Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Can you find real online influencers?

By Elissa Freeman |
 
 
Recognize the following scenario?

"I was invited to two events where I'm not the target audience and excluded from at least one where I was a fit,” said Eden Spodek, digital communications strategist in Toronto. “In both cases, research obviously didn't play much of a role in the invitation lists.”

Those of us who are active in social media are often invited to events because of the influence we’ve created among our communities. If you take away the free food, free drinks, and the potential of a fabulous swag bag, you might be left wondering: “Why am I here?”

The ability to identify influencers to align with a brand or a cause is not seen as an exact science; once influencers have been chosen, they are often not used to their maximum potential. Many companies rely on popular social influence scoring platforms as a means of identification, but renowned Canadian digital strategists Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella beg to differ.

As the authors of the recently released “Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage, and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing,” Brown and Fiorella present a new methodology for businesses seeking to close the gap between influence marketing strategies and measurable sales impact.

“Everyone recognizes the value of influence, but the good old days of actually doing research to identify true influencers are gone,” says Danny Brown, chief technologist at ArCompany. “Businesses would rather rely on popularity-based platforms, but are they really getting what they need from these services?”

Well-researched and strategically chosen bloggers and active social media participants often act as ambassadors during the marketing communications life cycle of a brand.

Faye Roberts, communications director for General Motors of Canada, says a mix of influencers is key to finding ways to reach different communities: “We do our research to match potential influencers with the kind of people we want to attract to our brands. Involving the right people with the right opportunity also helps cement longer-term relationships.”

Here are five ways companies can identify and make the most of influencers:

1. Segment the influencers: Identify primary, secondary, and tertiary influencers. and nurture these relationships. “Think long-term strategies vs. one-off campaigns,” says Brown. “Properly cultivated influencers can not only impact future customer acquisition, a key success criteria for many businesses, but can also help sway opinion when that same company is in crisis.”

2. Define their role: What do you want from an influencer strategy: brand awareness, share of sales, customer acquisition? Having a deep understanding of an influencer’s profile can go a long way to achieving your goals.

3. What’s the ROI? “Our goal is to ultimately have new customers for our products,” says Faye Roberts. “Social media influencers help us reach people who don’t necessarily swim in our world to create an experience that challenges their impressions of our vehicles. We want them to experience our products, make their own conclusions, and tell their story.”
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4. Weight the influencer: Popularity does not equal influence. You need to consider other criteria including audience interaction and perception. Brown suggests using platforms such as GroupHigh and Inkybee. “Both have similar features that mine, rate, and rank blogs, plus provide measurement tools. Good research tools should determine the real context of the relationship between your brand and the blogger.”

5. Invest wisely: Determine your timeframe for success. Understanding your customers and where they are in the purchase life cycle is one way of determining short and long-term influencer strategies. “GM spends time doing research,” says Faye Roberts. “We know this is a long-term strategy, but it is an effective way in helping future customers get to know us.”

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