Retail

How to follow Kmart’s lead and build a troop of your own social media influencers

Emma Koehn /

It’s no secret Kmart fans are competitive bargain hunters, but branding experts say small businesses should take note of the discount department store’s strategy for rallying its Instagram base and transforming enthusiasm into organic advertising content.

News.com.au reports the retailer is powering goodwill towards its newest products by inviting a select group of 20 social media savvy Kmart fans to special preview events several times a year, giving the store’s most passionate shopper base access to new products and hopefully inspiring their Instagram posts.

“[The events] are usually held at a house which they have styled exclusively with Kmart products so you can walk from room to room and imagine the pieces within your own home,” said Helen James, whose Instagram account @i_heart_kmart has 112,000 followers.

“You also get the chance to chat with the design team and buyers. They are always eager to see how we like the products and if we have any suggestions,” she told news.com.au.

In a statement to SmartCompany this morning, a Kmart spokesperson confirmed these events happen several times a year, and “we have a lot of fun together as we share the same love of the product”.

The “Kmart Instagrammers” are invited to take photos at the events, however, Kmart told news.com.au that it does not pay for sponsored content on the social platform, although some users are sent free products.

Kmart has secured a lead in the discount department store wars because of its product mix, store layout, focus on simplicity and low-cost homewares, according to retail experts.

However, it’s the significant reach of its online fan community which has sparked fervor for the brand’s offering. Instagram accounts like @kmartlovers, which has 142,000 followers, focus on finding individual bargains in stores across the country and sharing these with other bargain hunters.

NEW! Wooden family set! Found in the Baby section! #kmartaus #kmart

A post shared by Kmart Lovers Australia (@kmartlovers) on


Director of Good Things Marketing Helen Ahrens says Kmart’s approach of giving its biggest fans a glimpse of what’s on offer is not a new idea, but executed well, any business can benefit from taking customers behind the scenes.

“It allows mega fans to then go and be influencers in their own communities,” she says. 

Industrial stools now come in white! $25 Found at Browns Plains @grandplazaqld #kmartaus #kmart

A post shared by Kmart Lovers Australia (@kmartlovers) on

However, pulling off this kind of digital marketing isn’t always an easy proposition. Here are three ideas for giving clients VIP treatment to ensure they share the love.

1. Find the big hitters

There’s several ways to drill down and identify your most influential users, says Ahrens, but the first stop is identifying those individuals who might deliver the biggest bang for buck.

This can include key clients and important people in your suburb or area more generally, as well as the top social media accounts in your industry.

The trick here is to think beyond your own offering and not to be afraid to look at the competition for inspiration.

“Look at rival business’s hashtags with a similar offering. Ask others in your industry, ‘who do you listen to for insights’ and go to them,” she advises. 

Director of CP Communications Catriona Pollard says for SMEs, the most difficult part of finding a loyal client base is determining which people will create an authentic tone when they share their experiences later.

When it comes to the genuineness of sharing, and the authenticity of it, that is worth 1000 likes,” she says. 

2. Beware those who say they have influence

There’s no shortage of social media users positioning themselves as influencers, says Pollard, so small businesses should try to steer clear of anyone who claims to have a big following or reach if it’s not obvious they actually use your products.

“Looking for influencers is a minefield,” she says.

“You have to do a lot of research on whether an influencer is really an influencer at all. I think it’s a lot more effective if you can find people that have demonstrated that they are a key part of your target audience. Maybe they already share things or use a hashtag without payment.” 

The process of choosing an elite group of fans is also about understanding that they might not like everything you put in front of them, says Ahrens.

Risk is something that exists in business everyday, but as long as we take calculated risks, the payoff is worth it,” she says.  

Even if one member of an influencer crew doesn’t like a new idea or product and voices that, you’ve already got the space to respond to them in a straightforward way.

“Just say, ‘thanks for your feedback – we’re going to work on this’,” says Ahrens.

3. Prioritise in-person over online

Ahrens says in her recent work with clients on launches and special events, the aim has been to create an “exclusive launch” feel that demonstrates not just individual products on offer, but the overall brand of the business.

Pollard says the experiential element of any product launch or preview is as important as the payoff you get from Instagram posts.

“It’s as much about the experience as anything else. And remember, even if someone doesn’t have 10,000 followers, they still have a sphere of influence,” she says.

And while having a social strategy is important, SMEs should continue to stay focused on connecting in-person and directly with the groups of people most likely to speak to their networks about your brand.

“If someone’s emailed you to say, ‘I really like your products’, then start developing relationships with those people,” Pollard says.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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