It’s no secret that social media has changed the way businesses function.  In the past, consumers relied heavily on product branding and advertisements.  Today, word of mouth is the most trusted method of advertisement and one of the most powerful business techniques. And social media is in the middle of it all as it serves as the go-to place for online conversation for reviews, praise, complaints, questions, etc.

This is where online influencers come into play as an important part of your business strategy.  If you don’t know who online influencers are, you’ve likely heard of them.  So what’s the big deal with these online influencers?  Who are they and why are they so important?

Online influencers are social network users whose opinions the audience trusts and have a huge impact on an individual’s purchasing decision.  Businesses should reach out to these influencers as they can serve as brand ambassadors and evangelists.  Consumers are more likely to try or purchase a product or service if it has received a positive reaction from someone they trust.  On the flip side, consumers wouldn’t come near a negatively reviewed product or service with a ten-foot pole.

There are two types of online influencers to acknowledge: top influencers by impact (those with the highest following) and top influencers by volume (those who mention your brand or product the most frequently).  Social media intelligence tools like Viralheat give businesses the opportunity to identify their top 25 influencers.

So what are the next steps a business should take after identifying its top influencers?  Let’s take a look at the best way to work with influencers by impact and by volume.

Key influencers by impact

Key influencers by impact are the social media users who mention your brand with the highest number of followers.  Reaching out to these influencers allows your brand or business the opportunity to reach a large audience.  For example, users who are fans of your product are likely to share opinions or reviews online.  Bloggers are a good example of key influencers by impact because well-known bloggers have followings in the hundreds of thousands as consumers follow blogs they trust. A product-based business would benefit by reaching out to these influencers and offering a sample or trial product in exchange for an honest opinion or review. Consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service if someone they trust has given it positive reviews.

Key influencers by volume

Key influencers by volume are the social media users who mention your brand the most frequently.  These influencers are unassuming brand ambassadors as they are already loyal through their constant mentioning of your brand.  Imagine how positively these influencers would react to being contacted by a brand they feel strongly for.  If they are already talking about you frequently,  it’s likely they will publicly applaud the brand if you reached out to them personally with a little acknowledgement – perhaps a discounted product or service or a simple gesture of gratitude through a thank you.

Because online influencers arose with the advent of social media, they are a relatively new phenomenon.  It’s important for businesses today to see the benefit of identifying and understanding the impact of online influencers and connecting with them.  Businesses should include influencers in their strategic plans as consumers rely heavily on opinions and reviews (think of Yelp’s popularity).  From sales to promotions, online influencers can make be the major difference in the success of your campaigns.