Influencer marketing is a hot topic right now among companies. There are so many theory’s around what algorithms we need to correlate social metrics into actual influence. Then once we find that magical formula, or at the very least a formula that gives a number we feel good about, what name do we call them? If we call them an advocate or an ambassador is it required that the content they are creating will always be positive? If we call them a champion does that mean they know everything there is to know about a certain solution? Then there is the word influencer. Do we expect that these “influencers” have a direct impact on sales and the purchasing decisions of a customer? I think this kind of over complication is where most people get it wrong. You can not solely base someone’s influence on the number of followers, blog reach, books published, or title. So why do we continue to try and measure by these statistics?
Let’s say you were in the market for a new t.v., what resources would you use to determine which model to buy?A few brands are already at the top of the list because advertisement or because I have used them in the past. First thing I am going to do is research on the features of each brand it will usually be on a third party site where I can read the reviews of other users. While reading these reviews I am sure there will be a discussion forum on the different brand and problems people have had with each and others they recommend. There may even be someone who links to a post they have written that details their experience with one in particular. Once I have researched, read, and maybe even posted some questions in the discussion forum I am going to my friends and family who I trust the most. Now these friends may be someone I can talk to in person or maybe someone I know personally but only keep in contact with on Twitter or Facebook, either way I trust them. Once have their recommendations I will then go online or to a store to make my purchase.
Now is this how it works in the business world? Not always, but I’d be willing to bet it happens more than you think it does. Let’s say for instance someone wants to buy a new storage solution. The first thing they are going to do is Google the big players based on the features they need. They are going to go past the paid for ads and the manufacture sites until they find a IT community or an independent blog. They are going to read user reviews, watch videos, and read blogs that detail setup and configuration. Then once they have a couple of ideas they are going to go their network of friends in the community and ask questions. Only then will they contact your sales department to make a purchase.
You see with the information available and the content being created, customers ( myself included ) are practically ready to buy before they even view your website or contact sales. So you’re probably thinking “that’s great! I’ll just hire an agency to find influencers and pay them for content.” However it’s not that easy all the time. It is easily noticed when someone has been paid to write a favorable review, mostly because they have to acknowledge it 🙂 . While there are some agencies that may do this well, the content created may not tell the whole story and will not be always trusted. This is where companies that understand the power of social and community will win. Those companies will have a program in place to develop a relationship with the community and give them all the information they need to write real content on their solutions. These companies also understand that they people creating this content and writing about their solution will be honest and will write about the good and the bad of said solution. The ones that do it right will not ask this person to take down the article, but instead get them on the phone with engineering and the product management team to either a.) understand how it really works and clear up the misunderstanding or b) listen to the feedback and make changes.
It truly doesn’t matter what these companies call the members of their program, because in the end they are just people in the community who are passionate about what they do! I would love to hear what you think about this, so please feel free to comment.