Category: marketing
Digital Marketing in China Part 1: What Businesses Need to Know About Chinese Social Media

Digital Marketing in China centres around a mobile first approach and the social media platforms often function as an all in one marketing system.


China presents a vast and growing market that is increasingly active online. Any business that is operating in this market needs to be aware of the significant differences between digital marketing in the West and in China. In addition to using different social networking sites, the Chinese market also experiences its own unique trends in social media that businesses need to adjust to.

This is part of a series of articles on China as we’ve previously looked at China’s Biggest Social Media Networks and The Online Shopping Sites that are Bigger than Amazon.


Social Media Usage in China

More than 800 million people in China are active online, making it the largest digital market in the world. Social media is one of the most popular online activities, with the two most popular sites WeChat and Qzone being visited by 87.3% and 64.4% of internet users in China.

Although it is already large, the digital market still has a lot of potential for growth in China. An estimated 57.7% of the population is currently active online, but this is growing quickly. Digital marketing has traditionally been targeted to younger age groups, but the over 60s in China present a growing market of more than 170 million people that are becoming increasingly technologically savvy.

What Makes Chinese Social Media Unique?

The size of the Chinese market is its most striking feature, but it is vital not to assume that this is the only difference or that China forms one undifferentiated market. Digital media in China has many unique features that mean a different approach is required to social media campaigns in the West. Businesses also need to be sensitive to cultural differences that can vary from region to region. Listening to local online trends is a key part of running a successful digital marketing campaign.

One of the key features that brands operating in China need to understand is that mobile browsing is even more important here than in other markets.

Approximately 98% of internet users in China favour mobile devices so it is essential to focus on mobile friendly websites and marketing.

Businesses must also appreciate how dynamic and interactive this mobile-based market can be, with users expecting frequent updates and online events.

Another significant feature is that China has a more diverse range of social media platforms, because it isn’t dominated by a few giant networks like the Western market. Marketers need to be aware of the platforms that their audience is using and to take note as their popularity grows and fades. Social media users in China are often quicker to switch to new networks, so marketing campaigns need to be ready to make that move with them.


Latest Trends in Digital Marketing in China

Digital marketing strategies cannot simply be transferred from Western social media sites like Facebook to the Chinese equivalents. A successful marketing strategy must always adapt to the language and culture of its audience. It must also be tailored to the unique features of each social network. Here are some of the key trends that you need to be aware of in 2019 and beyond.

WeChat Privacy Concerns

WeChat remains the biggest social network in China, but significant numbers of users have been abandoning the site after concerns were raised over privacy issues. If this trend continues, then marketers may need to shift their focus towards other platforms. Brands also need to be aware of how their customer data could be used when they’re operating on this and other networks. This is a common feature in Western social media networks as witnessed by the Cambridge Analytica debate on Facebook.


Fake Advertising Traffic

Researchers have revealed that almost a third of all ad traffic on Chinese sites could be faked, which means that brands are losing money by paying for ads that aren’t working for them. A certain amount of non-human traffic is to be expected with digital marketing, but this rate is high enough to warrant extra measures to avoid it. Fake traffic is an issue in Western social media too, with many automation tools generating instant likes before the individual would even have time to see the post!


Storytelling and Authenticity

The way that social media is being used changes quickly in China. Current trends show a desire for more personal, authentic and story driven content. Douyin (also known as TikTok) is a perfect example of this as its short video format is increasingly being used for episodic content. The shift presents new opportunities for digital marketing, but getting this right will require cultural sensitivity, particularly for brands based outside Asia.


Special Events in China

Chinese consumers remain keen on special sales and events, so it is important for brands to incorporate these into their marketing campaigns. Did you know there are 4 Valentine’s days in China? 14th February and three more. Another example is Queen’s day, one of the most significant online events, with many brands benefitting from marketing campaigns and offers centred around International Women’s Day on March 8th.

Global brands are increasingly taking advantage of these opportunities too, with greater awareness of Chinese culture enabling them to achieve better results in many cases.


Digital media in China remains a unique and ever-changing market that has great potential for any business that is operating in this region. Marketers need to be aware of everything that makes Chinese social media unique, while still preserving their own brand identities.

Instagram Tools for Engagement Marketing


Instagram has become the go-to social media platform and one of the challenges is how it can lead to customer and potential customer engagement. This article looks at tools to manage engagement marketing on Instagram.


Instagram has great potential for marketing, especially for businesses targeting younger markets. More than half of the 1 billion active users log into the site every day, with millennials and the under 25s being particularly active.

This is part of a series of posts on Instagram and engagement marketing.

We’ve looked at initial advice and 3 ways to increase online customer engagement as well as specific market sectors:


And we’ve also looked at Customer engagement via AI  and so this post looks at Instagram as a platform and how it can lead to customer and potential customer engagement.


What is Engagement and Why Does It Matter?

