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It’s About Influence, Not About Influencers.

Over the years, a lot of attention is spent on influencers marketing. Since the arrival of the social web, many marketers look for influencers and target them with specific messages or even free product samples. Their hope is to win the heart of the influencer and by doing so, release a large amount of positive word-of-mouth. This approach sounds logical, but it is also a narrow minded approach. Isn’t it strange that one person can have influence on about almost anything? The truth is that every individual has influence. Managing ‘influence’ will have a bigger impact in the long run than managing influencers. This post gives a few guidelines to manage influence.

Everybody has influence

Of course, some people have more influence than others depending on the size of their network, their drive to influence others and the type of conversations they have. And still, the biggest impact for a brand comes from a large group of people that recommend your brand, not from a select group of so called influencers. Yahoo’s Duncan Watts spent two months analyzing influencers on Twitter and found that a large group of people who influence an extremely small group are a more effective (and cheaper) way to share a message than enlisting a celebrity Twitterer. So instead of focussing on 10 people that can influence the rest of the world, it is better to have 100.000 people that try to influence their own personal environment.

Of course, there are influencers as well

This point of view does not mean that there are no influencers in the world. It is clear that every sector or topic has a few opinion leaders. These people set the tone and lead the conversation. Their impact within their field can be very big. As a marketer you should know the opinion makers in your category. Working together with them, may certainly help. It is however important to leave them in their own domain. An influencer of the financial industry will not be impactful in promoting a new lifestyle magazine, for instance.

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5 ways to manage ‘influence’

There are a lot of articles and blog posts about influencers marketing. Everybody knows the tools and ways to find the influencers in a country or about a specific topic. There are not that many strategies to manage influence. These 5 approaches will get your started.

1. Create positive symbols in your customer experience

Make sure that you have a few symbols of great customer experience. The 365 day return policy of Zappos or the laser show on board of the Tomorrowland planes are just two examples. A symbol is a statement that you are serious about customer satisfaction. Symbols should be very visible and very conversation worthy. These conversation worthy symbols make it easy for the average consumer to talk about your company and to use their influence in their own environment. Be aware: symbols only work if the basics of your customer processes are in line with customer expectations.

2. Avoid service schizophrenia

Offer the same service level to all of your clients. It sounds logical, but reality is often different. Many companies tend to answer faster and better to online complaints compared to their offline service channels. Some even give faster and better answers to people with a lot of followers than to people with a smaller network. That is service schizophrenia. Only by offering the same service levels to everyone, the influence of every individual will be optimized. If not, you are still thinking that the world exists of a few influencers.

3. Capture data

Try to capture as much data as possible from your customer and prospects. Once they have shown their interest in your company, try to keep the relation going. Managing influence is about getting targeted content to the right people. If you know the interests of your audience, you can send them very relevant content that they can use and share. Without data, it is very difficult to use content in your influence program.

4. Make everything shareable

Make sure that everyone can use and share your content and knowledge. By putting as much knowledge and information online as possible, the chance that someone will use it to convince others increases. You need to help your audience to use their influence on their environment. Giving them something to share is an important pillar to succeed.

5. Listen to everyone

Show the world that you are listening to everyone. Listening to a few individuals will never create the same perception as listening to everyone with an opinion. Every customer has an interesting story to share, as a company we need to be open to all these conversations.

The moment you understand the importance of the influence every individual has, you start to manage the conversation with a different mindset. Feel free to let me know what your thoughts are and how you look at managing influence.

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