Co-Authors: John Andrews and Ted Rubin

AMA recently published an article that I reposted yesterday, The Retweet that Never Sleeps, about Duane Reade’s highly successful content marketing approach that has helped the tiny (in terms of store count) retailer outperform much larger competitors in terms of social media engagement (National Drug chain CVS has just 10% of the Twitter audience of Duane Reade for Example). The Tri-State area only retailer (256 Stores) which is a subsidiary of Walgreens uses a content marketing platform that is powered by a group of influencers known at the Duane Reade VIP Bloggers.  This unique model leverages the local knowledge of brand advocates along with their individual audiences to deliver highly relevant organic content across a wide spectrum of social media channels. Twitter studied the approach and created a great case study about it.

As all social media marketers now know, great content combined with active community management, not fan counts, drive great social media marketing results. The question becomes; how to get enough quality organic content to targeted consumers across social channels. For Duane Reade, the answer was found in using advocate influencers managed by dedicated community managers to bring the Duane Reade experience to life through content marketing. Before founding Collective Bias, where we developed this program for Duane Reade, John Andrews and I both had experience working with influencers with my work at e.l.f Cosmetics and John’s experience with the Walmart Elevenmoms. Calvin Peters‘ PR experience rounded out the program as influencers became the center of PR events, in-store promotional activities and a key source of social media content generation.

Prior to the Duane Reade VIPs, Calvin had relied mostly on traditional PR tactics to drive awareness of Duane Reade’s many events such as new store openings and celebrity events. Calvin flipped the traditional new store opening model by leveraging the VIPs to cover the opening of the 40 Wall Street Duane Reade location. This approach more than tripled the overall reach of a typical event. Additionally, the content generated by the influencers at the event naturally syndicated across their channels, created a relevant reach not duplicated by press releases and news segments. This content was snackable and shareable in a way that was already baked into the platform where the content was published. What’s more, Duane Reade suppliers could now easily tap into this highly relevant way to reach its shoppers through social.

The genesis of this approach came from the combination of our unique perspectives as marketers. A combination of PR/Social Media (Calvin), Social Media and Brand (Me) and Brand/Retail and Influencer marketing (John). The result was a cross discipline effort that created a completely new form of media known as Social Shopper Marketing that uses an omni-channel, parallel persuasion approach to social. I had recently built a highly successful social platform for e.l.f cosmetics that propelled it to a nationally recognized brand status using social media alone. John had created one of the first influencer platform models for Walmart and Calvin was leveraging his knowledge as a music industry PR pro to help a reinvented Duane Reade create brand experiences across New York City.

The missing piece was the content builders themselves and we all knew from our combined experiences that advocate influencers created highly engaging organic content that could help drive engagement for Duane Reade. What’s more, local influencers had curated loyal reader bases that were the exact targets Duane Reade hoped to meet with its social media programming. Instead of simply selecting a group of influencers to work with, we asked “them” to select Duane Reade. This enabled influencers to choose to work with the retailer because they thought it would appeal to their audience. This was a unique approach pioneered at Collective Bias, and one we continue to champion and perfect. We also asked them to help us build the platform rather than create it all own our own. Simply put, the VIP’s content and audience became the center of our engagement versus content we created and pushed out.

As the AMA article points out, this approach creates ongoing engagement because the content lives on affecting ongoing SEO across channels. This creates a forest of trees that can be continually harvested versus banner or Facebook ads that no matter how targeted, tend to be largely ignored and have no ongoing impact on digital brand experience. This model continues to evolve today with a new groups of influencers creating specialty content on Snapchat, Vine and Instagram. Just like blog influencers, they are doing the heavy lifting of building an audience. Many new tools from companies like Expressible, Expion, and Mutual Mind are also growing to manage this diverse content stream so that Community Managers can scale their efforts in a measured way.

Kudos to Calvin Peters for helping to create the future of retail marketing, I can’t wait to see what’s next!​

Calvin Peters thanks “Social Media Pioneers” Ted Rubin and John Andrews. #RonR
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@DuaneReade Today 8.6.14

John Andrews   //   Chief Marketing Officer Ignite Social Media    //  Research Triangle, NC  //  @Katadhin

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