Success on social media is about much more than posting content and accumulating followers. It is about building relationships and actively engaging with people by getting them to interact with your posts. Likes, comments and clicks that bring people to your website or lead to sales are what really matters. The time and money you spend on maintaining your social media accounts isn’t worth much if no one is reading or if this interest is not being converted into sales. A successful social media strategy will connect with your target audience so that they amplify your voice by sharing posts and give you a real return for your efforts.

Challenges are that Instagram is considering removing the likes function – this can be automated which means it has less value. Owned by Facebook, Instagram is keen to offer value for corporations using it as a marketing tool.

Boosting Engagement on Instagram

Instagram has the highest interaction rate among social networks, at 2.2%, and 80% of users are following at least one business. However, that doesn’t mean that it is easy to connect with people on Instagram. You need to create the right kind of content for your brand and to ensure that it encourages active engagement that will turn into sales.

Creating high quality content and advertising your handle to gain followers is key. You also need to be aware of how to use tags, stories and other tactics to catch the attention of your target audience. Businesses on Instagram also have a selection of effective tools that can be used to boost engagement.

Comparing Instagram Tools for Engagement Marketing

If you’re a business looking to make the most Instagram then there are lots of different tools available to help. Here are some of the top engagement marketing tools that you might want to use.

Instagram Tool for Engagement Marketing #1 – Kicksta

Kicksta helps you to build relationships with your target audience on Instagram. You suggest a few target accounts that appeal to your market and Kicksta will start engaging with their followers. It will target users who might be interested in your business, liking their posts to draw their attention. Engaging with other users is one of the most effective strategies for getting them to interact with you in return and potentially to become a follower. Kicksta gets better at identifying the right users to engage with as it learns from the responses it generates. It can be an effective tool for generating real followers as it will filter out any suspect accounts. The service starts from $49 a month and it is particularly useful when starting out as it can build up your audience.

Instagram Tool for Engagement Marketing #2 – Hootsuite

Hootsuite includes a selection of different tools for managing your Instagram account. You can use it to publish and schedule your posts, to track your competition on the site, or to engage with your audience. One handy tool for engagement is the search stream, which you can use to find out who is engaging with your own hashtags or which accounts are most influential in your field. Analysing what people are talking about on Instagram can enable you to be part of the right conversations. You can use Hootsuite to manage multiple Instagram and social media accounts, with prices starting at £25 a month for up to 10 social media profiles.

Instagram Tool for Engagement Marketing #3 – Later

Later provides one of the most effective and popular scheduling tools for Instagram. It also makes it easier to manage your comments and to repost user-generated content. The tools for businesses are particularly useful as they can help you to turn Instagram posts into sales and to monitor these interactions. Small businesses can use the Free Forever plan for up to 30 photo posts a month. Paid options start at $9 a month, depending on how many posts you want to make and the number of social profiles you’re managing.

Instagram Tool for Engagement Marketing #4 – Iconosquare

Iconosquare can assist with a wide range of engagement marketing approaches, from interacting with other users’ posts to holding contests via Instagram. One feature that is particularly useful is that it enables cross-posting on other platforms such as Facebook, which can make managing your profiles much more efficient. The analytics tools can also be very useful, especially as they include specially designed tools to enable you to monitor the impact of your Instagram Stories. Plans start at €29 a month.

Instagram Tool for Engagement Marketing #5 – Curalate Like2Buy

Like2Buy can change the way people interact with your Instagram posts. It enables you to offer people the chance to buy when they click the like button, so it is ideal if you’re often posting pictures of your products. Making it easier for people to purchase can increase sales and enhance the customer experience. Like2Buy is designed for larger businesses, but a similar tool called Soldsie can provide similar services for smaller businesses. Soldsie is free for the first 49 clicks then costs from $5 a month.

Email Campaign Programs: Which Platform is Best for Your Business?

Learn more about email campaign programs and discover which platform is best for your business.

Email remains one of the key strands of digital marketing, so it is essential to have a programme that enables you to reach out to people easily and efficiently. Email can be the first contact you make with prospective new customers or the means through which you maintain your relationship with your existing customers.

This blog post is part of a series on email marketing.


Choosing an Email Campaign Program

Email marketing campaigns work best when they are timely, personalised and targeted to specific groups of recipients. While you can manage a small marketing campaign with just a spreadsheet and a list of email addresses, there is a lot more you can do when you have the right tools.


Email campaign programs can help you to manage your contact lists and to connect with people in a more effective manner. You can create email campaigns that take individual customer’s preferences and purchasing histories into account. You can make your customers feel valued and treated as individuals.


The best email campaign platforms will make it easier to manage customer data and to coordinate your marketing strategy across different media. The program should help you to create effective email templates and to ensure they are sent to the right contacts at the right times. Some programs also enable you to set up automated responses for different scenarios.

Should You Use Mailchimp?

