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You Can Be the Next Sensation – How to Use Social Media to Drive Growth You can revolutionize your marketing strategy by creating brand-aligned partnerships with influencers, crafting narratives that interweave digital and physical experiences and harnessing AI's trend-predicting powers. By channeling these strategies, you can become the next big sensation.

By Francesco Fazio Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Influencers possess immense power to shape consumer perceptions.
  • The recipe for substantial success lies in orchestrating a symphony between digital engagements and physical realities.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

'Prime Energy Drink' — it's everywhere! Their striking cans are impossible to miss in supermarkets and convenience stores. What fueled their surge? The secret ingredient is the influencer duo Logan Paul and KSI.

Despite looming concern (its caffeine has triggered calls for the FDA to investigate), Prime Energy has quickly created a space for itself in a crowded and competitive market. This curious case begs the question: If influencers can spearhead a product's success, how does this revelation apply to your brand? How can you get the most bang for your buck when leveraging social media? My teammate, Ronan O'Callaghan, and I did the research, so you don't have to.

This article explores this subject by examining a series of case studies about influencers, the power of blending the digital and physical worlds and AI. By the end, you'll have a strong understanding of how to leverage these powerful tools for all they are worth.

Part 1: Using influencers the right way

Influencers possess immense power to shape consumer perceptions. The previously mentioned meteoric rise of Prime Energy is only one example. Mr. Beast, the world's most popular YouTube personality, has transformed his name into several successful consumer brands, including a chain for ghost kitchens, chocolates and athletic clothing.

It might seem like influencers have a Midas touch: an uncanny ability to turn ventures into success stories. However, these successes only materialized after years of painstaking brand cultivation. That means your next big marketing success won't just come from getting your product into an influencer's hands and hoping some of their magic will rub off on you. You need to select influencers whose brand values resonate with yours and engage innovatively.

Häagen-Dazs offers an instructive case study. Häagen-Dazs wanted to remind New Yorkers that ice cream is integral to summer. They partnered with millennial influencers living in New York to promote their product throughout the city. The campaign generated 14.3 million impressions, 4 million more than their goal. If they had tried to reach that number of people through conventional means, it would have cost them 3x as much. The lesson: working with influencers whom your target customer can relate to can create a real connection. In a deeply digital and distressingly disconnected world, this is especially important to remember.

You can reach a broader audience by working with a diverse range of influencers. When the HISTORY channel started a TikTok account in 2021, they wanted to reach beyond their typical audience. They contacted Paralympians, cooks and hurricane chasers on TikTok to promote their wide range of educational programs — the result: 21 million views and exposure to a new audience.

To harness the true power of influencers, businesses should aim for a more profound alignment than a mere product endorsement. This collaboration should reflect shared values, a unified vision and genuine resonance with the target audience. This deep-rooted connection has the potential to foster not just temporary engagement but long-term brand loyalty.

Related: 5 Ways to Stop Wasting Money on Influencer Marketing

Part 2: Blending digital and physical worlds

Many brands focus heavily on the digital realm when considering social media. However, the recipe for substantial success lies in orchestrating a symphony between digital engagements and physical realities. Especially for brands with brick-and-mortar stores, this harmony can engage the younger generation of consumers who seamlessly navigate between the online and offline worlds.

McDonald's 'Grimace Shake' campaign is an excellent example of this philosophy. This initiative didn't just create a buzz; it crafted an engaging narrative that allowed consumers to participate actively. Consumers posted themselves getting the shake; some even made animated parodies, giving the shake to fictional characters from media franchises.

The genius of the Grimace Shake is that it understood that engaging with social media is not simply a matter of advertising. People don't want to stare at ads; they want to be a part of the action. This trend created a global cultural moment anyone could engage with: the gold standard of social media engagement.

Another brand that has effectively harnessed this strategy is Duolingo, which leveraged its mascot for user engagement and kept a keen eye on evolving trends like TikTok's rise. By focusing on this larger trend and creating content that matches young consumers' irreverent and self-deprecating sense of humor, Duolingo earned 6.3 million TikTok followers, making it one of the most followed accounts on the website. Duolingo has been so successful that they are now starting to forgo TV advertisements.

McDonald's and Duolingo also share a marketing strength: their recognizable mascots. Their simple and iconic designs make it easy for young people to create memes featuring them. Again, hooks like these allow customers to engage. These monocolored, simple mascots can easily be inserted into images, making them 'memeable,' a valuable asset for engaging with GenZ consumers.

However, this approach requires a shift from traditional advertising mindsets. It's about embracing social media not merely as a billboard but as a platform for storytelling. The best stories aren't just read or heard—they're experienced. Brands need to create immersive experiences that allow consumers to be a part of the narrative, leading to stronger connections and loyalty.

Related: How to Make Social Media Marketing Effective for Your Brand

Part 3: Seeing through the noise with AI

So, how can your brand forge such victories? The answer lies in understanding these insights and tailoring them to your unique brand proposition. Staying ahead of trends — both ephemeral fads and lasting shifts — is key to gaining a competitive edge.

AI-powered sensing is an invaluable tool for identifying these trends and recognizing which ones will strike a chord with your consumers. For example, BeReal is a fast-growing social media platform with 20 million daily users. Yet, no companies have been able to capitalize on this space for marketing. Despite this, one of our AI sensing partners identified it as a growing space where companies could succeed by promoting their brands.

To make the most of these trends, brands must be agile, constantly adapting their strategies based on these insights. It's not enough to just know what's "in" today. Businesses should be proactive, anticipating what's coming next and positioning themselves at the forefront of these trends. This approach boosts brand visibility and positions the brand as an innovator in consumers' eyes.

The realm of social media presents an unparalleled opportunity to engage consumers in ways traditional advertising could never dream of. You can revolutionize your marketing strategy by creating brand-aligned partnerships with influencers, crafting narratives that interweave digital and physical experiences and harnessing AI's trend-predicting powers. By channeling these strategies, you can become the next big sensation.

The question is – are you ready?

Francesco Fazio

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Head of innovation

Francesco Fazio is a Chicago-based Partner for Treacy & Company by Cherry Bekaert and head of its innovation practice. For 20-plus years, he's helped clients launch new ventures with discipline in business, service and experience design.


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