How to Win (Social) Friends & Influencers

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social keyboardAs third-party review sites like Quora and Yelp come to play outsized roles in the brand-building process, and reviews figure into Google+, LinkedIn and other forums, it’s well worth marketers’ time to consider the influence today’s buyers wield online. You look really good when people who don’t even work for your company are talking you up…and people in the market for a solution like yours will notice. How can you make this more than serendipity?

In case of reviews, having a firm handle on the forums and exchanges that customers frequent and share experiences can serve your business well. These are prime locations to find people willing to speak to your product – people you might ultimately leverage as brand advocates. For more on managing this process, check out our piece on maximizing brand advocacy.

If you’re working in demand generation, it’s in your very best interests to identify those people online whose word carries weight and to court a select few them as potential brand ambassadors. I’m talking about social influencers: those well-positioned individuals whose opinions on product performance matter to prospective buyers, and whose seals of approval command respect. These may be industry business leaders, thought leaders or academics, celebrities, or maybe even your customers. Regardless, they are active on social media, their opinion matters, and they can serve as a valuable source of free publicity for the businesses they choose to endorse.

Some months back, Act-On put out a white paper on the topic of social media influencers, which offered suggestions for what to do when you reach out to them, and what to look for when identifying them. Here’s what you should know:

A good social influencer—

  • Is known and respected in an industry or marketplace that is relevant for your goods or services
  • Has a unique, well-defined position in the turf you share
  • Holds views congruent with the product or service you offer
  • Is predictably, consistently active on social media and has an established following

Once you’ve hit upon an influencer who meets these standards, it’s important to take a measured, careful approach in wooing him or her. So,

  • GoehringAttract them, rather than pursuing them. Your relationship with them will be far stronger if they approach you instead of the other way around.
  • Keep your advances subtle. You’ll only turn away potential influencers if you flood them with requests for their endorsement. If you aren’t getting results, don’t badger the potential influencer you’ve chosen; that could boomerang and get you negative publicity. Move on, and look to others who may be more interested.
  • Ask not what your social influencers can do for you, but what you can do for your social influencers. You might make them the first to know about an upcoming product release or feature update, or you might supply them with freebies – prizes, promotional opportunities, relevant information, etc. Figure out what they use to make themselves unique and known, and enhance that.
  • Build a relationship that emphasizes your respect for their expertise. Reach out to them as the expert they may be, and defer to their knowledge when enlisting their support. Ask for their insight, and let them know you take them seriously.

The right social media influencers can make a world of difference for your business by enhancing your reputation, burnishing your credibility, and spreading the word about your brand to new readers. It’s well worth the time to make a plan to attract those key individuals. Forums like G2 Crowd, Trust Radius, and Consumer Report have already paved the way for an entirely new kind of reputation management, and it’s time for marketers to make the most of that opportunity.

Sociual Influencer MarketingYou can read the white paper in full here. And for more resources on attracting buyers to your business, check out the social media section of our Center of Excellence.

Photo credits: “Instagram and Other Social Media Apps” by Jason Howie, used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license; and “Cinderella Using WiFi” by David Goehring, also used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

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  • Tim

    Good read Hari. I definitely think social influencers are important. Its another form of word of mouth and we all know how powerful word of mouth can be for business development. I think you made good points about being subtle and attracting them, instead of pursuing them.