Identifying Your Influencers
Think about all of the time and money you have spent on marketing your company. Now ask yourself: how much of that have you spent identifying influencers?
Since the advent of social media, I have found mainstream marketing to be less and less relevant. TV, print and radio ads still have their place, and can be useful for informing people about sales and new products, but in terms of influencing decisions, social is the place to be.
When you go to a restaurant, you don’t go to the one that has the best ads; you go to the one your friends tell you is good or the one that has the best Yelp reviews. You probably check Trip Advisor reviews before booking a hotel. Why would you think your customers act any differently than you do?
In a recent post, I noted that the new changes to Facebook are going to force marketers to engage influencers. now that Facebook is eliminating brand page messages from users’ timelines, marketers are going to have to get creative to get their message out. Brands need to engage and rely on authentic fans to get the word out.
Identify Brand Advocates
The best way to identify your influencers is by examining your social media. Who is responding to your posts and retweeting you? Who posts on your page and submits UGC?
You may notice some trends, such as “1% of my fans create 5% of my Facebook user content.” By identifying who these brand advocates and influencers are, you can start to pay attention to a smaller group of fans and see what their behaviors are.
Say you have identified a brand influencer named Julie, and you notice the following trends:
1. Julie’s engagement drops significantly.
2. She stayed positive in her interactions with the brand.
3. She stops talking with you as frequently as she had in the past.
4. What do you do?
Focus less on how many fans, followers or likes you can get. Focus on how many of those fans are interacting with your content, get to know them, and focus on keeping them in touch with your brand.
Nike does this with their Nike+ app, which lets users post photos from their run and to interact with a community. Nike identified a few of their heavy users and sharers – influencers – and featured them on social media. The company also, without announcement, mailed new pairs of shoes to some of these influencers. This is a great example of identifying your influencers, celebrating them, rewarding them, and keeping them involved in your brand.
Identifying Influencers Internally
We often think about the influencers we can find on Facebook or Twitter; people who follow our brand religiously. But what about identifying influencers inside our companies? In his 2012 book Return On Influence, author Mark W. Schaeffer cites an example of an interior influencer in Robert Scoble.
Scoble was a Microsoft employee who produced and starred in company videos about company employees and products. In many of these videos, Scoble went so far as to criticize his employer, making the company seem more approachable and human. Scoble’s honesty, intelligence and easygoing nature turned him into an internet celebrity, one who can boost a website’s profile with one tweet to his followers.
Every company has potential internal influencers. It is up to you to find them and encourage them. As I noted in my post Encouraging Employees to Become Brand Advocates, too many brands stifle employee’s efforts to personally brand. This is not typically done intentionally, but is the result of a business environment that discourages personal innovation.
No matter what industry you are in, you want employees who are passionate about it. People with a passion for something talk about it, think about it and write about it. People who are not just showing up for a paycheck. Encourage those employees to start their own blogs and participate in social media. Don’t be stopped by the fear that they may say something that your company doesn’t like, and don’t try to steer their messages.
Gots ta Keep It Real!
The thing that made Robert Scoble successful was his authenticity; his willingness to criticize Microsoft, his employer, when he saw fit. Some brands, however, are still trying to buck the system, using influencers of questionable authenticity.
One which sounds particularly questionable to me is content from McDonald’s Moms Quality Correspondents. This content reads like it was written by the company’s PR department. I question whether these moms are real people, because I’ve never heard anyone talk like this.
I groaned to myself when I read one “mom’s” assertion that “the family dining concept where the time spent eating with the family is deemed to be an important part of the experience. The PlayPlace and the toy are all designed to help to enrich that experience.” I’ve had a lot of family dinner experiences, and none of them were enhanced by me playing with a plastic Batman toy.
McDonald’s is attempting to apply old advertising tricks to content marketing. They think, “If we say we are great, they will believe it.”
Action Items for Identifying Influencers
1. Examine a handful of your most popular social media posts each month. Look for the trends. Who is interacting with your brand most often? How often are they interacting? What percentage of the interactions are positive and/or negative?
2. Research some of those heavy external influencers. What posts do they interact with? How often do they interact with your brand.
3. Think about some ways you can feature some of these influencers and keep them involved with your brand.
4. Try to identify an internal influencer in your company. Encourage them to start blogging and becoming more active in social media.