Mailchimp is probably the best-known email campaign program so it is often the first option that businesses will consider. If you’re new to email marketing then it can be a good choice as it is relatively straightforward to use.

You can use this platform to:

  • Create customised emails for newsletters or marketing campaigns
  • Segment your contact list by factors such as location to enable targeted email marketing
  • Set up automated messages based on specific events, such as a customer failing to complete a purchase or showing interest in specific items
  • Coordinate marketing campaigns across email, online ads and social media

However, there are limits to what you can do with Mailchimp so it may not be flexible enough for more advanced users. Recent changes have also caused some businesses to switch to other platforms. Mailchimp has begun moving away from its previous focus on email marketing, with new features being introduced without much communication or support for users. Mailchimp is likely to become more expensive for many businesses and it won’t be the same simple email marketing service as before.

Mailchimp currently provides a free plan for small businesses with up to 2000 contacts. The paid plans from $9.99 to $299.00 a month offer additional features and support larger contact lists.

Alternatives to Mailchimp: Comparing Email Marketing Programs

If Mailchimp doesn’t seem like the right fit for your business or it isn’t working for you anymore, or if you have increased your mailings, then it is worth considering the following alternatives.

Email Campaign Program – Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor provides a very visual, intuitive interface that makes it very easy to work with. You can create segmented contact lists for targeted marketing, track the interactions with your customers, and create automated email workflows for all kinds of scenarios. Analysis tools are also provided to monitor the effects of your email campaigns. If you want a straightforward email platform and you enjoy working with the largely drag and drop based interface then this can be a good choice for your business. Campaign Monitor starts at £9 a month for up to 2500 emails, with unlimited emails from £29 a month.

Email Campaign Program – iContact

The iContact platform is ideal for small and medium sized businesses. It provides an easy to use interface that includes useful tools for segmenting customer lists, split testing and tracking the performance of your email campaigns. The range of email templates is also particularly good but may not be sufficient for larger businesses. The support services are excellent but are of limited use to international users as the phone lines are based in US time zones. Pricing starts at $14 a month for up to 500 email subscriptions so it can be more expensive than Campaign Monitor.

Email Campaign Program – SendinBlue

SendinBlue gives you the greatest control, so it can be a good choice if you want to do more than is possible with the other platforms. You can combine email and SMS campaigns, send tailored messages based on many different events, and access detailed analytics on how your emails are being read. However, it takes more technological knowledge to make the most of the extra features on this platform so it might not be the right choice if you just need a simple tool. The pricing is based on the number of emails you send. You can send 3 campaigns a month to up to 2000 contacts for free. Paid plans range from £15 to £102 a month.

Picking the right platform will enable you to easily manage a cost-effective email marketing campaign that produces a real return for your business. It is important to compare the options and consider the needs to your business so that you can make the most of email marketing.


When you have selected your email marketing program, you might also be interested in A/B testing your emails to see which is more successful.

Influencer marketing campaign fails

Influencer marketing is now a common concept for many companies. Getting admired people to use your products and let people know via their social media channels is now a standard issue marketing tactic. The more influential the person the greater the chance of your product or service doing well in terms of sales and being seen organically rather than via paid advertising. Influencer marketing has grown to such an extent that Amazon has launched its own influencer programme.


In the Western world, influencers are seen as opinion leaders who are not formal experts, but have authority with the target audience and are often well-known people, celebrities, pop, sports or media stars


From a customer’s perspective influencer marketing can be as good as or better than a word of mouth recommendation, so it is easy to see why it has become such a powerful tool for businesses. This is because people are ignoring traditional company adverts and seeking greater authenticity from people they view as trusted or more authentic.

However, when things go wrong with influencer marketing they tend to go spectacularly wrong. Therefore, it is important to have a back-up plan and various contingencies in place to handle any fallout from such a PR disaster.

Let’s explore some influencer campaign fails:


Influencer campaign fail #1 – Phillip Morris

One example is that of Phillip Morris International who had to cancel a global social media campaign when it was revealed that they were using young influencers to promote their vaporiser range.

The company had previously been trying to demonstrate that they are encouraging people to stop smoking and present vaping as a safer alternative. However, they are now having to apologise for sending out the wrong message by using an under 25 year old to promote their IQOS vaporiser.

Critics of vaping believe that it is just as problematic as smoking cigarettes and see that vaping activity is very much a gateway to other things for young people. As such this latest PR scandal does not help the company at all in terms of changing the perception that they aren’t trying to glamorise vaping.

The company released a statement “We have taken the decision to suspend all of our product-related digital influencer actions globally. Whilst the influencer in question is a legal age adult smoker, she is under 25 and our guidance called for influencers to be 25+ years of age. This was a clear breach of that guidance.”

Why did this influencer campaign fail?

