We really like this new Influencers report, which you can get here, more because it shares great knowledge on "influencers", what they are, how important they are and how to locate and communicate with them - in some cases it requires software, naturally.
The guys at Fresh Networks decided to test nine of the leading social media monitoring tools - Attensity 360, Brandwatch, Radian6, Alterian SM2, Scoutlabs, Sysomos, Synthesio, PeerIndex and Social Radar - in order to assess how effective they are at identifying influencers across a range of social media platforms.
In simplest sense, businesses are no longer in complete control of their products, brands and messages, the consumer now has a lot of control. And, in the modern day those consumers are largely influenced by their networks of influencers - this can be friends and contacts as well as independents that have a perceived authority plus brand and product advocates who use blogs, social networks and forums to shape opinions.
"With a disproportionate ability to spread information and add credibility, influencers are human TV stations and magazines."
Here's 5 short steps to building an influencer strategy:
- Identify your influencers. Influencers are a combination of popularity and expertise (perceived or real). They may have reach, credibility or both. The advice is to go for the "magic middle" between A-listers and the long tail - its down to identifying them using the 80-20 rule, be pragmatic since you cannot "focus" on all influencers, at least initially on limited resources.
- What's in it "for me". Where is your influencer and where are they at in terms of your brand - inactive or already an ambassador. Armed with that consider a means to engage and increase the influencer's involvement with you, and of value to you.
- Set goals and listen. Work out what you are trying to achieve (traffic, word of mouth, product launch, better conversion). Before defining the right influencers to work with and how best to engage them, you need to be clear on the ambitions of your influencer programme. Then, know what your audience is saying about your brand or market, where they are saying it, and whose message resonates with them, you will not be able to identify the most appropriate influencers
- Develop relationships. Find out where your advocates congregate and open a dialogue - takes time and persistence to get on the radar screen - be sure to consistently participate and offer information and insights that add value to the conversation. Read their discussion threads, blog posts and any other information you can lay your hands on. What are they saying, how they are saying it and why? What are their motivators? You want to appear human and accessible to any customer you encounter online, step it up for the influencers that matter. Send them products, pitch ideas and ask for their opinions. Leave comments on blog posts. Send @ replies on Twitter. "Like" a status update on Facebook. Again, focus on the primary influencers - the ones that get you traction and remember that for each influencer you need to choose the right way to start building a relationship. It might be best to engage them in their spaces, e.g. responding to their blog posts. Alternatively, you may want to contact them offline to arrange face-to-face meetings
- Avoid self-promotion or direct marketing. Some influencers are ready and willing to further your cause and are happy to agree a commercial arrangement to achieve this. Others eschew all commercial influence. If you are uncertain of which category someone fits into, take care in your first interactions. If they have a relationship with you that is already built on trust and respect, and you don't try to sell to them, but rather offer products, information and insight for their consumption, they're more likely to value what you give to them and share it with their own audiences, particularly if they believe your product or business can benefit their audiences."
"Influence: it's the gold standard of what we think the social media world will show us plain and simple, and yet, the rules and algorithms are still shifting and still uncertain. My opinion is that it takes three pieces:
- Listening tools to understand who's talking about those things you find interesting
- Measuring tools to determine who's responding to those people doing the talking
- An understanding of how influence drives (or doesn't) calls to action.
"In the third case (which is everything), this lets you know whether a big voice with a big audience is talking to herself, or whether she has the pull to make her people push the button. That's the gold standard."
Chris Brogan, President New Marketing Labs
Here's the link again to the Fresh Networks Influencers Report.