The persuasive power of influencers

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Identifying influencers — people who are passionate about your brand — is a key element of word-of-mouth marketing. Four experts discuss this growing and highly measurable sector.


Ed Keller
CEO, The Keller Fay Group

Power is shifting rapidly to consum­ers. Smart marketers are finding ways to adapt to this new reality and learn how to market in a way that establishes a dialogue with consumers rather pushing messages at them. The result is raising the profile of word-of-mouth marketing, which is now the fastest growing media and marketing sector.

With new online technologies that allow consumers to express themselves with growing ease, an overwhelming number of word-of-mouth conversations still take place offline.

But when it comes to word of mouth, while “everyone's doing it,” consumer influencers are more sought out for their opinion than others. They offer advice to others at a rate between three and seven times the average. This is influencer marketing, and it heightens efficiency and effectiveness.

There are a variety of ways to identify influencers in your category and for your brand. They can be found by scor­ing your customer database so that you can target marketing activities directly to them. They can be identified in third party media databases, so that media can be targeted at them.

If you hold events, you can assume that a disproportionate number of the attendees are influencers. They are more likely than the average to be calling your call centers or visiting your customer care center at your Web site. Also, they are disproportionately involved in communities that are estab­lished for your brand, either by you or organically by brand fans.

Word-of-mouth marketing is about having the courage to let consumers speak in an honest, unfiltered, and authentic manner. And it's about remembering the golden rule of word-of-mouth marketing: Listen before you speak. If you want to engage suc­cessfully with influencers, you have to be responsive to their needs, and that requires that we hone both our listening as well as our communications skills.

THE TAKEAWAY
Engage successfully with influencers by being responsive to their needs 


Kitty Kolding
CEO, House Party

Studies have shown that two-thirds of consumers trust their friends' recommendations on products over an expert's or marketer's message. Tap­ping into these brand advocates is quickly becoming one of the most pow­erful tools in a marketer's arsenal.

Many consumers can be considered brand ambassadors. Consumers innately share their product and brand experiences with friends and family. Unfortunately, consumers will share both positive and negative experiences. The breakthrough for influencer or word-of-mouth marketing is identifying and motivating the right consumers who will talk glowingly about a product, brand or service. Identifying these key influencers is essential to the success of any relationship or word-of-mouth marketing campaign.

Marketers should survey consumers regarding their current brand relation­ships, asking questions such as how long they've used/been an advocate of the brand, in what way they use it and whether they tell others about the brand. Next, marketers should gauge consumers' overall viral propensity, or willingness to spend their individual social currency on brands they love and the methods they use (for example, phone, e-mail, blogging, face-to-face interaction). At this point, it becomes fairly obvious who are the most effective and passionate influencers. Marketers should test this group's willingness to endorse a particular product or brand with friends, family and coworkers.

However, as with any marketing campaign, the challenge continues to be measurement. Marketers need to imple­ment measurement tools that take into account the nuances of various brands and consumer behaviors.

Influencer or word-of-mouth efforts are breaking ground around actionable marketing plans. Marketers are learning from these real-time conversations in an honest and thoughtful way, and, as a result, they will provide programs and ideas that generate both thoughtful data and immediate results.

THE TAKEAWAY
Gauge consumer willingness to spend social currency on brands they love 


Rick Murray
President, Edelman Digital

“I” is for influence. Bad grammar aside, that's precisely what I mean. Anyone can be an influencer in today's digital age, even me.

Thanks to a wave of free, enabling technologies, the opinion I've always had is now incredibly easy to share with anyone, anywhere, in any form at any time. I can post, blog, Twitter, text, MMS, Digg, upload or instant message my content. People interested in what I have to say will find me provided if — and this is a big “if” — what I have to say or share is any good.

Let's assume for a second that some people — and it doesn't matter how many — actually find value in my stuff. I am now influencing them, through their social networks online and off, their friends, and the friends of their friends and so on. The more I publish, the more influence I'm likely to have — with my extended web of influence, and with the search engines.

If you don't believe me, go do a few searches for something you care about. Some form of social media or CGM (citizen-generated media) will show up on the first page of results nine times out of 10. Remember that search drives a majority of all Web traffic, which makes each of the people who published that content influential.

The implications of this dynamic for marketers are staggering, but let me leave you with some must-dos.

First, pay attention to what's being said, and by whom, about the things you care about, and do it in real time. Second, join the conversation. Post a comment or start a blog. Discover the power of real-time engagement. But please, do so as you the person and not you the marketer. Truthfully, I, the influential, don't find you, the marketer, all that interesting.

THE TAKEAWAY
Influencers exemplify the powerful dynamic of real-time engagement


Jim Calhoun
CEO, founder, PopularMedia

The media landscape is changing. Consumers are flooded with informa­tion from a variety of channels and are turning away from traditional media in favor of personal, socially connected networks to deliver reliable and trust­worthy insight into what's new, hip, fun and useful. In fact, people targeted through consumer social connections convert at 300%-500% greater rates, when compared to those targeted through traditional channels.

Combined with the millions of brand conversations happening online, it's understandable why consumers have turned into powerful influencers and given rise to influencer marketing.

While many marketers understand the importance of influencers, few have embraced a truly critical aspect of influ­encer marketing: Exactly what inspires your customers to sing your praises? Cracking this code allows companies to find and even create new influencers. But cracking the code takes more then just a clever marketing idea; it takes insight, strategy, and data.

First, learn both how consumers are connected and their propensity to share. With insight into customers' social networks, online activities and demo­graphic data, you can improve targeting and engage customers to find out what is — and who is — influential.

Second, create motivating online experiences that are relevant, strengthen your brand and include actions specific to marketing goals. Sweepstakes, quizzes or rich media experiences can compel influencers to share. You can observe the conversation and measure the activity.

Finally, the key to success is data. Multivariate analysis and predictive modeling techniques help marketers identify the most effective factors to maximize performance. Capturing brand insights from consumer conversa­tions helps marketers learn what ideas will make a program conversational, thus creating new influencers.

THE TAKEAWAY
Smart use of data helps identify and successfully market to influencers

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