Perhaps this campaign failed because it is a delicate and controversial area to start – it’s connected to smoking which is not safe. However, Phillip Morris International isn’t the first tobacco company to struggle finding an appropriate path through the online marketplace. Juul e-cigarettes also were criticised back in 2015 for using images of attractive young people on YouTube marketing and social media. The campaign was particularly surrounding their product launch and used the phrase “Share a #Juulmoment.” This prompted many young people to not only use the product but share images of their own usage along with their friends and even of them at school.

Following a backlash of this approach the company have since adopted a policy of only using social media influencers over the age of 35.

For Phillip Morris International this recent furore has done little to help prove the company is demonstrating a duty of care to young people or to those trying to quit smoking. In reality it has been viewed in poor taste and has been damaging from all angles.

Influencer campaign fail #2 – Snickers

Snickers found out the hard way in 2012 when they chose the controversial Katie Price to use as part of their “You’re not you, when you’re hungry” global campaign. Price is known for dividing opinion and primarily famous for her involvement in fashion and entertainment. When a series of tweets appeared of a political nature from her account it led people to believe she had hacked when in fact it was part of the aforementioned Snickers campaign.

There was a public backlash to the posting and it even prompted the first ever influencer marketing investigation by the Advertising Standards Agency.

Why did this influencer campaign fail?

The choice of influencer was probably ill advised when attached to a national brand.


Influencer campaign fail #3 – PepsiCo Cola

When Pepsi partnered with Kendall Jenner in 2017 on a YouTube advert they found themselves having to pull the ad after a negative response from the public. According to Pepsi they were trying “project a global message of unity, peace and understanding.” In reality the company were accused of trying to trivialise issues of social justice – in particular demonstrations by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Why did this influencer campaign fail?

The company were seen to be insensitive to serious ongoing issues and the article was pulled and PepsiCo issued an apology.

How to mitigate failure with influencer marketing campaigns

Choice of influencer is key

When things go wrong on social media for businesses it could prove to be catastrophic, which is why platform and influencer selection is so important in the planning stages of any successful influencer marketing campaign.


Planning Social Media Content is Even More Important

Before going live with any posts or activity having a failsafe campaign should be the primary goal alongside campaign contingencies.


Research the objectives and target market

With the benefit of hindsight, it is perhaps easy to see why things went so wrong for these companies and they act as a cautionary tale to others to do their research well. Social media in general gives exposure to companies like never before which is why when using influencers especially, proper research needs to happen into the target market, the objectives of the campaign and the alignment of appropriate influencers.


Firms Quitting Social Media in UK

Big brands leaving social media in the UK, honest departure or publicity stunt?

Cosmetics brand Lush announced earlier this year the apparently shocking decision that they were quitting social media in the UK. This conscious uncoupling has come about as the brand states that they prefer a more honest conversation with their customers and they no longer want to have to “fight with algorithms” to reach their target audience. The brand known for their campaigning and previously on occasion outspoken social media messages have amassed quite a following across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter platforms – most notably Instagram which has around 560,000 followers.

Eagle eyed sceptics however have since noted that the brand isn’t carrying out similar shutdowns in the US or other international accounts nor has it quit completely as they will still use social media for influencer promotions and associated messages. Whilst some may suspect a PR stunt is afoot others may congratulate the brand on their foresight and preference to liaise with customers directly –  getting them back in stores and encouraging an altogether more personalised online landscape for Lush customers going forward. However, their social media in other locations is still present.

Other brands that have quit social media

What is important to note is that Lush are not the first to quit social media and most likely won’t be the last as online challenges and changing customer demands mean companies are constantly being kept on their toes.

Last year JD Wetherspoon also quit social media, releasing a vague statement that they believed social media was providing a distraction from the real business of serving customers and that they would continue to update their website, app and printed magazine. They also encouraged customers to feedback through their local pub or by the website. However, it seems that JD Wetherspoon had been embroiled in several social media challenges where posts had been suggested as being offensive to various groups. So, was this simply an easier way to manage the staff application of social media – but leaving it?

For a pub chain like Wetherspoon’s arguably social media was a double-edged sword for them to begin with. After all people used to socialise ‘down the pub’ rather than online and so could have significantly contributed to the demise of the traditional British pub image. And whilst the social media stance is unlikely to have changed that situation it enables the brand to focus more on the task of serving food and drink.

Since they quit, a parody account opened but this has been the subject of a legal challenge.

Although other parody accounts still exist, as well as an historical individual pub account.

Auchentoshan Whiskey, Beefeater Gin and David Beckham’s Haig Club whiskey all followed suit from JD Wetherspoon and also quit or significantly reduced their Twitter presence last year. Tesla also removed their Facebook account, its CEO citing this was due in part to Cambridge Analytica, yet he maintains a personal account.

As social media usage begins to show a dip particularly in the younger generations then it may be a trend that builds momentum as the year plays out.

