I‘m a big fan of social media. I jumped on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., but it didn’t occur to me until recently that social media could help direct marketers by leveraging influencers. In other words, I was a purist—I was communicating on social media for the pure joy of talking to people, meeting them and learning. I didn’t think about it as leveraging anyone, but there is something to be said for targeting respected followers and encouraging them to recommend you.
There don’t seem to be a lot of rules about leveraging influencers. Not yet, anyway. There are some suggestions, though. Before you begin:
• Sort out your social media accounts. For starters, efforts for big and medium-sized businesses should almost always be all business all the time. Personal and engaging, sure, but always about business.
Most small businesses are different, though, because there’s often no clear line between personal life and business life. (I suspect it’s often all personal.)
You also want to sort out the different social media. They all have specific purposes that can be quite different, although they’re often linked.
• Social media networks are just a way to communicate. Revolutionary as these networks are, the traditional rules of communication still apply.
For example, most direct marketers consider relationship-building key to influencing others and encouraging consumers to buy. It’s no different on social networks.
• Define “influencers.” Who are they and what good can they do for you? The short answer is that they’re people who can influence reasonably large numbers of potential customers to consider your business.
If you’re new to social media and the entire concept of having influencers, read the sidebar on to the right first.
1. Vet the People Who Recommend You
One of the things you want to consider is the reputation of influencers. A great example is Scott Monty at Ford. When we needed a car, I tweeted him and he recommended the Escape. In return, I asked him additional questions about the Explorer, and in a few days we’d bought one. I trust Monty. He is a credible spokesperson for the brand without being “salesy.”
Now here’s the tricky part: Scott is in the business of influencing people to connect with Ford. He’s an influencer with a great reputation. He’s also a great guy. It occurred to me the other day that the simple fact that I recommend him often means I have leveraged myself into the position of influencing people to follow him. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s a win-win situation.
As you know, win-win is ideal.
2. Provide Valuable Content
Some marketers or brands have great authority. For instance, I always read tweets from Harvard Business Review, because I learn a lot from them. And I retweet them. I look great because I’m recommending something excellent to my 19,000 or so Twitter followers. HBR benefits by reaching all those readers through me.
Some influencers have status. (These categories overlap, of course.) For instance, many direct marketers like to read copyblogger.com, so founder Brian Clark has status with people like me; not because he has a lot of followers, but because of the quality of his writing.
3. To Build Clout, Solve a Problem
Brands often get respect when they have hundreds of thousands of followers or high Klout scores—or both. So, if you want to build the number (and quality) of influencers for your company or brand, you need to engage influential people in key categories.