[Photo courtesy of AntoineWentzler on Flickr]
It’s no secret that consumers don’t place a lot of faith in the messages they get directly from brands. And why should they? Companies tout all the great things about their products and minimize any downsides to their products.
Knowing full well that this happens, consumers tend to put their trust elsewhere, namely real people. They’ll look at online reviews, ask their friends and neighbors, talk to salespeople, and seek out the opinions of other people they know or follow, such as a blogger who does reviews.
The good news for you and your brand is that you can tap into this network by concentrating on influencer relations.
To put it as simply as possible, influencer relations are when you attempt to gain credibility and sway by means of word-of-mouth. The challenge with this is that a brand can’t start its own word-of-mouth buzz because that would lack credibility.
But, if you can get influencers to start word-of-mouth buzz about your brand, consumers will be more likely to listen to them, which means you won’t have to sell your brand quite as hard (because they’ll be doing it for you).
Influencers can also gain you new customers because their own followers — even ones who didn’t know about your brand beforehand — will become interested in it.
If you nurture your relationships with your influencers, you also may get new places to post content and also get new content from them.
Who and where?
So, who are these influencers we’re talking about and where do you find them, anyway?
They’re people who like your brand and say good things about it, but who also have a large following online. These may be bloggers who do product reviews or people within your industry who a lot of people know and respect the opinions of, or they may just be regular consumers who like your brand and happen to have a large following in a social media network like Twitter, Instagram or Yelp.
Identifying people who like your brand and who post a lot about it will take a bit of research. But, you can set up an alert to notify you when your brand’s name is mentioned or do some looking around online to see who might be a person that your customers are likely to follow.
Consider these questions when you are searching for influencers:
- What topics are important to your audience?
- What questions do your consumers have when they’re considering making a purchase?
- What are your customers’ preferences for discovering, consuming and interacting with information or content?
Your Yelp page is a good place to start looking for people who you could tap to become a brand ambassador for you. People who have large followings on Yelp likely have large followings on other networks and you can contact them to start a dialogue.
Creating a Strategy
Like dealing with the media, you need a strategy for nurturing influencer relations. You’ll need:
- Objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can share with your team.
- A way to track your efforts and a plan for who will receive reports and how often they’ll receive them.
- Processes and procedures for identifying and bringing new influencers on board.
Tyson Foods – This company wanted to clear out its inventory of chicken nuggets, so it asked mommy bloggers to share their ideas for having fun with chicken nuggets rather than the traditional cookies over the holiday season. Tyson received on its social media networks images of its chicken nuggets decorated in all kinds of holiday themes usually reserved for cookies, like Christmas trees, reindeer and snowmen. The company managed to clear out its inventory in weeks.
Tyson identified key influencers among its audience (mommy bloggers) and received fresh, creative content from them, which in in turn, influenced others.
You can also set up your own influencer networks. This won’t work for all products, but if you have a solid offering, it might.
Sweatblock – This company sells a special antiperspirant for people who suffer from excessive sweating. It invites its customers to create their own videos talking about how the product has helped them and changed their lives. In exchange for their video, Sweatblock gives them free packs of the product.
The company exchanges product for video testimonials from real people, giving it increased credibility.
By nurturing relationships with people who love your brand and have a large following online that influences others, or by setting up your own credible network of influencers, you can easily gain valid word-of-mouth buzz on- and offline.