The topic of “Influencers” has been getting a lot of attention in the Social Media Marketing world. In fact, the marketing firm razorfish has apparently trademarked the term “Social Influence Marketing”, but that’s an entirely different story.
So What are Influencers?
We’ve always had Influencers around us. As toddlers, our parents influenced how we behaved and responded in different social situations. In our teens, we kept a close eye on what our friends were wearing. In essence, our friends would have influence on our clothing styles and brands. As we mature, our buying decisions are formed in many different ways.
When it comes to internet marketing though, Influencers of the virtual type have become an extremely powerful force because they can shape and influence the buying decisions of large numbers of consumers and customers online.
Who are the Online Shopping Influencers
A September 2009 study titled Web Shoppers Trust Customer Reviews Most from Ripple6 and the e-tailing group, found that online shoppers are influenced by both online social networking sites and face-to-face conversations with friends. Most importantly though, this study found that online shoppers put more trust into online product reviews from strangers, rather than the recommendations of their friends.
A December 2009 press release from comScore reports that 28 percent of holiday shoppers said that social media had influenced their holiday purchase decisions. Of the types of social media cited in this story, the most influential were consumer-generated product reviews (13 percent of respondents), followed by expert product reviews (11 percent). Only 6 percent were influenced by a friend’s Facebook status update that referred to a particular product.
Although Social Networking is still relatively new (ca. 2004), it’s becoming apparent that online Influencers are playing an important role in terms of how shopping decisions are made. This is one reason why today’s marketers need to pay closer attention to the discussions that take place online about their products or services.
Steps for Today’s Marketers
Influencers can shape both online and offline perceptions. Online though, Influencers have the most impact because they can impact the buying decisions of a larger audience. So, what can Online and Offline Marketers do to become more engaged with their online Influencers? You may want to start out with the following steps:
- Search for your product, brand or company name online with a Blog or Group search on Google or Bing. Search Twitter as well using their search feature. Try to find out what sites or platforms people are using when they mention or discuss your products.
- Start listening to the overall discussions about your product, brand or company. You may need to do this for a week or so until you become more familiar with the overall discussion.
- Try to locate anyone who frequently talks about your product and determine what type of influence they are having on the buying decisions made online.
If you find an Influencer who likes your products, you may want to reach out to them and simply say “Thanks”. If the Influencer is NOT a fan of your products, try to figure out if anything can be done to remedy the situation and take the appropriate action as soon as possible. Online issues left without a quick resolution could hurt sales because they may show up in the search engines for a very long time.
It’s a new day and age in online marketing and the steps above are only a starting point. Overall, you’ll need to learn how to engage with your Influencers and customers because they may have a significant impact on your sales and the overall perceptions about your brand or product.