with others across their network. Avoid mundane posts and publish thought-provoking content instead. Give your audience the power to weigh in on important decisions. Develop in-person events and other rewarding offline opportunities. Delight your community with a surprise now and again. Finally, remember to monitor your channels for interactions. The quicker you respond to questions and concerns, the more street cred you’ll build among the masses.

    Measure Differently

    Measuring only quantitative results can mean missing much of the unique value that social media offers. As you’ll find out in my colleague Chris W.’s upcoming blog about ROI in Social Media: Likes, Follows, and Retweets alone are all only surface-scratching ROI indicators. Dig deeper into what people are saying about your brand, products and services across your social media channels and use the new knowledge to retool your social strategy and content calendar as needed.

    If you’d like to learn more about Social Media marketing and strategy for the new year and beyond, follow us on twitter @trellist or connect with us via

  • Ask and You Shall Receive: A Crowdsourcing Follow Up

    by Neil Dougherty | Oct 24, 2012

    A few weeks back, I touched on the notion of proactive crowdsourcing as a way for organizations to engage their customers, advocates and followers on a new level. Crowdsourcing during a wave of large-scale success can add legitimacy and energy to the initiative.

    Assuming times are good and you’ve committed to crowdsourcing, now you need to decide on exactly what to ask your crowd for. While there’s no one-size-fits-all crowdsourcing challenge, there are a number of established approaches that could work for you. Here are two options to consider:

    Start your crowdsourcing challenge with a simple list of product concepts or ideas farmed out to a group of loyal customers for feedback.

    Let them cull the list down to the best, most marketable products or services. All it takes is a little bit of code to create an online community, then the willingness to listen. You can even gamify the challenge to motivate your participants (more about that here). The difference between the diverse crowd’s conclusions and those of a more homogenous group may be the thing you need to boost sales and build stronger brand loyalty.

    Extend creative ownership via an online open innovation portal.

    Make it a place where both your loyalists and those curious about your brand can offer up ideas and develop them with a community of likeminded contributors. Then share their compelling ideas across your social media channels. Procter & Gamble’s Connect + Develop community has achieved success through this type of model. The community asks for innovative product submissions, while also matching entrepreneurs and ideators against an existing need.

    Regardless of the crowdsourcing ask you land on, you’ll soon find that the crowd’s diversity is the basis of its success.

    Different backgrounds, experiences and knowledge sets yield more exploration and less crowd conformity. Author James Surowiecki touches on this in his best-selling book “The Wisdom of Crowds”. He notes, “The simple fact that a group is diverse makes it better at problem solving.” Encourage your crowd to challenge your internal assumptions.

    A few caveats before committing to crowdsourcing.

    First, make sure you have ample human resources to support a crowdsourcing initiative. Once you launch a crowdsourced action, your community needs to be monitored. Give a participant any reason to believe you’re not listening, and your community will turn into a ghost town. While the natural inclination is to hire young guns to manage crowdsourcing efforts, consider using tenured employees as moderators or analysts too—it’s the ideal “know your customer” refresher course.

    Avoid coming across as overly-polished, or even worse, cheesy. Stick to your brand voice and use straight talk where you can. Treat your crowd the same way you would treat a valued colleague.

    Finally, don’t ask your crowd for too much, too soon. If crowdsourcing is new to your organization, it’s perfectly acceptable to take baby steps. At the same time, it encourages your participants to focus on a single-minded goal.

    We’re just scratching the surface of crowdsourcing. If you’d like to talk more about crowdsourcing strategies and other innovation approaches, connect with us via

  • Crowdsource when Times are Good

    by Neil Dougherty | Sep 11, 2012

    Let’s talk crowdsourcing for a minute. In very generic terms, crowdsourcing describes work or funding that’s gathered from a network of connected online participants. Think Wikipedia or Kickstarter.

    When applied specifically to marketing, crowdsourcing can evolve in any number of ways. It has the power to turn traditional product development and marketing concept development methods on their heads. Crowdsourcing lets consumers and aspiring ideators assume the role of the R&D expert. It even empowers brand fans to develop a product’s identity and marketing message. Crowdsourcing is a dynamic tactic for tapping into the strength of the masses.
    While generally used for consumer goods and rolled out to younger demographics, crowdsourcing is being leveraged by more emerging businesses and enterprises to tackle marketplace challenges. Organizations riding the wave of crowdsourcing are seeing shortened product and strategy development cycles, while spending less on traditional R&D and marketing resources.

    As case studies are analyzed and best practices continue to develop, Trellist has discovered a common misconception—that crowdsourced ideas are a last resort, culled only when there’s a problem the insiders can’t solve. Because we believe in the vast potential of crowdsourcing, we think it’s best used in the best of times.

    Rather than falling into the trap of reactive crowdsourcing, consider crowdsourced ideas as key elements of your overall communications and marketing strategy. Unleash crowdsourcing challenges when you’re experiencing unprecedented sales or growth. Let crowdsourcing follow your brand or product’s aggressive growth arc and soon you’ll see a bump in your social clout. After all, crowdsourcing participants are social influencers with large networks. The more ownership they’re extended in a crowdsourced action, the more likely they’ll be to rapidly spread the good word about what you’re up to.

    For a practical example of proactive crowdsourcing, take a look at Starbucks. They’ve created a crowdsourced community appropriately named My Starbucks Idea. To date, Starbucks has collected 85,184 product ideas and 30,776 experience ideas. Over 500 have been put into action. My Starbucks Idea is a caffeine-fueled think tank where like-minded members submit their thoughts, gain points for participating and use their status to influence others. By involving the crowd, the Starbucks brand grows even stronger and is positioned for long-term success.

    My Starbucks Idea is just one of many examples of enterprise crowdsourcing at work. Major players like General Electric, Amazon, EBay, Xerox and Panasonic are all experiencing success through crowdsourcing.

    Before jumping into the crowdsourcing pool, remember that consumers are savvier than ever these days. They’re aware and they’re seriously connected. They know the difference between the spirit of collaboration and the scent of desperation. Whether you’re trying to increase general brand engagement or fine tune a product or service offering, involve the crowd early, often and under sunny skies for ideal participation and results.

    In the end, knowing when to launch a crowdsourced action is only part of the success equation. Knowing what to ask your crowd for is just as important. I’ll discuss that in my next blog post.


    In the meantime, if you’d like to talk about crowdsourcing and other creative ways to amplify your brand awareness and build connected customer loyalty, shoot a note our way,

Insights posts by: Neil Dougherty

Neil Dougherty
A strategic consultant with 15 years of experience in politics and financial services, Neil currently leads Social Business at Trellist, architecting service offerings and solutions that help clients harness the power of social networks in their business strategy.