September 29, 2015

How to 'Influence' the Influencer Marketing Trend

Your business—like countless others—has a struggling blog and a Twitter audience of less than 300 followers. When you write a blog post and send it out into the Twittersphere, the information never seems to take flight.

Let’s face it: This is an embarrassing problem. It doesn’t look good to your customers when you consistently send out tweets from your company’s account that utterly fail to attract attention.

We all want to have a brand that consumers can’t stop talking about. To attain this level of brand awareness sometimes requires a bit of help from others with more established digital profiles. An increasing number of marketers are, therefore, turning to well-known brand “influencers,” or pundits, and are using them like social launching pads to gain more attention online.

The practice is similar to that of product placement in that it involves having an influencer mention your brand and generate positive press about it. The hope is that customers will see the influencer’s endorsement and will then visit your website or blog out of curiosity.

This type of customer-generated word-of-mouth (so to speak) advertising is proving to be highly effective. In fact, as mentioned in a recent Forbes article, research shows that word-of-mouth-type marketing produces more than twice as many sales as paid advertising. Further, customers generated through this practice come with a 37 percent higher retention rate.

Marketers have taken note; in fact, 35 percent of social media professionals have a mature or optimized influencer relationship management program. Many brands choose to reward brand influencers—also known as brand evangelists—who go above and beyond basic endorsements, in some cases, choosing to patrol company social channels to report negative press and create positive dialogue.

So, how do you go about using industry influencers in your content marketing strategy? First, realize that you don’t want to attract just any old influencer. You want to attract the right influencer(s) that align with your brand and its values, and actively engage with a large amount of people on a daily basis. Content Marketing Institute (CMI) recommends that you start by finding a group of five to 10 industry influencers online. Then, CMI advocates that you spend some time following each influencer to make sure that he or she is a good fit for your brand.

The Forbes article mentioned above actually lists a formula—originally sourced from Malcom Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point”—that you can use to determine the effectiveness of an influencer. As the article explains, it’s important to look deeper than the initial following and ensure that influencers have a strong following online. The equation is as follows:

Influence = Audience Reach (# of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship With Followers

Once you find a group of appropriate industry influencers, don’t be shy about targeting them over social media. You can tweet directly at them to get their attention. Another strategy is to see who they are following on Twitter and try to get these people to follow you. The hope is that your target prospects will see this and will follow you in return.

In addition to attracting well-known industry influencers, don’t overlook existing customers. Calculate a Net Promoter Score (NPS) for loyal customers by asking them how likely they would be to recommend your brand to a friend on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being most likely. Customers who score 6 or lower are considered brand “detractors,” since they are most likely to generate negative reviews about your brand. Ideally, you would hope to receive many ratings of 9 and 10, as these are brand “promoters.” By calculating this score, you can gain a clear sense of how your customers currently feel about your company and its products and could, therefore, become brand influencers for your benefit.

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