The impact for Lush in quitting social media

There has so far been a mixed bag response towards Lush for their statement. For some they are criticising the company for abandoning what is generally regarded as one of the most financially rewarding marketing channels. They see that Lush have ducked out just because things have got tougher in terms of paid reach and companies have to work harder to achieve the results they want. They shared reasons why in this post.

Others have accused the brand of making a bold statement as a marketing stunt and time will tell how that one goes, especially as many Lush stores still have active social media accounts across platforms – whether they will continue for the foreseeable remains to be seen.

On the other hand many think Lush have made a good call and that getting back to a social media community is what it should be all about rather than for major advertising reward.

It could be that this move has come at a pivotal time for social media and echoes the feelings of many brands across the board, not just restricted to the cosmetics arena. Yet these brands still need to provide customer service and may now need more staff to manage all the queries if they handle these on a one to one rather than on a one to many basis.

What do customers think about firms quitting social media?

Whether they are Lush customers or not, younger generations are demonstrating a move away from the larger social media platforms, particularly Facebook and Twitter. There has been a decline in Europe of active Facebook users for the previous two quarters which is a trend that cannot be ignored. For Lush the younger generation represents a big proportion of their target audience so it is easy to see why they may want to take stock and regroup.

Data privacy issues and how platforms are managed are all real issues that are impacting social media usage amongst customers and therefore consumers cannot be blamed for seeking out an alternative way of connecting with businesses.

Customers moved to online for convenience and for something different and whilst the former is still a huge consideration there is certainly a shift in how customers act online. Personalised and authentic dialogue is more sought after and as a result companies have to respond to this and social media provides this as a channel.

So should firms quit social media?

The challenge is that most customers are still  suing social media and in order to gain responses, especially to complaints, they want the content to be shared online. These firms quitting social media are ignoring the real issue, managing the channel. It’s like small children hiding their eyes and thinking if they can’t see you, you can’t see them. It’s a naïve approach and doesn’t solve the issue. Better staff training better rules of engagement and better management of social media is what is really needed.

How to gain reviews online

Online reviews have an impact on the buying process. We trust the words of strangers more than companies.

Gone are the days when everything written about your product or service online was produced by your organisation. Social media has introduced a new dimension for businesses and the review options that each platform brings with it can make a difference to the buying decisions of individuals online. Online reviews is a growing area that impacts business and is a key part of the online customer journey.


Reviews can mean the equivalent of a personal recommendation about a product or service to some people. Therefore online reviews can carry the same importance as a word of mouth endorsement. This works both ways too so a positive review can influence someone to buy just as a negative review can switch someone the other way.


It is important to acknowledge that even though reviews are usually written by strangers they are given credence and are trusted by the reader for the most part. Consumers are doing more research than ever before about products and services before they buy and these reviews matter. An accumulation of positive or good reviews can really help a business generate popularity on and offline.

How to encourage positive reviews

Getting people to leave a review may seem like the hardest battle as often people only get in touch with a business to complain. However there are things you can do as a business to encourage people to leave reviews after buying a product or service. Here are a few ways that could help:

Make it easy: when leaving a review people don’t want to have to work for it so making it easy to do on your website or social media is key. If you want a review in a specific place e.g. Facebook, Google or Yell, then let your customers know your preference and how they can do this – signpost them to it as far as possible so they don’t need to look for themselves.

Get the timing right: people are busy and on the whole don’t take time out to congratulate people when they’ve done their job, so asking for a review can seem intrusive. This is why timing is everything. If you know someone has used a product or service successfully and they are happy, then ask them for a review. If someone is re-ordering it may be opportune to ask for a review or if your business has been tagged on social media ask if they would mind also leaving a review.

Only ask once: Asking constantly for customers to leave reviews is likely to irritate some people so if you do ask directly only do it once – don’t chase or worse still ask if they’ve done it yet.  


Things to avoid when seeking online reviews

Being overly keen for reviews can indicate a little desperation. Remember businesses survived and thrived before social media reviews so if your business is just getting started try not to panic that you don’t have many – if you offer a good service they will come over time. Avoid things like:

Asking family to add a review: Family and friends may use your services and if they do and leave a review then great. However, asking family members and friends to leave a random review may leave it seeming hollow to genuine customers. Building a review profile isn’t just about quantity so don’t be tempted to ramp up figures this way.

Being held to ransom: If something goes wrong with a customer order they may be a little disgruntled about it. However, this isn’t reason to be held to ransom for the sake of a review that’s good or bad. As long as you can do everything in your power to rectify what has gone wrong then that is all you can do. If they do go ahead and leave a negative review then respond courteously and explain things from your point of view in a balanced way. Customers reading reviews will soon pick up on patterns so if you only have one bad review it is less likely to make an impact than several, especially if you acknowledge that something has gone wrong.


