Influencer marketing: Can your customers be your biggest influencers?

8th Sep 2015

Who do customers listen to? Who do they trust?  

The answer to both these questions? Research reveals that people pay most attention to someone like themselves. And here’s the good news: who could be more like your target customer than someone who is already using your product?

Traditionally, influencer marketing focused on using people in positions of power to reach a certain audience, this was people like journalists or celebrities. The internet though has led to a shift in power meaning almost anyone can exert influence in their area of expertise. So we set out to speak to some experts on the matter and find out what influence marketing really means in the digital age.

Stephen Waddington, chief engagement officer of Ketchum, says: “Influencer marketing is the shift in recognising there are new ways to reach your audience or public. Traditionally, that used to be high net worth individuals or journalists and now it can be anyone with their own network or media of their own.” And this includes your own customers.

Some elements of influence haven't changed - but the potential reach and potential for brands to discover their most influential customers is greater than ever. And customers convert, AdWeek reports 92% of us trust recommendations from other people, even strangers, over branded content.

There are two ways to go about this process. One, you amplify your existing customers, helping spread their influence to others like them. Or two, you can identify ‘customer-shaped’ influencers and persuade them that your product is one for them.

As Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, says: “For me I look at it as ‘influence equals action’ and that really is the key. It’s knowing there’s individuals that come in all different shapes and sizes, everyone from your own customers to bloggers, Twitter personalities, analysts and experts who are able to move the needle for you.”

These are the two options we detail below, building a picture of customer influencers from both angles.

Amplifying your customers

First of all, you need to know who really cares about your product. Ideally, depending on your market, you can get an idea of this by keeping an eye on social channels and any other platforms where people discuss your market. Many brands use tools like Net Promoter to gauge the strength of their relationships with customers. We use a tool called Delighted to keep tabs on all of our customer’s Net Promoter Scores.

If you’re a consumer brand, you might need to scan sites like Reddit or fairly established resources like Facebook pages or fan groups. If you’re in the B2B world, maybe you’re thinking about communities like Spiceworks (for IT tech) or areas like Linkedin. A great way to keep track of new mentions across these sites is to set up boolean Google Alerts to send you a daily digest of all new brand mentions. Don’t forget the offline world too, conferences and events can be a great place to meet customers who support your product .  

This isn’t just about finding out who is the loudest though. It’s about identifying who is actually driving the conversation forward and finding who your audience is actually listening to. One action is worth a whole swarm of noise.  By cross referencing your customers against other influencer analysis tools like BlueNod you can start seeing which of your customers have real reach. Digital marketing analyst and anthropologist Brian Solis puts it like this: “Aligning your brand with people who have notable scores is one thing. Aligning with connected consumers to accomplish something specific delivers measurable results.”

Marriott Hotels did almost exactly that by identifying eight travel bloggers who were also regular visitors to their hotels. The chain then offered each blogger credits to take a holiday anywhere. Soon these bloggers were writing about their experience, the campaign resulted in 39 individual posts and over 1 million unique users.

A classic way to bring exposure to your customer stories is the old-fashioned case study process. By talking about the challenge, solution and benefits, you shed light on a potential use case, take it to influencers in the media and can let that story attract further customers.

Today, you can develop stories in ways that don’t require the media in the middle. By getting a camera on your customer, you can have them candidly speak about the challenges you helped them overcome and amplify those words using paid social or initiatives like newsletters.

Here, you aren’t so much turning the otherwise quiet customer into an advocate in the same way - but you are ‘weaponising’ their appreciation of what you do and making it independent of them.

Fill your armoury. Between these records of customer success and a few vocal fans, you may get further than you think.

Attracting influencer appreciation

Everyone wants a piece of the modern influencer. If you’re going to stand out from the crowd and get their attention, you need to think about what they are trying to achieve and how you can help them get there.

Think about what you have to offer that can be aimed toward their goals? How do you need to wow them? Is it entertainment? Is it capitalising on a situation where their frustration is aimed elsewhere? Is it a careful attentive message across social media or a personal call from your CEO?

On this topic, Deirdre Breakenridge, says: “When I’m developing an influencer marketing campaign I tend to look at all different types of influencers in the space and include a mix of the the ones who like to participate in webinars, take part speaking opportunities or accept content for their site. If you truly understand your influencers it is easier to engage with them.”

One thing to be really careful about is freebies. Sure, you could send them your product or give them free access to your service. But are you creating a customer there or just a short term bout of noise.

You don’t want them to just acknowledge you because they got some swag. You want them to appreciate you in the same way your customers do. This is why it may take a more hands on approach than you think. Take General Motors as an example, the car manufacturer invited their most engaged customers to join a exclusive site called “GM Insiders”. The website featured exclusive news, offers and previews. By creating a sense of exclusivity for these highly engaged customers, GM ensured these customers would continue to talk about the company’s products.

All of this starts with listening. Just as you listen to your own customer communities, keep your eyes peeled (and your alerts set up) for people really contributing to the conversation around your market. It may take a month, it may take a year - but making the most of the opportunity requires awareness first and foremost.

Exercising influence that actually attracts influencers is one of the subtle arts of the marketing world - and don’t be surprised if it takes practice. The most important thing, however, is to start warming up your muscles as quickly as possible.

Start today and you could be helping your customers, helping your influencers and helping their audience. Sometimes, that’s the most effective way to help yourself to the attention you deserve.

Frederik Vincx is cofounder of Prezly. Over the last three months Prezly has been working on a definitive guide to Influencer Marketing by interviewing the leading lights in the world of PR and communications. Check out the definitive guide to Influencer Marketing today.


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By LinkedIn Group Member
10th Sep 2015 14:09

This comment was posted in the MyCustomer LinkedIn group.

It might take years of practice and better if hands on, difficulties now, reap later. Advocates will surely influence others, question is how many does your company have? one? two? a dozen? fifty? So now, why not then let's arm ourselves and make our customers appreciate what we do and why we do to have added advocates, loyal customers in the long run to multiply our brand influencers..

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