The Power of Influencers Online

by Dan Blank on January 18, 2007

An interesting article on developing a dialogue with influencers online.

“Influencers [are] active, engaged members of local communities. They’ve always existed—opinion makers and opinion leaders. What’s different now? Today they have a much bigger bullhorn available to them—it’s called the Web. Where they once talked to 100 people in a month, they can now reach thousands or tens of thousands with a single click, comment, or ranking process.”

“These alpha influencers are the key to other customers’ awareness, consideration, preference, and purchase. They advocate, rank, sort, evaluate, and ultimately create marketplace adoption.”

Here are five ways to access and develop a dialogue with these key influencers:

  1. Find them.
    Go to online forums to see who is commenting and check Amazon profiles as sometimes this is the same person who recommends items to the masses.For each market, you need to find the few among the many. It’s a time-intensive, judgment-intensive process. While it might be tempting to delegate this to your most junior staff member, this job more likely belongs to the most senior person.

  2. Meet with them.
    Having 8-10 in a group is the right mix. Any more and people don’t listen well to one another. Any fewer and the momentum and energy aren’t there. That said, make the term of your influencer program about six months and then rotate people off and on, to keep people who can build your point of view and market access. In addition to the 8-10 users from the market, you want to involve 5-10 people from your business unit or company to listen, engage, and commit to nurturing this group with ideas, content, and other “sticky” items.

  3. Listen to them.
    The key to building an influencer program is communication. The specifics of that are dependent on the influencers and the product. You need to have someone on your team be the influencer’s advocate—to listen, learn, ask and probe. You want to build trust with these influencers because trust matters hugely to them. While your executive team will want “results,” you need your evangelist and advocate for this audience to buffer that and focus on building an information flow that benefits both the company and the consumer. Have them test-drive beta products and critique them. Have them take a look at your market positioning statements and fix it.

  4. Be open-minded.
    Make sure your door is not shut when these opinion leaders, alpha consumers, and influencers come to you with a complaint or a question. You must pay attention to what influencers are saying because their comments provide an early indicator of what others are thinking. True to form, influencers swing into gear and hit their best notes when they can solve a problem. Remember that influencers are helping you with their “noise.”

  5. Spread the word.
    Find out the kinds of publications, reviews, articles, radio stations they listen to, Web sites they visit. Learn where they are going because that will tell you where the next concentric circle of influencers is located.

(Thanks to David Armano for the link)

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