How to manage fake reviews

Unfortunately fake reviews are all part and parcel of social media and being online. Many sites may automatically remove fake reviews that don’t pass their algorithm checks. There are usually ways that you can report fake reviews too through third party sites.


Encouraging people to use their real name and details is usually good practice, as is to get them to use their own photographs using the product or service.


Those on the receiving end of a bad review should not be downhearted. Responding to the review positively, outlining how you tried to help rectify any problems should give anyone reading the reassurance that you care about customer feedback and getting things right. The more positive reviews you have the more this will outweigh any negativity and give your business a helping hand in the right direction.



How to select influencers

Influencers are opinion leaders that can generate product engagement and sales via social media for brands.


In our social media driven marketplace many companies are choosing to use ‘influencers’ to help sell their brand and their products. This concept harnesses the profile of bloggers and publicly active social media users to help them to promote your products. Advertising in the traditional sense has been found to switch audiences off but using influencers is a way of getting your product noticed in a more subtle way by people that your target market follow and admire.


Influencers have been successful to such an extent, that Amazon has launched its own influencer programme.

Influencers can be focused in various different areas – fashion, entertainment, family life, fitness, food and parenting to name just a few. Each respective blogger could offer something unique to a particular brand and the right choice is often crucial in order to generate the most successful outcome on both sides. Consequently we are seeing a rise in companies engaging with influencers in order to promote their products – fashion brand for example uses former Love Island contestants to be seen to promote their clothing and internationally Topshop and UK fashion retailer Selfridges have been seen to use international influencers to sell products overseas. The biggest increases in the use of influencer marketing have been seen in travel, fashion and parenting.

The result of using influencers over web advertising is that any audience may feel the result is more authentic and that even when they know that the blogger is ‘paid’ the story is more transparent and relevant.


Types of influencers

There are well-known celebrities or those with 1,000,000+ followers who act as influencers as well as micro influencers, those with a smaller, but potentially more dedicated and more engaged following. Typically, a micro influencer has around 5,000 followers. The key is to understand why one influencer stands out more than others.


Types of influencer posts

Influencer posts may be described as a celebrity endorsement in their crudest sense. However, they are so much more in reality – they can be a blog post, a social media post, a video (live or otherwise) and an Instagram or Facebook story. They don’t have to be from a celebrity either – more often than not from a blogger in a particular specialism or someone of social media notoriety.


The post of blog itself may share a product they have used or a wearing or a trip they’ve been on or a meal they’re eating – anything really. ‘Payment’ by way of the product, free tickets, holiday etc is usually made on the proviso they will have nice things to say. The brand or company may already know a particular person uses their product and are simply piggybacking on the fact that they are already bought in.


Being paid – whether in cash or kind – should be noted on the post as a ‘sponsored’ or ‘promo’ post. If not, this breaks Advertising Standards guidelines.



Finding influencers to promote your product

If you’ve agreed your objective and what you want to achieve, the next area is about finding influencers. There are 5 main steps which are discussed here as working with the right people is a key aspect of successful influencer marketing and it is important to look at the bigger picture and not just number of followers or visitor figures.


  1. How relevant they are – finding a blogger that resonates with you and your key messages could lead to a fruitful relationship. Looking over previous posts and blog archives should give you an insight into the type of blogger consumer they are along with the language and style they use.


  1. Is their audience active? – Engagement with an audience is another flag to signpost you to your ideal blogger influencer. If a person has comments and responses to their posts from their audience from new and repeat people then it is a sign that they could be the one. Ensuring content is meaningful and read is an important measure for success. If the audience is less active, they could be a fake influencer! One set up to win your budget but without the capacity to deliver your objectives.


  1. How far is their reach? – Whilst the only consideration it is still an important one in that it will give you an idea of how widespread a person’s message travels. Having said that it is still a case of quality over quantity and a smaller reach from a relevant blogger could play a bigger part than a blogger with a massive following who isn’t as aligned with your products or message.


  1. How authentic are they? – Authenticity is a two way street and whilst you are looking to generate a more authentic message through influencers it is equally as important they that too are authentic in return. Lots of sponsored content or paid posts could symbol that a blogger isn’t as trusted as someone with more genuine content in terms of the products they use in real life.


  1. Frequency of posts – Someone who has posts here and there isn’t likely to have as established or loyal a following as someone who posts daily. Posting regularly and across several platforms could have much more appeal when selecting the right influencer for you.


Attracting influencers to you

Once you have found a blogger you would like to work with, part of the battle may be getting them to notice your product or services. Ways to do this could be:

  • Follow them on social media and comment, link or share their posts.
  • Write your own blog post that includes or is about them.
  • Send them your product or offer them access to your services.
  • Approach them to write content about you or your products.
  • Provide them with a guest post.

What’s your experience with influencers? Do share!



Smaller boutique online shopping sites

Beyond Amazon and eBay there are smaller boutique online shopping sites used by many online shoppers.


