We now live in a world where everyone has the opportunity to own their own media channels. Utilising Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or any of the multitude of platforms that exist today, provide every individual with the opportunity to get their opinions and thoughts heard, in a way that most people could never have imagined twenty years ago.
This has led to us living in an era of ‘social influence’, whereby we have a greater ability to influence a wider group of individuals than ever before. There is considerable evidence for this all around us. For example, there was a time when everyone received the same news and information from the same few media outlets, TV channels and newspapers. Of course, we still receive a vast array of information in this way, but these days a lot of the information we gather is obtained through conversation rather than publication, on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Of course, not everyone has the same influence. In any given market, or on any particular subject, there will be people who are more connected or who have more gravitas than others. Whether these people have influence due to the amount of people they reach, whether it is because of the resonance that their message has, or whether both apply, in any given market place these people are known as the ‘influencers’.
From a business perspective it is vital that any company identifies and tracks these people. These days there is some excellent software available that allows this to happen, for example appinions, traackr and socmetrics are a few of the plethora of packages that can be purchased.
There are a number of reasons why a business should make sure they are identifying and following the influencers, within their market place, but I want to focus on three that are fundamental to any ‘inbound’ marketing strategy.
- Every business today has to produce and deliver great content to prospects and customers alike. This is in order to engage, provide value and keep a share of their ‘attention’. Companies can sometimes struggle to know about which subjects they should be talking and in what areas people are currently interested. Being able to see what the key influencers in a market sector are currently speaking about, allows a business to gain a greater understanding of the hot topics in a given area and produce their own content with their own views. This content, of course, is more likely to be relevant and interesting to their own audience.
- When businesses produce content they will, of course, post it on their own ‘real estate’. For example; their website, blog, Google + page, Pinterest account, YouTube channel etc. However, it is important to place content in places where a company’s prospects and customers ‘hang out’. This could be an industry association, local chamber of commerce or a well known portal such as mumsnet. By identifying and following the main influencers, in a given sector, a business can observe where these people place their content and in so doing uncover the most important blogs, forums and channels for their own content.
- Finally, a business may choose to engage with an influencer directly. By understanding what they are currently writing and talking about, a company will know in what areas that person is interested, and whether it is relevant for the business. If a business can engage directly while providing value and insight there is, of course, a good chance that over time, the influencer may choose to review a product or mention a service etc., which can lead to some excellent publicity and exposure for the company concerned.
Social Media may be a term given to many of the platforms online, but ‘social’ is so much more than that. We live in a world where people have their own media channels, where people want to ‘be involved’ and are increasingly active, as consumers, rather than passive. Consequently, TV, mobile technology, customer relationship management and business itself are all ‘going social’. Understanding who the influencers are within this eco system is a vital strategy for any business who wants their marketing to be successful in the digital era.