Influence is something we all want to attain within our respective markets, but questions often arise about what makes someone an influencer:
- How do you identify influencers in your industry?
- How influential are they really?
- How do they influence their audience?
- Where does their influence begin and end?
- How can you influence the influencers?
These questions are of particular interest in the social media universe. Social Media channels have created a new outlet for influencers to reach their audience, but – even with the ease of access – the same questions surrounding influencers remain: How do I identify, tap into and utilize influencers who are reaching my audience?
Understanding influence was a prevalent theme at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference last week. Multiple sessions were dedicated to influencing your target audience, and if there is anything I have gathered from these experts, it’s this: no one has the magic formula to answering the questions surrounding influencers.
I know, that’s a little anti-climactic. But don’t stop reading just yet. I do have some fundamental lessons to share about how to identify and leverage key influencers who can help you build your social media reputation.
- Influence is not all about numbers. 4 million followers does not always equal leverage with your particular audience. There are hundreds of examples of companies utilizing people with thousands of followers in the social media space to push their message. RadioShack, for instance, considers Lance Armstrong as an “influencer” because of their promotional partnership with Livestrong. Clearly, Lance Armstrong is a pretty popular guy (and rides a bike pretty well) but, I doubt he has any information on what specs are most important when buying a surround sound speaker system.
- Treat everyone equally from the start. Starting out you might not know who has influence or may eventually have influence with your audience, so treat everyone as if they have influence with your audience.
- It’s not always about finding the influencer. Sometimes it’s about building one…providing the necessary tools and channels to develop an influencer within your audience. An influencer is dependent on credibility, bandwidth to share, relevance, timing, channel alignment and target confidence. Who already exists within your audience that has credibility, bandwidth, and confidence that you can provide content and channel alignment to?
Ultimately, influence is all about the ability to drive an action, even if that action is just about changing someone’s mind. If you provide your community with channels that allow for advocacy, support, and feedback, natural influencers will emerge. It is your job to foster these influencers, understand your network, and measure your success.