Put your social advocates to work for you

While the concept of word-of-mouth marketing has been around for ages, the Web and social media have taken it a step further. Whether the topic is technical, medical, or shopping-oriented, guaranteed there is a reporter, analyst or mommy blogger weighing in with their opinions.

These influencers are a virtual marketing team and sales force for your products and services online, but how can you leverage that? Below are some tips on taking advantage of social media influencers to gain recognition and sales.

1. Find the influencers. There are processes and software applications that can enable you to pinpoint the leaders of the discussions. Determine who has the most followers. Figure out which posts have the most re-tweets, threads and contributors. Research each influencer thoroughly, understand who they are and what they cover, and develop a relationship with them online.

2. Listen to them. You have to listen to and understand these influencers. Track and monitor discussions online. See if they are positive, negative, or neutral. Figure out how the reporter/blogger/analyst is talking about your product or about your competitors’ products, and make sure you understand the profile of the people discussing your product.

3. Create advocates. Some of the best social media marketing examples begin with a company giving a group of influencers early access to their product and asking them to tell their networks what they think — good and bad. You will find that you receive great feedback.

4. Give them a forum. Provide product information on social media but also a forum for feedback. You will find that people — even reporters and bloggers — will join your community and become your advocates. Just as with any “location” that represents your brand, be sure to build a customized experience. If you want someone to rave about you, make the experience worthy.

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