(Digital) influence is the capacity to affect others to take actions and/or change opinions or behavior. It can happen directly (persuasion) and indirectly. However, it is always characterized by the resulting actions and changes.
Influence is used by people for many reasons: some ‘good’, some ‘bad’, some in between. Influence is powerful and marketers love it. In a world where traditional marketing has less impact, marketers want to involve the so-called influencers.
The outcomes matter most and you only get if you put in
Influencer marketing is not a question of reach. It’s a matter of results. Often, marketers forget that. Marketing starts with defining goals and figuring out ways to fulfil them. Many marketers forget that as well: if trying to involve people who are influential you need to know why, who they are, what they want and how you can deserve their support to achieve these goals.
You should also look beyond existing influencers: your job is to provide great customer experiences. That’s where brand advocacy and influence are born. Give them space to grow, just like you should do with communities.
Many marketers tend to focus on ‘the big influencers’ and forget their existing brand advocates and the untapped potential of – potentially – passionate influencers, such as their own employees and their happiest customers.
Sometimes marketers also confuse influencer marketing with manipulation, bribing or worse. Influence is something you deserve by being relevant for others. If not, it’s power or manipulation. The support of an influencer needs to be deserved by marketers as well. Indeed, by being relevant. If you want to ignite others to pass their passion along, you even need more than relevance. You need to be remarkable and passionate too.
Influencers are customers, even if they don’t buy
Marketers also tend to focus a lot on the connected consumer. However, realize that your best and most influential customers might be not that connected at all. It depends, among others, on your business and ecosystem.
Furthermore, look at influencers as customers. Don’t only ask what they can do for you. Start by asking what you can do for them. Understand what makes them influential in the first place and what makes them tick. Very often, it’s about emotions.
There are many models regarding persuasion and influence, among which that of Robert B. Cialdini. Study them (and all the others) and understand how you can turn the principles of influence and what everyone in your ecosystem – customers, influencers, other stakeholders – wants, likes and needs, into action. They – in alignment with your business goals – come first. Next, make sure you live upon your promises towards them.
The rise of digital influence: takeaways
Last, but not least, note that influence is not a matter of scores but I hope you already knew that.
In his Altimeter Group report, “The Rise of Digital Influence”, Brian Solis, looked at the dynamics of influence, how we often use it in the wrong away and how to develop a plan of action, spiced with several case studies.
Some things to remember:
- Don’t measure influence. Measure the outcomes. This obviously requires you know your goals and realize what word of mouth means for your business.
- Reach is a measure of potential impact, not a goal as such.
- Relevance is key, always: in fact, it’s the glue of relationships on the social web and thus of word of mouth and influence.
- Define metrics and KPIs in alignment with your goals. Examples: sales/referrals, brand lift (make sure you know the impact of brand awareness on your business as well, if you want to measure all the way).
- Develop a plan of action with the following three key components: 1) Objectives, 2) Steps, and 3) Elements that require definition.