For several years eBay and Amazon have dominated in the world of online selling for individuals, small businesses and also larger retailers. We’ve written about the online shopping sites that are bigger than Amazon and the typical major online shops. In this article we look at the smaller boutique sites. Gone are the days that eBay was known for selling second hand wares and Amazon as an online bookstore – both have for some time been a source of new items and an outlet for many recognised brands.


There are other alternatives however which are becoming increasingly popular. Selling on eBay and Amazon isn’t as cheap as it may have once been and so for smaller businesses especially the alternatives could have more appeal.


Alternatives to eBay and Amazon

Smaller boutique online shopping site #1 Etsy

Since 2005 this online selling platform has attracted circa 1.6 million active sellers and 26.1 million active buyers. It is a niche site for craft items, craft supplies and handmade/vintage goods and for many is a go to site for this kind of product. This means that individuals and small boutique businesses can list their wares to an audience that is looking for this type of item as Etsy has forged a name for itself in this area.

On the whole it is a way of direct selling for many crafters and makers of all kinds – even wholesale craft supplies can be found here. Listings last for much longer than on eBay – 4 months and commission is less at a fixed price of 3.5%. eBay has a higher reach as it generates much more traffic but for niche sellers this may not be cause for concern.

Smaller boutique online shopping site #2 Shpock

Described as ‘your favourite car boot sale – just got easier’ this app is a simple to use concept targeting the sale of predominantly second hand goods. Users can access the app to sell their wares via means of a picture and brief description. Purchasers can peruse the site and make offers or make contact to buy at the listed price.

Whilst is free to use which is huge plus it cannot be used to really sell in bulk so only suited to individuals or small set ups. The downside is that arrangements to do the deal need to be made directly – which is a plus for no commission charges but obviously could be risky and ultimately tends to mean sales are then face to face.


Smaller boutique online shopping site #3 Facebook Marketplace

Another free to use option anyone with a Facebook account can also use the app to sell and add listings to selling groups, Facebook Marketplace or both. Whilst it can be used to sell a range of items (second hand or new) it could prove tricky to sell anything of scale and so again like Shpock could be more suited to individuals or small businesses. Items can appear in your newsfeed or you can filter in the Marketplace section of Facebook to view items close by or those that perhaps could be posted to you.


Smaller boutique online shopping site #4 Shopify

Strictly speaking Shopify isn’t a sales site in the ‘traditional’ sense but it is an online marketplace that can host an online shop. Users then have the option to list items on other channels including Amazon and eBay among others. The benefit of this is that sellers can use a single platform to sell across several selling options which could be useful for larger businesses or those hoping to target a wider audience. Customisation of the site along with assistance with managing stock levels and shipping are also available.

The downside is that costs are higher as a result of the extra benefits and extensive customisation may require technical knowledge.

Tips for online selling via smaller boutique online shopping sites

Selling online may not be an overnight success especially in such a crowded marketplace. These are some useful tips that could help you start in the right place:

  • Figure out your strategy – even if you are selling on a small scale it is worthwhile having a plan in place as otherwise it could be a waste of time. Evaluate which site best suits your goals for selling and is cost effective.
  • Use original photos – every picture tells a story and it is important to photograph your wares well so that people know what they are getting. Using original photography is also key as pinching stock shots or someone else’s photos is generally bad form and could impact potential sales.
  • Customer service matters – being responsive to queries, polite and being able to answer questions is a great way to build rapport and help you stand out online.
  • Deliver promptly and affordably – keeping delivery costs and return costs as low as possible could help entice customers. High costs for delivery don’t win business very often particularly as many people are well versed in what things cost. Sites like eBay are likely to punish sellers that try and profit from postage which is not going to create a good impression.

Background to Quora

Quora is a form of social media network sharing questions and answers.

Quora has been around in concept since 2009 and can be described as a question and answer site with an element of social networking. It is growing in popularity and many argue it is one to watch in 2019 as more and more people are using it to connect with others and to share information and knowledge as well as develop their kudos in a particular area.

Users can ask questions, answer questions and edit responses on a vast array of topics. This means that individuals can set themselves up as being particularly knowledgeable in certain areas which can be beneficial when trying to establish a profile as an expert in a specific field.

The site was started by two former Facebook employees Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever and was officially launched in 2010. A blogging platform was launched on Quora in January 2013 and later in the same year they brought out a feature called Stats which enabled users to see statistics in detail over how their questions and answers were being received via views, upvotes, follows and shares.

It is believed that Quora now has around 300 million active users and the company was valued at around $900 million in 2014. Cheever has since taken a back seat whilst D’Angelo is the driving force behind recent successes.

Similar Sites to Quora

In order to remain independent for as long as possible, Quora began raising funds in 2014 and managed to raise $80 million in that year. Advertising is limited on the site and in 2017 the site was valued at cira $1.8 billion.

