An alternative to “spray and pray” or spamming!
The attempts of marketers to reach large numbers of people in the hope that some of their messages will hit home has led to an increasingly tend for all of us to ignore adverts and other marketing messages. The only ones that get attention are those that amuse us or really stand out in terms of creativity and by their very nature, these are rare and not necessarily for things that we are likely to buy.
Trying to reach everyone in your target market and hoping to hit some of them is a time consuming, money eating, ineffective way of doing things. The alternative is to identify and follow the influencers within your market place and to get their attention in the hope that they will become your advocates.
Influence marketing is a form of marketing that has emerged from a variety of recent practices and studies, in which focus is placed on specific key individuals rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.
Influence Marketing comprises four main activities:
- Identifying influencers, and ranking them in order of importance.
- Marketing to influencers, to increase awareness within the influencer community
- Marketing through influencers, using influencers to increase market awareness amongst target markets
- Marketing with influencers, turning influencers into advocates.
Targeting influencers can be seen simply as a means of amplifying marketing messages but the most useful influencer is someone who has the power to influence a purchase, not simply the power to amplify a generic message to a loosely identified group of people.
Influencers fall into five loose categories:
- Activists: influencers get involved with their communities, political movements, charities and so on.
- Connected: influencers have large social networks
- Impact: influencers are looked up to and are trusted by others
- Active minds: influencers have multiple and diverse interests
- Trendsetters: influencers tend to be early adopters (or leavers) in markets
They can also be identified by:
- Market Reach – the number of people an individual has the ability to connect with.
- Independence – whether an influencer has a vested interest in promoting a particular point of view.
- Frequency of Impact – the number of opportunities an individual has to influence buying decisions.
- Expertise – how much of a subject matter expert is the influencer.
- Persuasiveness - the degree of consequence in ignoring an influencer’s advice.
- Thoroughness of role - the extent to which influence is exerted across the decision lifecycle.
Using online social media tools to identify influencers
There are several social media tools that claim to identify influencers but most are limited and some are deeply flawed. Klout, Kred and PeerIndex are the most well known and are used by some large B2C brands like airlines and hotel chains resulting in upgrades for those seen as influencers in these markets. There are many other tools but the advantage that small businesses have is that they can usually identify these influencers from their own knowledge.
“Social Influence” gets a lot of attention in the social media world and Google is giving more weight to “social liking” of web pages, blog posts and social networking posts, especially those that have a Google +1 tag. However, the huge majority of people influence each other face to face rather than through online channels like blogs and social networks. People trust face to face friends most, with a recent survey showing 73 percent indicating near or complete trust versus just 33 percent for online friends. They may communicate with these friends on-line but they are trusted more because they are are friends in real life.
One way to reach the influencers and thereafter the wider market is through content or inbound marketing. This aims to engage, provide value and get the attention of potential customers but however great your content is it won’t reach a large number of people without some help.
Influencers may give you the key to the type of content that works best in your sector. If they speak on specific topics it could allow you to gain a greater understanding of those topics and produce your own content with your own views.
When you produce content you will naturally post it on your website, blog, Google + page, YouTube channel etc. However, it is important to place content in places where your customers are most likely to see it and by observing where the key influencers place their content you could get valuable clues about where to post yours.
If you choose to engage with an influencer directly you need to understand what they are currently writing and talking about, what their interests are and, over time, build a relationship such that the influencer may choose to review your product or service which could lead to some excellent publicity and exposure.
Using this information, start to think of the influencers in your market and the routes you can use to reach them. This could include both on-line and off-line activity, from traditional press releases, events with VIP guests, samples of products to review, interviews and seeking their opinion to reading and commenting on their blog, engaging them in conversation on Twitter, liking and sharing their Facebook or G+ posts and engaging in discussions with them on LinkedIn.
Use the comments section to ask other members of the group to suggest influencers in your sector. This is a classic mastermind Group technique - you may be so close to your own business that you can’t see the wood for the trees but others can see what then becomes obvious or can set of a train of thought that leads you to the answer you need. Play with it - its amazing how it works.
Start by saying “I’m looking for influencers ion the world of ………… ” The more specific you are the better the results.