10 Influencer Do’s and Don’ts With Amex Social Media VP

Mona Hamouly, VP of Social Media Comms at Amex, talks influencer campaigns.

The world of influencer relations–like the world of social media–never stops changing. There’s always a new tool, a new network and thousands of people who want to promote your clients…as long as there’s something in it for them.

Keeping up with all the latest trends is a full-time job, so we spoke to Mona Hamouly, VP of Social Media Communications at American Express, to learn more about the company’s recent #MyAmex campaign and her tips on influencer relations.

On general strategy, Hamouly says, “we like to use influencers to showcase the way card members use our products in their everyday lives…they are often telling our brand story in more interesting ways than we are.”

mona hamoulyWhen it comes to choosing those influencers, she tells us that “a lot of that starts with listening…to the conversation around our brand with several tools measuring volume, sentiment and what people are talking about most.”

For example, a few months ago the company launched #MyAmex, in which six such influencers took control of the company’s Instagram account (images throughout this post). Hamouly says that the campaign focused on “showing how they are interacting with the card: buying morning coffee, using miles for business trips, etc.”

On finding the right influencers

“Obviously we want to use actual card members…natural advocates for the brand. We might start by doing searches, seeing who is talking about us and measuring their influence. That’s the pool we start with.

We then select relevant people based on the nature of the campaign. If it’s about fitness or music, for example, we will look for people in those verticals.”Amex 3DO’S:

  1. Look for variety: “We want a nice cross-section of people and card members by gender, race, geography, etc. so everyone can relate to a piece of the campaign, if not all of it.”
  2. Don’t stay local: “Being based in New York, it’s easy to get trapped and use only local folks. But we try to look across the U.S., and we’re talking about leveraging influencers across the globe for future campaigns.”
  3. Be clear about expectations: “Be clear at the onset via letters of agreement, etc. so there’s no confusion when you get further down the road.”
  4. Go for both real and interesting: “The key piece is to find people who have true affinity for the brand so you’re not scripting people.”
  5. Look beyond the number of followers: “We have worked with people who have fewer followers but have a ‘cult following’ or a smaller, more engaged audience. We’re OK with 10,000 vs. 100,000 when we’re trying to reach a nice audience. If we’re focusing on geography, of course we want to find people with a stronger following in the relevant regions.”

Amex 1DON’TS:

  1. Don’t set up potential conflicts: “We don’t work with people who have had [past or present] relationships with competitors.”
  2. Don’t go with polarizing/controversial people: They may get attention, but not all of it will be positive.
  3. Don’t work with those unfamiliar with the brand: “There’s nothing worse than an influencer who can’t speak credibly to your brand, especially if the media wants an interview.”
  4. Don’t ignore your backup plan: “In the letters of agreement, we have morality clauses, etc. so we can sever the relationship should something go awry.”
  5. Don’t rule anyone out: “We’re always looking for collaborators wherever it makes sense and lets us talk about our benefits in new, exciting ways. We’re pretty open to partnerships [with celebrities and influencers], and we’ve gotten a lot of value out of them even outside of social.”

Amex 2We also asked Hamouly how she keeps up with developments in the social media influencer space:

“On new networks, we ask, ‘are our card members there? Are our prospects there?’

We go through that every time a new platform opens up, but we focus for the most part on Instagram.

I see the influencer space continuing to grow. We had talks with Twitter about organizing ‘niche’ influencers, and [the company] helps you select the top Twitter influencers across verticals. Back in the day you have to just get on Instagram and search by places/users, but now [the top social networks] obviously know who their users are.”

In terms of basic information, it’s Twitter all the way:

“I consume a lot of news on Twitter from media outlets, blogs, influencers and social media experts. I also love The Skim; those are my top two.

Twitter has become such an easy way to see something, click into it and save it for later. That’s how I find the lion’s share of my news.”