How has the meaning of “influence” changed in the age of Twitter and Google+ hangouts and LinkedIn discussion groups? Who are the influencers of today and how can marketers identify them and encourage them to put their status to work as Brand Advocates? These are some of the questions tackled by Barbara French, Guy Kawasaki, Don Bulmer and Mike Fauscette in Influencers to Brand Advocates, a live panel discussion recorded at the BrightTALK San Francisco office, available on demand here:
With the explosion of social media tools and their increasing incorporation into business practices, the fundamental meaning of “influence” has changed. What used to be an amorphous concept—abstract individual authority dictated by status, entitlement or ideological power—is now defined in practical terms that are easy to measure and study. In fact, the numbers are readily available and speak for themselves: 55,000 people “like” Guy Kawasaki on Facebook, almost 11,000 follow Mike Fauscette on Twitter and Don Bulmer’s blog enjoys an active readership that averages a thousand reads per entry.
Empowered by accessible and effective Internet tools, social technologies have created a democratic system that identifies influencers in niche communities and generates circles of followers around them. It is no longer solely up to the individual to gain influencer status—it is up to the community to determine that the work of an individual is relevant, valuable and trustworthy to many.
These three concepts are the key focus for marketers as they try to understand the power of influencers and how they can harness it to build their brands. Mike Fauscette emphasized that, just like company brands, influencers-turned-Advocates have to be and stay relevant to their respective communities, and that their influence is not guaranteed outside of that context. To this idea Guy Kawasaki added that an influencer must enjoy a high level of trust based on the value they are able to share with their followers.
Don Bulmer referred to SAP’s sales-focused approach and stressed the importance of studying the client’s decision-making process and habits to identify ways to shorten the buying cycle and strengthen the client-vendor relationship.
As marketers explore a community and identify the key influential figures, they need to keep asking questions that will bring them closer to their audience:
- Who are the people who make decisions?
- What is their decision process like?
- Who do they listen to and learn from?
- What do they care about and how do they consume this information?
By using social media to answer these questions, marketers will be able to single out those key figures that cause shifts in client behavior. Identifying the influencers and encouraging them to become Advocates for products or services is one of the most efficient ways to get access to and target a niche audience that has already been recognized and engaged.
Even though all three speakers are influencers in different areas and use different tools to reach their audiences, one point is clear: engaging an audience online and closely following the ongoing web conversation is an invaluable resource of information and insight that can be used to inform a brand’s marketing efforts and help achieve more by eliminating waste and focusing on tactics that work.
In unprecedented ways social media provides marketers with the ability to measure influence and put it to work with accuracy and efficiency. Whether marketers are looking at number of webinar views, Twitter followers or blog comments, it has never been easier to identify audiences and gain insight into their interests and behavior. With the emergence of social media influencers who singlehandedly affect client behavior, being effective at social media becomes even more crucial to any company or brand. These shifts of behavior—and their causes and frequencies—are the bits of information marketers pursue, and in that respect social media is one of the best tools in a marketer’s toolkit. To quote Guy Kawasaki, “What else is fast, free and ubiquitous?”
As a recent addition to the BrightTALK team, Savina executes email marketing programs that drive thousands of attendees each month to online events and contributes to the BrightTALK blog. Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, Savina recently graduated from Pomona College in Southern California, where she studied English and Spanish and ran an online magazine.