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A Conversation with Sony on Ambassador Programs

Mackenzie Newcomb
November 10, 2020

For influencers who are passionate about photography, working with a company like Sony is the epitome of a dream partnership. We had the opportunity to chat with Morgan Crumpley, Senior Marketing Communications Specialist, Sony Electronics about their influencer program for Sony cameras known as the Alpha Collective. Morgan helps oversee all marketing communications for the Digital Imaging Solutions division including content, branding, and influencer relationships.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role?

A: I work at Sony Electronics in the North American region, and internally we think of my role as a mix between branding and evangelism for our Imaging department. For some additional perspective, the Imaging department is inclusive of all of our consumer cameras, cinema line-up, and even mobile phones. Really what that means is that I am the point of contact for a lot of our key relationships inclusive of some of our brand ambassadors and PR relationships who are interested in those Imaging products. 

I also help oversee and manage the social channels for our department and collaborate with other team members to manage our community. Specifically, I’m the point of contact for most influencers and brand ambassadors. Bringing these two areas together, social and influencers, has proven to be very successful for our team because a lot of our marketing within Sony Electronics is driven by this idea of community marketing.

Q: I feel like being a camera company and working with influencers is probably the dream partnership for a lot of these influencers. Does Sony Alpha Collective primarily partner with professional photographers?

A: It's interesting because when I started at Sony, it was the beginning stages of Instagram and my first mission was to help launch our channel on that platform. That was when social media was starting to become “a thing.”

In the beginning, our idea of influencers was very much still photographers, however, over the past few years our definition of influencer has evolved to encompass a wide range of personas from all sorts of different backgrounds and interest areas. 

While those photographers and videographers are so incredibly important to us, we’re now connecting with people who haven’t necessarily devoted their lives to photography, but who need tools to help them create awesome content that lives on Youtube, TikTok, Twitch, Instagram or wherever else they share content. 

Q: How has the program evolved over time?

A: As Instagram rose to prominence, community marketing became very important for our brand and likely all of the brands within our industry. It makes perfect sense. We are a camera company. Instagram is a social media platform where you post pictures. 

At that point, we decided to start a new influencer program called the Alpha Imaging Collective. It was a clear trend that consumers and our audience took brands much more seriously when they had an army of influential heroes vetting for brands they were considering.

The timing also worked out perfectly as we were also innovating to help advance the market. With the birth of Instagram, and our technology advancing, we were able to develop this community that helped us become more relevant on social media. We're known for supporting our community, at least that's what I hope, and that's our goal because that's what truly matters to us.

Honestly, almost everybody has good products on the market these days. In 2020, technology is absolutely insane. Whether it's us or our competitors, the technology is good. With that, you can’t compete with product only- it’s important to take it a step further to really connect, understand, and relate with your community.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about the Alpha Community. How long has it been around? And do you have to apply to get in? How does the program work?

A: The program has been around for about four years. We do have an application process where you can apply on our editorial site, which is alphauniverse.com. But our application process isn’t the only way that you can get in.

Our goal when finding Alpha Collective members, is to identify people who are already advocating for our brand. We want to build this strong, core group of people who are passionate about Sony products. When we have a new product coming up, those are the people who are going to be so excited about it and help bring awareness. If we have an event coming up, they're going to be the first ones signing up for it. It's not about who might have the biggest following.

We want people who already engage in our community; who are so passionate and going above and beyond and wanting to learn and wanting to teach and just wanting to get involved. Our goal is to identify those people, pull them in a little tighter, and have them become part of our Alpha Collective family. 

We aim to help them in any way that we can with the perks that come with being an ambassador. Everyone benefits, and that is ultimately our goal.

For example, it’s not necessarily a goal within Sony is to get our ambassadors to a certain quantity of followers. However, I do understand that a lot of our ambassadors have personal goals where they would like to grow their following. So my goal is to always figure out how we can help them grow. So if we're seeing them grow in the social world, I know that they're hitting some of their personal or professional goals that they might have, so definitely a success there.

Q: How do you identify potential influencers? 

A: A lot of our discovery happens through word of mouth or the application process. Our primary use of Traackr happens right after. Once we identify a potential photographer, videographer, creator who we think could be a good addition, we use Traackr for influencer vetting. For example, we review the validity of their social following or what their online presence looks like. 

Q: Are you tracking the activity of this group? What are you looking at on a regular basis?

A: One of the major things that we use Traackr for is to monitor the impact of Sony related posts from our ambassadors, other key partners and organic advocates. For example, if we just had a product release, who is sharing their excitement? I look for things like a drop-off or a jump in talking about our brand month-after-month. If this is the case, I can then go and try and identify the cause of the change. It’s always important to figure out who is talking about us and who is engaging with content about our products. 

Q: What sort of advice would you have for someone in a different industry who's setting out to build an ambassador or a community marketing program? 

A: If I were to give somebody advice, there's really two key things that come to mind right now. I don't want to overuse the word genuine or authentic, but I strongly recommend looking into people who are already excited about your brands. 

This sounds like something that might be a no-brainer for some, but some might be confused by it. I'd rather have somebody with 20,000 followers who is super passionate about the brand, as opposed to having somebody who has 200,000 followers and is only interested in becoming an ambassador because they want a camera brand sponsorship. The value, for me, is all about the passion, the willingness, and the excitement for the brand. To be authentically advocated for online is far more valuable than paying somebody to say they love the brand, even if they have 10x as many followers. 

Secondly, when we talk about the Alpha Collective program, the goal of this program is to help these photographers and videographers grow. So, with that, you have to come to the realization that some of them might grow out of the program. And that's okay. There needs to be an understanding that it's okay sometimes to part with ambassadors. Maybe their vision changes. Maybe their goal changed. Maybe their careers change. Maybe they just aren't into it anymore.

Or maybe they're feeling like they might've grown out of the program a little bit. If that’s the case, I'm proud and happy for them, and excited for them to do even bigger things that might be a better fit for them. That leaves a spot for somebody else who we can take in and help grow. Moving on from a partnership or changing paths is not always bad thing!

Q: How many influencers do you have in the Alpha Collective group?

A: Right now, we have about 88. That's sort of our sweet spot, and that's where we've been for about two years-- just under 100. That doesn't mean we won't grow. We're just sort of taking it one day at a time.

Q: Who are some influencers who have been great partners for you?

A: Erin Sullivan is one of our photographers and she’s been an Alpha Collective Member for a few years. She’s one of the most inspiring women I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. It’s really amazing to consider her part of the Alpha family. Her handle is @ErinOutdoors, and she started a movement to recreate indoor photography in the world of COVID and 2020. She also has an incredible TED Talk. She is definitely someone who continues to inspire me. 

Jose Silva is a very talented concert and street photographer that is one of the original members of the Alpha Collective. There's also Joshua Kissi, who is amazing. He's a photographer and director that dedicates a lot of what he does to the Black creator community. He kind of does it all, and he's doing some amazing stuff. Those are just a small number of the many amazing creators we work with. 

Enjoy this content and want to learn more about running an ambassador program? Checkout our episode of The Fast Traack with Bailey DuMont of Ancient Nutrition, or read the blog post we wrote on the topic.  

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