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The Impact of Social Media Influencers on Brands

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					The Impact of Social Media Influencers on Brands
The Brand-Influencer Relationship

Unlike before, when social media marketing success meant the number of „followers‟ or „fans‟ amassed, today‟s
marketers know that influencers are imperative to a brand‟s success online. According to a study by Meteor Solutions,
30% or more of a website‟s actions are determined by influencers. These influencers, who are thought leaders and
industry experts, can have significant impact on a brand‟s reputation and even affect bottom line sales. A smart
marketer, who knows the power of influencer marketing, is investing considerable time in finding these brand
advocates, engaging with them and establishing a strong brand-influencer relationship. Why are online influencers so
important to a brand?

        Consumers, who heavily rely on word-of-mouth recommendations, do not always believe everything a brand
        says; the influencers have an important role to play in such cases.
        Online campaigns and marketing messages promoted by influencers have better chances at success than those
        that aren‟t.
        According to a 2010 Forrester study, Mass Influencers were responsible for 80% of the influence impressions
        and posts about products and services in social channels.
        These brand advocates help spread the word about a brand‟s site, products, services, and promotions and spur
        their followers into action.
        When it comes to Online Reputation Management, the influencers play a major role in how your audience
        views your brand.

A recent study by Vocus
shows that influencers with
a tighter connection were
more important to the
respondents than those who
simply had a horde of fans
and followers with little or
no connection. The study,
which presented
respondents with a question
about hypothetical
influencers, concludes that
influence is directly related
to the quality of connection
to a given network.

        Identifying
        Influencers
    The above study clearly
    establishes the
    difference between
    popularity and
    influence. Influencers are not determined by the multitude of followers they have; they usually have a dedicated
    audience who follow these experts because of similar interests and because they are credible in their fields.
    However, finding the influencers and developing meaningful relationships with them requires some research and
    listening. While some influencers are famous in their respective industry circles, there are others, who although
    lesser known, are just as powerful among their followers. According to Brain Solis, “the true movers and shakers
    of the online marketing universe are less visible than you’d think. They show up when the timing is right, reach
    out to their medium-sized but strong network, and let the message take its course.” In an overcrowded digital
    space, what can brands do to identify and pick out true influencers?




© Position2, Inc.                                                                                                       1
            o   The Following vs. Followers Ratio:

            This is one of the most basic ways of
            determining if an individual is a true
            influencer. It is not uncommon to
            find people following or friending
            someone only because they were
            followed in the first place. The true
            influencer is followed by at least
            twice the number of people he
            follows, and in some cases, a lot
            more than that. Ashton Kutcher,
            with his +8,570,000 followers is a
            highly influential voice in the social
            media space. The actor, who goes by
            the @aplusk Twitter handle, is worth $140 million; this means every time Kutcher endorses a brand online,
            there are greater chances of people actually listening and contemplating a purchase.

            o   The Question of Credibility:

            Before going to the next step of engaging with the influencers, online marketers need to first establish the
            credibility of these people who will go on to become the voice of the brand. Finding answers to these
            questions is a good start; a) Are they considered to be experts in their field? b) How often are these
            people getting retweeted? and c) Are they truly engaged? It is important that your potential influencers
            post frequently and are reasonably active on social media. The content posted by these brand advocates,
            no matter how compelling, will have little impact if the messages are few and far in between.

            o   Using Social Media Monitoring Tools:

            Using comprehensive social media monitoring tools
            like Brand Monitor™ is an effective and time-saving
            technique to identify and learn more about potential
            influencers. It is impractical to manually check the
            number of fans or followers each person has and
            determine if that person qualifies as an „influencer‟.
            Media monitoring tools simplify this process by
            determining the influencer score. Once the influencers
            have been identified, marketers can then proceed to
            engage with them and convert them into brand advocates.

        Taking it to the Next Level
    After establishing who the influencers are, the next step involves creating meaningful connections with them. For
    companies looking to improve their brand image and increase visibility online, engaging with these „power users‟
    is definitely a step in the right direction. Taking the influencer-brand relationship to the next level involves some
    vital, though easy-to-implement, steps:

            o   Plan Your Engagement Strategy:

            In order to build a lasting relationship with your influencers, it is essential to plan your engagement
            strategy first. Overwhelming these brand advocates with one too many tweets or marketing messages
            without giving them the option of knowing your company and understanding what your brand does may
            only dissuade them from connecting further. As a brand, a well thought-out engagement plan will also
            give a clearer idea of what it is that you wish to achieve from this relationship. Here are the two
            important stages of the planning process; a) the listening stage: using social media monitoring tools,
            brands can listen to what the influencers have to say before attempting to engage with them. As an online
            marketer, you could study what hashtags they use and use them in your posts in order to show-up on their


© Position2, Inc.                                                                                                       2
            radar b) the courtship stage: this involves commenting on their blog posts, retweeting interesting content,
            and joining in their conversations on social media channels. This is a good way to move the discussion
            forward.

            o   Building a Relationship:




            Once the foundation has been laid, brands can safely proceed to strengthen and cement this relationship.
            Most social media gurus agree that the nothing works as well as pampering the influencers and making
            them feel special. According to BzzAgent‟s „Field Guide to Brand Advocates„ report, 58% influencers said
            that it was important to them that they are viewed as good brand advocates, while 49% felt the need to
            be recognized for their efforts by the brands. In our opinion, the secret to a strong and successful brand-
            influencer relationship begins with a) something as simple as saying a „thank you‟ when they share your
            content or mention your brand on a networking channel and b) is strengthened further by treating them to
            special offers on the brand‟s yet-to-be-launched products that are usually available to a select few.

            o   What You Need To Avoid:

            There could be several reasons that could cause an easily-avoidable crack in the brand-influencer
            relationship. While some marketers turn-off influencers by too much sales talk and self promotion, there
            are others who solely focus on the A-listers, while ignoring the second-tier bloggers after a while.
            Although one of the main reasons why brands seek out and connect with these power-users involves
            promoting their products and services, it is a good idea to let them establish a comfortable relationship
            with your brand first. Also, when it comes to connecting with brand advocates, what marketers also need
            to keep in mind is that instead of targeting a few top influencers, it would be wise to connect with a
            greater number of second-tier bloggers for better reach. The chances of the latter having more time to
            engage with your brand are a lot higher than the time-strapped A-listers who may restrict themselves to a
            select few.

