In his best-selling book Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell examines the concept of influential individuals and how they impact the spread of trends and change. He categorizes them into three groups: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen.
We all know one or more Connectors: people who seem to know everyone. People through whom you could reach a very large population. Mavens on the other hand, are those who are considered experts in a given field by their peers, who know the answer to any question related to that field and to whom everyone they know turns when they have a question or need advice.
Intuitively, we all recognize that influencers can play an important role from a marketing perspective. These well connected and well respected individuals have the potential to spread the word about your brand—good or bad—and to influence the people they touch with the power of word of mouth.
Obviously, spontaneous and unsolicited word of mouth recommendations are the most sincere and credible. But sometimes, you need to give things a little nudge in the right direction and help influential consumers discover your brand, your product or service.
Over the past few years, we have created a number of influencer outreach programs for products and services alike. Many have been wildly successful, while others…not so much. So in order to save you countless hours of wasted time and effort, here is our view on how to create a social influence campaign in five easy steps:
1 – Find and recruit influential bloggers and tweeps
OK, not so easy after all… this is really the key to success: finding people who have a real following that is both broad and active—and who are credible and influential in your field, or who can reach and touch your target audience. Influencer campaigns are a little like media relations—except instead of journalists, you’re targeting socially influential consumers.You’ll need to use a number of methods to find them and get them on board. Keyword and category searches on Twitter, Google and Google blogs, StumbleUpon, Facebook and other search engines are a start. Influencers themselves are also a great source since they tend to know who else is influential in their community. Make sure you find more than you think you need since not everyone will agree, or follow through once they have said yes. Don’t kid yourself—it’s hard work! But equally rewarding.
Rand Fishkin, formerly from Moz, and now the CEO of tech startup sparktoro.com launched the Sparkscore. This tool measures the level of influence of a Twitter account. It’s a good way of evaluating the true potential impact of an influencer before engaging with them.
This information kit was created for Tourism Laval. The objective was to get influential bloggers to discover and talk about the diversity of recreational and cultural activities and attractions in the region.
2 – Make it interesting and exciting
It all boils down to communication and motivation. Create a piece that explains the WHY behind your project—what makes this worthwhile, cool, worthy of their time and attention. Give your influencer-to-be a taste of what the experience is all about, be it a visit to a tourist attraction, tickets to a new show, trying a new trendy restaurant, a new line of cosmetics or a new eco-friendly car.
3 – Make sure the experience is positive
Influencers are VIPs that can make or break your project. They need (and expect) to be treated accordingly. They can amplify the good and the bad. So if you’re not ready for prime time, better wait till the dust settles.
It is absolutely essential that front line staff be aware of your campaign and know how to react appropriately when an influencer visits your establishment, or reaches your call centre. If you’re offering a new product to be tested, make sure you clearly explain how to use it properly and effectively. No boring FAQs. Liven it up so they can’t wait to use it!
4 – Don’t forget to follow up
It’s essential to structure the process in order to ensure that everyone gets the right information, products, etc. But more important, you have to remind and encourage your influencers to take action, answer their questions and concerns, manage the hiccups, etc. Obviously, you don’t want to harass you participants. But a timely follow-up is always welcome. Making sure that the experience was positive and to get their feedback live. If something is wrong with the program, or your product, you can react quickly and set things straight.
5 – Share the results as you go
To be effective, and influencer campaign should span several months. But why wait until the end to share the results? Each time an influencer mentions your product, share a link on Twitter, your Facebook page, your blog or any other tool at your disposal. And don’t forget to thank them in real-time for their feedback, comments and suggestions…good, or bad.
At the end of the project, prepare a detailed report that outlines each participants degree of influence, and details the conversation, coverage and comments. It will come in handy the next time you have something to say to the community and will simplify your next initiative.