With the rise of social media, word-of-mouth marketing is becoming a more tangible form of consumer influence. You see brands aplenty experimenting and tapping the digital space for "influencers" of all kinds. And they are out there in strong force. Often they are the niche groups of social elites that publish content on a countless level. Their passion for products is fueled by a desire to not only command the particular niche, but be looked upon as someone "influential."
I speak of digital influencers. These content-creating mavens cover a range of topics in every product space imaginable. They are the social elites who live in a variety of circles (blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.), who cover everything from tech, food, parental guidance, education, gaming, art, sports, lifestyle, military, auto…the categories don't end. Think of anything that comes to mind, chances are, that particular category exists.
The social elites have used the digital web to create a prowess that brands now scratch and crawl their competitors to seek after when looking for someone to talk about their product. And these influencers are prepared to make themselves readily available in exchange for cash, trips, free products, and so on. But their social circles, often quite large, have brands finding it worth the investment. Often their circles have outgrown "digital friendship" and now demand dollars, sometimes several, for placement on their owned properties.
It sounds intimidating, but in all honesty it's not. The idea behind this engagement for a brand is to exercise with caution. Businesses often don't understand digital influence and walk into planning blindly. When defining a strategy, a good place to start is by going back to the basics. Ask yourself the following questions:
It's not rocket science; it's actually something quite simple, yet marketers often overthink how digital influence works. They often answer these questions with the wrong goals in mind, and chances are, will most likely boil an influencer down to "who can sell the most of my product" to their circles. Certainly not a bad thought, but it's a goal that these "influencers" will never directly affect. The idea is to think of these influencers as representatives of your brand, its personality, its values, its integrity, and build on each of an influencer's connected value to her listeners. Thinking of engagement in that respect will often make the outcome more genuine, rather than a short, discreet blog post that will quickly pass and make room for the next brand in line for that influencer scratching at the door for a taste.
How Do I Engage?
So with that thought, it's crucial to take action in the following manner and listening to the proper answers you give to the questions above will help you with the next step, developing an influence plan.
And in six simple steps, it works like this:
Influence image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Nick Cifuentes is the global social media director at Ancestry.com, the world's largest online resource for family history, with 2 million paying subscribers as of July 2012. An industry veteran, Nick has worked in digital media and marketing since 2004, functioning in strategy, copywriting, analytics, search, planning, online media, and social media. He is a frequent guest writer on various industry blogs, and publishes his own blogs as well, including one focusing on digital media, and another on his side passion, ultramarathon running.