Thinking about Influencer Marketing

As we are now implementing the OpenMic Influencer Identification Algorithms, we want to provide some suggestions as to what you’d do with them once you’ve found them – in the meantime, here are some notes on related articles:

Influencer Marketing Guidelines

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) defines an INFLUENCER as a person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace. And INFLUENCER MARKETING as when a marketer identifies, seeks out, and engages with influencers in support of a business objective.

WOMMA also identifies 5 broad categories of influencer (from formal to informal) – 

1) Formal Position of Authority (e.g. Political / Business leaders)
2) Subject Matter Experts (e.g. Academics, Scientists, Authors)
3) Media Elite (e.g. Journalists, Talk Show Hosts)
4) Cultural Elite (e.g. Celebrities, Designers, Musicians)
5) Socially Connected (Community members, Business Networkers)

WOMMA’s Influencer Marketing Guidelines provides a set of best practices for running influencer campaigns – here are the items that I found most valuable:

1. Understand the influencer’s point of view before engaging them in any way – much of the time, they are acting to help other users rather than your brand
2. Make participation voluntary and by invitation only – and respect their privacy at all times, allowing them to freely opt-out
3. Build a relationship with the influencer
4. Ensure that your communications with the influencer are timely – ie respond promptly
5. Never ask an influencer to hype product claims, make usage claims without experience or back claims that cannot be substantiated
6. Provide incentives that do not create conflict of interest or shilling – keep awards simple and relevant to community objectives
7. Thank influencers who participate in your programs.

The set of guidelines goes on to discuss in more detail Thanking, Engagement and Enablement, I have noted a few worthy tips to follow:

* Creating legendary stories can be very powerful ways to both generate conversation and affinity

* Moments of truth about product failures are important

* Your biggest influencers may not always be positive about your product / company / services – your biggest fans may at times be your harshest critics – the fact that they are sometimes negative may make them far more credible to their networks

* Influencer programs are long term multi-year commitments designed to build a relationship – they are not marketing campaigns

* Private access is an excellent way to engage your influencers and influencers also love to connect to one another – Consider both online and offline connection opportunities and even deeper engagements with NDAs in place

* Influencers are a great source of product feedback – your programs should be designed to close the loop demonstrating that their feedback is being heard and acted upon

Trends In Social Influence Marketing

The Razorfish Blog, Going Social Now has an post from March 2009 entitled Trends In Social Influence Marketing

Razorfish defined SOCIAL INFLUENCE MARKETING as “marketing to the network of peers that surround and influence the customer across social platforms and on brand Web sites

The post identified and detailed 10 trends – my highlights are below:

* Reaching the influencers gets easier via the social graph and the plethora of technology vendors that make targeting easier.
* Different influencers will matter at different stages of the marketing funnel, too.
* Agencies will find ways to put a valuation on each consumer’s potential influence for specific product categories.
* Google and a few others are already taking a crack at defining your influence rank.
* Consumers will define the brands by the sheer volume of their opinions. They’ll be shaping the brands more than the brands will be shaping them.
* Social advertising will grow up (whatever that means!)
* The portable social graph will fuel marketing innovation (this is Facebook and Twitter Connect)
* Loose ties (like the friendsters of yours on Facebook) are as valuable as your strong ties (close friends) because they’re the ones that bring new ideas into your world and share your opinions with people who are further removed from you
* Social influence research will become more important than social measurement – n evolution from measuring sentiment to understanding opinion and synchronizing it with the Net Promoter scores

There are a few more, go read the post – if you’re an agency, it’s probably worth the read.

Creating A Healthy Influencer Marketing Program

Finally, here is a Powerpoint deck by Emre Ersahin available on SlideShare entitled: Creating A Healthy Influencer Marketing Program

Definitely worth a look – it contains a step-by-step process, refined from a set of good and best practice examples of how to run an Influencer Marketing Program – not the only way, but certainly one proven way. It presents a methodology based on Discover > Create > Execute > Measure centered around ‘Social Capital’ that leverages the value of online networks.

Here are the basic steps:

Discover – target audience and identify and recruit influencers

Create – influencer concepts and programs

Execute – program implementation online and offline

Measure – the results and evaluation of the benefits

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