In social media, finding influencers, getting them talking about your brand, and mobilizing their social networks are critical for successful marketing strategy. Yesterday, I attended a webinar where Brian Solis presented results of a survey of marketing and advertising executives to identify characteristics of influencers and develop strategies for harnessing their power to promote your brand in social media.
One aspect I found interesting is the overwhelming belief that popularity does not necessarily translate into influence. Respondents equated influence with the ability to direct action among followers. Respondents specifically cited Lady Gaga as having popularity, while Bono has influence.
However, what the results seemed to be saying is that popularity is potential power.
What respondents seemed to be overlooking is the tacit influence of popular individuals. While Lady Gaga doesn’t often use her popularity to drive action because she doesn’t advocate specific actions, she still has a major influence of fashion, music, and other experiential behaviors due to her popularity.
Lady Gaga’s fans try to emulate what she wears, where she shops, what she eats, the brands she prefers … This tacit influence is very powerful and somewhat insidious since consumers don’t really feel manipulated — they think their consumption decisions are their own and a reflection of their own style. Using tacit influence, thus, is more sustainable as it gets incorporated into the everyday culture of consumers.
Another surprise is that traditional measures of influence might not be effective in identifying influencers. For instance, easily measured behaviors such as number of re-tweets and size of social network, may have little impact on true influence.
Instead, factors impacting a person’s social influence are more likely a function of the quality of content they produce, the relevance of that content to their social network, and the quality of their network. Relationships are important and so is online reputation for individuals and brands to be influential. Thus, just talking a lot may not translate into having a lot of influence.
Advice for Successful Marketing Strategy
Here are some strategies for finding influencers.
- People who post interesting content
- People who are thought leaders
- People who are authentic
- People who are deep conversations rather than just lots of conversations
But, identifying influencers is not enough. You must invite to engage with your brand. Harnessing them to talk about your brand with their network will create positive associations and support your brand strategy.
Influencers expect to be compensated for their engagement with your brand. Influencers have spent time and effort to build their social network and they need something in return for spending social capital to promote your brand. This may mean paying them, but it may be as simple as just being grateful for their willingness to talk about your brand.
Hence, part of your marketing strategy must involve monitoring social networks to detect people who provide positive reviews of your product to tell them you appreciate them.