        What Influencers Can Mean for Your Brand
    Influencers can be that much needed shot-in-the-arm for brands looking to improve their image, gain visibility and
    revive sales. What an influencer says about your brand can greatly impact how your brand is perceived in industry
    circles and among fans. Considering the power of word-of-mouth marketing, brands need to understand that
    roping in influencers to promote their products and services ensures better prospect of success. Our research on
    how influencers can impact a brand unearthed some interesting case studies:

            o   Driving Traffic the Ford Way:

            Many brands today, especially
            automakers, prefer
            approaching influential Twitter
            users instead of celebrities to
            promote their products online
            and drive traffic to their
            websites. Ford, for instance,
            decided that these power users
            were more influential and

© Position2, Inc.                                                                                                     3
            visible than celebrities. Also, the fact that people trusted the voice of regular people like themselves
            prompted the automaker to engage with 100 social media influencers to endorse their Fiesta subcompact.
            The Fiesta Movement campaign, which involved the influencers first test-driving, and then posting reviews
            online, generated over seven million views on YouTube and four million mentions on Twitter. It drove
            130,000 consumers to its website and 83% were previously non-Ford owners. And of course, the
            affordability factor certainly tilts the scale in favor of the influencers.

            o   How Marmite ‘Spread’ the Word:

            When Unilever decided to launch the „extra-mature‟ version of its iconic Marmite spread, the company
            identified and engaged with a group of ‟superfans‟ called „the Marmarati„. Unilever‟s idea of involving
            these influencers to spread the word across various social media channels before launching Marmite XO
            paid off. Within no time, the word about the company‟s newest product was out, with brand advocates
            talking about it on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. In the 12 months following its launch, MXO delivered £1
            million in sales. Most importantly, the Marmarati remain an engaged group of brand advocates.

            o   Raising Brand Awareness:

            Pepsi was one of the first few brands to use social media to raise brand awareness.
            When the company decided to overhaul its entire brand, including the logo, PepsiCo
            adopted a slightly non-traditional approach. Instead of sending out a press release,
            PepsiCo roped in some ‟select bloggers‟ and delivered a bunch of cans showing the way
            its design had evolved since its launch. These influencers then blogged about the new
            design, increasing brand awareness in the process. The real-time nature of social
            media and the fact that these brand advocates in turn influenced their followers to be
            more receptive to the change worked brilliantly for the beverage company.

Conclusion
Social media marketing is no longer restricted to simply getting onto a popular networking site and straight-away
promoting brands. Today‟s marketers are paying close attention to and engaging with social media influencers with
great enthusiasm because of their industry expertise and wide reach. Also, brands believe that engaging with
influencers is an effective way of maximizing the value of their investment in social media. While identifying the
influencers can sometimes be challenging, for most marketers the greater challenge lies in engaging with and
retaining these power users. In our opinion, the key to a long term brand-customer relationship lies in understanding
what drives these influencers and trying to get on their radar before making your move. When they have heard about
your brand and know what your area of expertise is, they will eventually be interested in what you have to say.

While the benefits of engaging with these power users include everything from increasing sales to spreading marketing
messages, brands also need to know that these influencers can greatly contribute to controlling a PR crisis. Influencers
have a loyal group of fans and followers who immensely value what they have to say.

The online marketing world is constantly evolving, making the process of reaching and selling to customers more
challenging than before. The change in customers‟ buying behavior and the frequent mushrooming of networking sites
mean marketers are under constant pressure to find new ways of disseminating information. For these marketers,
influencer marketing is a highly efficient and relatively inexpensive way to strengthen their foothold and standout in
an overcrowded and dynamic online marketplace.




© Position2, Inc.                                                                                                       4
About Position2
Position2 is a Search and Social Media Marketing firm that delivers continuous growth for our clients using our
proprietary “Surround and Intent” Marketing Methodology, delivered by our products. Our proprietary methodology is
a result of years of experience in working with diverse clients to deliver customer acquisition goals through search
engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM), and Pay Per Click (PPC) and online media advertising.

Position2 was founded in 2006 with funding from Accel Venture Partners, and has offices in Palo Alto, Bangalore and
Mumbai. Position2 is a certified agency with Google, Yahoo, Bing and is also part of the Google Adwords advisory
council.




Position2's flagship product is Position2 Brand MonitorTM, a platform that allows users to listen, discover and engage
with social media conversations in real time. With a team of over 100 professionals, Position 2 also provides expertise
in online marketing solutions: SEO, PPC, Media and Advertising.

Position2 works with leading global brands:




This article is also available on the Position2 Blog: http://blog.position2.com.
For more information, visit http://brandmonitor.position2.com or email info@position2.com.




© Position2, Inc.                                                                                                         5

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Description: The online marketing world is constantly evolving, making the process of reaching and selling to customers more challenging than before. The change in customers’ buying behavior and the frequent mushrooming of networking sites mean marketers are under constant pressure to find new ways of disseminating information.