Sphere of Influence: Christel Quek on Influencer Programs and the Role of Social Media for Brands

Sphere of Influence: Christel Quek on Influencer Programs and the Role of Social Media for Brands

Social media allows us to connect with just about anyone in the world and have conversation. The conversations can be anything you want them to be, light or heavy, shallow or deep, humorous or serious. Sometimes the conversation can be incredibly insightful and meaningful, and that’s the kind of conversation that I’ve had with Christel Quek. Although we haven’t had a chance to meet in person yet, every time we converse through social media I feel like I’m learning something new, and how often do you say that about someone? Christel has been a social media leader for some time now, and with the constant changing of the industry and tools, I find that to be rather impressive. She manages to stay on top of every single change and update, and is constantly thinking forward and looking for new ways to change and adapt. She doesn’t rest and take things for granted. I really appreciate the conversations I have with Christel because she’s always challenging me to look at things differently. After chatting with her I always feel that I’ve got so much more to learn, and that’s not a bad thing. She’s always encouraging, and no matter how busy she is, I know that I can ask her anything. And trust me, she’s a really hard worker. She’s just a great role model for the social media world and someone that I look up to. Don’t be fooled by the good looks, Christel has a sharp mind and a ton of knowledge and experience too. If you’re the kind of person that’s always looking to learn new things or loves to have conversation that will make you think and challenge the way you do things, connect with Christel, you will not be disappointed.

Me: How and when did you get started in social media?

Christel Quek: My journey on social media really started with Twitter. This year marks my 8th year using the platform as a user, and it has been a real privilege to have been able to use Twitter to connect, share and learn from so many folks who are passionate about the intersection of human behavior and technology. I love being at the forefront of technology and watch how conversations shape popular culture and behavior, and the real-time nature of social interactions just made it a really intriguing exercise for me- so I got hooked! (Disclaimer: I started working for Twitter early this year. Needless to say, it’s been a dream come true for me!)

Me: We’ve spoken at length about influencers and their roles for brands. What advice do you have for brands that are looking to start up an influencer program?

Christel Quek: Look Internally: I think it’s always best to start from within the organization you work for, and work from there. If you can’t nurture real advocates or brand ambassadors from folks who work for the brand as their day job, there isn’t much point trying to convince influencers and their networks on the value of what your brand represents. That’s always a good testing bed to work out incentivization. Remember that it ultimately is not the influencer you are trying to convince, but the influencer’s network of people who are influenced by them.

Different categories of influencers: It’s also important to categorize the influencers into a pyramidal structure- the celebrities/media outlets (top 1%), the power-users/passion-point based thought leaders (9%) and followed by brand advocates (90%). All three buckets have to be engaged differently as they are motivated by different “carrots” – for instance, passion-point based thought leaders could be seeking great material to inspire content creation or for social amplification, while brand advocates would be highly engaged if they are recognized (by the brand itself) for the love they have for the brand they advocate for.

Moving the needle: Are you engaging with influencers to generate positive Word of Mouth, or as wider distribution channels of branded content, or as a crowdsourcing mechanism to get content generated about campaigns? Do you have an always-on approach (employing social listening around who’s talking about what in the social sphere around your key content pillars) or a more campaign-driven approach (product launches, event activation) where you are engaging with your influencers? These are also just some questions that you need to ask before you get started with an influencer program.

Me: In our conversations, one of the things you told me that will always stick is that social media needs to be integrated as a layer on top of a marketing plan, not as a silo. Why do you find this to be absolutely necessary?

Christel Quek: “Social Media” is never always about the platform, but about people and conversations. Individual marketing activities/media platforms should not be treated as a silo or an island. I see Twitter and other digital platforms as a way the offline world (OOH, Events, Product packaging, etc) can function as an extension of marketing activity by being the bridge to digital conversations. For instance, advertisers are integrating hashtags into TV advertising to make TV watching a more social experience. Tapping into “influencers” and organizing offline focus group discussions to get real customer feedback to improve marketing outreach and shift the needle in ROI. That’s just the offline-online bridges that can form, beyond the other online-online bridges that already exist (driving traffic from social networks to a brand’s owned media property etc) It’s also about being where your users are in a multi-screen world.

You can connect with Christel here: ladyxtel.com, Harvard Business Review, Huffington Post, socialmediatoday, Medium, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram.

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