Meet Glenda C. (Not her real name, apologies if that is your real name)
Glenda is a theatre junkie. Through guile, passion and relentless Google-ing for special offers, she manages to see just about everything on and off Broadway. In addition, she is also very active on Facebook, where she shares all of her theatrical adventures.
The result is that, among her friends, she is THE SOURCE for information on theatre in NYC. With ticket prices being what they are, friends visit her Facebook page for her take on what’s hot, what to see and what not to bother with. You should only be so lucky as to have her in your audience.
Glenda has stumbled onto a new role—that of an “Influencer”, someone who has a specific area of expertise and a significant social media presence, with followers who look to them for advise or recommendations on what products, services, and in this case theatre tickets, to buy.
This is all part of a growing trend—increasingly, people are turning to their social media community and favorite bloggers for reviews—seeing that information as more trustworthy than what they might find in a company’s advertising, press releases or search results from Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
When a brand connects with an Influencer or blogger, they get access to a ready-made audience, that comes with a ready-made endorsement. If that audience also contains a few other Influencers, that message can spread in no time. I personally used this strategy for a retail client. We reached out to local bloggers via twitter and they quickly became our biggest fans, driving traffic and sales to the website and the brick and mortar store.
A few tips on how to identify and nurture you’re own flock of Influencers.
Finding your Influencers
• Start by searching through your own Social Media communities, primarily the big three—Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Look for who is most active, who has a large following, who is already posting/sharing content about your business or industry. Reach out to them directly, ask them to review new products or services. See if any of them also blog.
• Refer to sites that measure and rank social activity such as Klout, PeerIndex and Kred to identify leaders. Especially look for people with relevant subject matter expertise. (Click Here for additional resources.)
Once you have found them…
Keeping it Real
Authenticity is the currency of digital marketing. Influencers have the street creed they do because they have built a reputation of being authentic and transparent. Respect them and don’t treat them like second class salesman or PR Hacks. Feed them compelling and engaging content, be mindful of their time and treat them like the professionals they are.
In addition, play nice. Don’t just reach out to them when you need something. Message, tweet, send them content not related to your business (videos, articles, links) that they’ll find interesting, comment on and share their content.
Influencer marketing is a lot like networking. You’ll get a lot more out of the experience if you introduce your Influencers to one another and to other members of your network. Synergy is like karma, what goes around comes around, and any growth in your network will create additional opportunities for you down the road. Make them feel appreciated and they’ll be more likely to be your advocates.
Work with the Experts
Getting some one to rave about your product or service doesn’t mean much if they don’t have a credible reputation as being knowledgeable about your field. Try and get several bloggers and influences to promote you at the same time to get a “viral critical mass” going.
Another option is to work with a celebrity who is relevant to your business—on the plus side, they usually bring a larger following with them, conversely, they will probably cost you more. You can leverage the cost by using them for more than just their online activity—for example, have them show up at an event or use them in a promotional video
In the 1950’s Dale Carnegie famously wrote How to Make Friends an Influence People, a book on what we would now call networking. It provided a method for navigating your way through business and ultimately life. Technology may have advanced, but the concept remains the same — business is about relationships, the best marketing campaign is word of mouth spread by trusted, friendly voices.