There may not be a word in today’s communications ecosystem that stirs more emotion and opinion right now than ‘influencer.’ Over the past several years, PR has been asked to reach beyond the traditional media relations role (and even beyond that of social and digital teams) to find key individuals on the leading edge. The influencer is the tastemaker, the thought leader and the cool kid all wrapped into one hard-to-find (and ever harder-to-reach) target. The influencer is the white unicorn that can bring a product or service from the obscure into the mainstream with nothing more than their recommendation.
Companies, brands and organizations have been working to reach the influencer long before they were a specific target – they just weren’t defined as such. Digging through pages and pages of data can help us uncover who these consumers are, where they consume their media and, more importantly, how they inspire others to action.
Quick online research shows estimates stating that consumers are bombarded with anywhere from 500 to 5,000 messages per day. Consumers consult friends and family, plus scour forums and blogs, to lead to the right purchase. Once consumers identify an ‘influencer,’ they become the dominant force in the purchase decision. In fact, some studies show that influencers are becoming more influential in the path to purchase than traditional, above-the-line marketing methods.
There are a number of strategies that can lead a brand to creating and engaging influencers. Below are a few areas worth exploring if you and your organization are chasing that unicorn:
- Get digital. Blogger relations programs are not new to the marketing space, but that doesn’t mean they are any less effective. Engage with these beacons in a relevant manner, provide the product to test and then listen to their feedback. Bloggers’ feedback can help drive purchase or usage for your product and service in their circle of followers. If a blogger campaign seems like a table stake at this point, how about exploring the opportunity to engage in conversation with consumers on active forums with product/brand experts?
- Work together. Media outlets have done a wonderful job evolving to remain relevant over the recent constriction of titles. They very often have a coveted list of the most engaging subscribers and readers. Car & Driver offers automotive manufacturers the opportunity to tour their vehicles around the country and offer test-drives to consumers who many not be in the market for a new car, while offering insight to their neighbor if they are in the position to buy. Leveraging the name recognition and credibility of a trusted outlet like Car & Driver allows manufacturers the opportunity to get influencers in their vehicles without the need to visit the dealership, with ‘editors’ or reps serving as third-party influencers.
- Get in the box. Over the past two or three years there has been a growing trend around subscription boxes. You can find offerings to fit almost any interest, whether it is fashion, beauty, sports, gaming or even geek culture. Companies can put their products in the hands of consumers that have opted-in to receive certain items and then pass along to friends for additional trial. In fact, I recently fell to that exact strategy through my monthly Loot Crate shipment a few days ago, which included a sample of a new game, SuperFight. Once I tried it, I was hooked and went online and purchased a copy not only for myself, but for my brother as well. In doing so, I also told no less than ten people about the game. Using my experience as an example, by creating and following a path of influence, think of how many others repeated this action and the expansive reach SuperFight garnered.
Regardless of the target, product or service, creating influence and relevancy through your own army of advocates can have incredible impact for an organization. It may just be the most rewarding activity you employ this year.
Mike Salzillo, APR is Vice President at Coyne PR