“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message.”
- Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
With the advent of the internet, marketing has undergone a tremendous transformation. A company's web presence, their social media marketing strategy and their SEO strategies have, just in a space of a few years has become a critical success factor. In a way it has made the world more democratic. Earlier new products or ideas would only come from big organisation who could spend large amounts on advertising and other promotions to inform, educate and ultimately influence consumers.
The internet has levelled the playing field. Now it doesn't matter how big you are. Everyone can effectively reach the consumer. The determining factor will only be if you offer what the consumer is looking for. However, it is important that your company and your product offerings be visible to the consumer. And although I have said that the internet has levelled the playing field it is naive to imagine that there is no manipulation to lure customers.
So how do you work to ensure that you stand out in the minds of your target audience? Industry influencers can be one part of the answer. These are experts in particular areas who have established their authority in the field. An example could be a chef who writes a popular blog about the food industry. Another example could be a successful entrepreneur who now discusses strategies and case studies on his website. An influencer can be anybody whose views and opinions carry weight on the internet or on social media.
But more than influence it is a matter of trust. If somebody has gradually built up their expertise or authority on a particular subject it means that they have won the trust of their followers and others. And as Zuckerberg, so rightly, points out there is nothing that influences people as much as a referral from a trusted source.
Therefore, successfully engaging influencers and getting them involved with your brand is vital. Even if in the beginning you only get them to review your product. It is one of the ways you can make your brand more visible and attract more consumers. Here we discuss 5 ways to engage influencers from your industry and to build a relationship with them.
1. To begin try to get an understanding of their views. You can follow the content they post on Twitter, Facebook and other such platforms. You can comment on what they have written. Please note that the comments needn't just be appreciative. You can bring in a new idea to the discussion or maybe even ask a question. Even if you just want to express your appreciation be specific with what you liked about the post. Try and be as descriptive as possible so the person also gets a sense of you.
2. When you put out content you can mention them or if you have borrowed an idea or information from them then credit them with the same. It also makes sense to write to them and inform them about this. Just drop a quick line saying "Hey! I am discussing the strategy you came up with in my next blog. Any input from you would be great".
3. Try and participate in any knowledge sharing session, a conference, a webinar where they are invited. This would give you an opportunity to connect with multiple people and also come across some interesting new ideas.
4. Once you have built up your relationship with certain influencers to an extent you can also host such sessions. If you have the resources to promote such sessions your brand and product can feature in such promotions. These sessions can also help to build a network of influencers and other key people.
5. It would also not be out of place to give them a small gift signifying your appreciation for their time and effort. Gifts can be given to all the guest speakers at a conference or knowledge sharing session that you organised. Customised gifts which effectively represent your brand would be a great gift idea.
To sum up influencers can make a big difference in the acceptability and reach of your content. Engaging them successfully can contribute significantly in achieving your digital marketing goals.