Arguably there aren’t any sites that offer exactly what Quora does to the same standard. In the early days LinkedIN had a Q&A forum, but htis soon closed. Today, are similar sites to Quora include:

Yahoo Answers – Perhaps the most popular alternative to Quora this site is free to use and register with. Users are given points for answering questions and over time the volume of questions a user can answer goes up. Quality of answers can be an issue as there isn’t a great deal of moderation that occurs. Similarly users argue that Yahoo Answers isn’t as professional as Quora. Answers to questions can be very basic or incorrect and they may seem rushed as often people hurry to generate an answer rather than one that is completely accurate and thought out. – This site falls into two broad sections, General and Social. General questions are intended to provoke thought and enable people to gain knowledge from. Social questions are more opinion based and open – their target is to gain votes and receive opinions back on. The site is free and more highly moderated than either Yahoo or Quora.


Stack Exchange – This site started out as a computer programming question and answer site but has since evolved into a more general network for Q&A. Depending on the topic each question is placed in a sub-website and similar to Quora users can vote on the best responses from a range of replies. Users can enhance their reputation on Stack Exchange by achieving points which opens up new site privileges.

How Would a Business Begin to use Quora?

Quora is known for being populated by business people, influencers and entrepreneurs. The Q&A site is free and questions are stored in one place with different answers. One of the best places to start is to focus on writing new things about a particular subject. Finding topics about which individuals have particular knowledge and answering questions about it with new information helps to develop a Quora profile.

Honing a niche on Quora is a matter of establishing as an expert in a field. By answering questions and following thought leaders in a specific area and in turn liking or commenting on their questions and answers will enhance a profile.

Using real details and including a business name are all important ways to raise visibility. By becoming a regular user of Quora a person’s communication skills can also develop through writing concise and accurate answers and responding to feedback from the wider Quora community.

What are the Pros and Cons to Businesses of Quora?

The benefits of using Quora can be:

  • To crowdsource ideas – whether it is new product development, a blog idea or a survey Quora can be used to gauge opinion or test the market.
  • Learn – there is a vast array of business professionals, celebrities, social media experts and more on Quora. It is an opportunity to learn from others and reduce the barrier between people that may be otherwise inaccessible to communication.
  • To conduct research – see what others are saying and better understand specific areas

The negatives of Quora may be considered as:

  • Some people believe Quora to have too many questions without answers. Specifically some questions can be posed of a more trivial nature and remain unanswered which can cause frustration.
  • Balance of opinions can be an issue. For some questions it may seem that there is a preference towards a particular kind of answer.

Factors in the return on customer experience


A recent survey from PWC has identified six key factors for improving the concept of return on experience.


These are all areas that have been considered before, their research brings this all together in a cohesive format.



Factor # 1 – Connect customer and employee experience

It’s no major surprise that workplaces with happy staff generate happy customers. It’s more than a smiling face when entering a building, it’s commitment to the organisation and its customers.

Larger companies can often succeed in this area, providing additional perks from an in-house gym to fresh fruit, but smaller companies can often provide softer benefits, from a day off on your birthday to a culture that cares about staff at all levels.


Factor # 2 – Convey shared values

Millennials are often quoted as being more value based. They have specific brands they trust and don’t trust – to a certain extent that’s always been the case, regardless of generation. The difference in a digital world is that the values are transparent. There’s no need to send off for an annual report, it’s available for immediate download, along with recordings of the most recent shareholder meetings.

Shared values are the core of an organisation’s DNA, what really matters to them and how they address these issues.


Factor # 3 – Find magic moments

Once heralded as the moment of truth, these magic moments – or as Google has termed them, micro moments, are the small steps along the customer journey that have a positive impact.


Factor # 4 – Understand customers

I have to note that in a report that considers customers, it is interesting this was lower down the list! Without understanding customers’ real needs – a fundamental building block in marketing, there is no business strategy. We’ve seen several organisations make errors, where they missed changing customer needs and ended up closing the business. From HMV failing to see the growth of Spotify and Apple Music to the current seismic shift in the high street where high street stores offer a process, yet customers want an experience.


Factor # 5 – Respect the data

Gathering too much data helps neither consumers nor companies. It’s about collecting the information that’s useful to both parties and ensuring it’s protected rather than misused as we saw with Cambridge Analytica. Is a date of birth absolutely essential? Does it make a fundamental difference to an organisation If not, why is it collected? It’s possibly time to understand what is business critical in terms of data and ensure only what’s really needed is collected.


Factor # 6 – Simplify user journeys

How easy or difficult a company to trade with has always been an issue. In an online setting the customer journey is simplifying the process, ensuring the minimum number of steps are taken to complete an action, yet several companies through hurdles – such as requesting too much data – when it’s not needed at that stage.

Whatever type of business you’re working in, the key is a seamless journey. Making it easier – and pleasant – for the customer, at each stage.


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