In discussions about how to find the influencers that the business customer values – the conversation often segues into various online tools which gauge influence metrics. Tools such as Klout or Kred- that didn’t exist two or so years ago (give or take a year) come to mind as do newer SocialCRM solutions on the market.
Flash back to four years ago. I was a member of the Influencer marketing team at SAP working on models to determine who influenced our business customers and how. There was science, but much of that work was manual: depending on the audience. Amazon revealed whose books were influential on which topics, and conference agendas unveiled keynoters or speakers on the hot sessions at industry events.
Back then, a company called Influencer50 provided expertise and tools to plot influencer reach, relevance, frequency and closeness; most of which required some type of vetting by field colleagues in order to cross-check those results with what the Sales teams were hearing from prospects and customers.
Today, those measures and the process hasn’t changed much:
Step #1: Identification of influencers
Step #2: Determine Terms of Engagement with influencers
Step #3: Leverage influencers into your program objectives
What has changed is the scale, volume (loudness as well as frequency of conversations) and tools in the hands of the individual. I mean the individual on both sides: individuals who determine the influencers to engage with, and individuals seeking thought leadership around your products and services.
Paul Greenberg wrote a 2 part blog series on ZDNet about influencer dynamics recently. The posts were all encompassing – insofar as to include a tell-all guide on “how to deal with influencers” with a step by step approach on how to engage. Read it!
So how do you build a lasting engagement with the right social media-friendly business influencers relevant for your business customers today?
Be proactive – Follow the social thought leaders’ tweets and RSS their blogs; use at a minimum Google Alerts and even better another social media management tool to find and share insights
Engage in the trending topics – Check out Google Trends or HashtagBattle to insure that your topic has a voice in the social web and that you sit squarely in the center of it with those who hold court there.
Take the High Road – know that how you engage is a model that will define your reputation – be trustworthy, be exemplars of openness
Personalize: “is the influencer content I’m sharing of value to my customers?” An influencer can be a customer, a social network, an association, a news site and more. If their word is of value to your customers – share it.
Be Human. Don’t be afraid to add your initials or name to tweets or social messages to influencers. Acknowledge mistakes and correct them. Pick up the phone if you’ve built enough of a rapport. Follow through.
Fostering relationships that are built to last with socially-engaged influencers is like nurturing a grape vine. Some influencers may veer away from your topic and new ones will flourish. Work to cover various segments by including influencers who are cross-topic and multichannel so that customers who fit that description can find them.
Watch, listen, curate, moderate = engage. And be ready for the next verb.
This post originally appeared on Business 2 Community.