An elite group of supremely influential women—tagged as “Influence-Hers by public relations agency Marina Maher Communications—is surprisingly open to being influenced by others. But a new survey from MMC suggests they can be influenced only by particular endorsers and that specific media resonate with them and ultimately move them to activate their extensive social web.

The survey of more than 2,000 women ages 18-59, conducted by the Keller Fay Group, identified “Influence-Hers” as the 12 percent of all women to whom everyday women turn most often for advice. Not only do these women have profound influence within their own inner circles, they can potentially reach hundreds or thousands of others as their activities reverberate online.

The average Influence-Her has a social network more than twice the size of the average woman. She engages much more often in activities that create a powerful viral echo effect: liking brands on Facebook, submitting online reviews and posting comments about brands on web sites and forums.

Influence-Hers derive their credibility and social status by being “in the know,” aware of the latest trends and up on the latest news. Her social network considers her a more powerful and credible source than the media, but unlike reporters and bloggers, she often has no special access to information. So she seeks out brand news, trends and innovations, adds her personal twist and then shares it with others.

Reviews are almost twice as valuable as a “must have” in the Influence-Hers decision-making process in comparison with other marketing appeals. Among the key findings of the survey:
• 83 percent rely on expert reviews “very often” or “fairly often” and 84 percent rely on consumer reviews to make purchase decisions
• 42 percent are relying more on expert reviews to make purchasing decisions (61 percent more likely than other women) in the past few years
• 59 percent are relying more on reviews of other consumers to make purchasing decisions (64 percent more likely than other women) in the past few years
• Comparatively, only 25 percent are relying more in recent years on editorial coverage to help make such decisions, 16 percent for advertising and 13 percent for sales staff

They’re more readily influenced than everyday women by advice from celebrities and experts who endorse brands. Depending on the brand category, Influence-Hers can be as much as 90 percent more likely to value the advice or opinions of brand endorsers than all other women. In fact, selecting the right endorser in key categories can drive her to action.

In addition, media has a big influence over her:
• 55 percent are more likely to go to a restaurant after seeing it on TV;
• 91 percent are more likely to buy something for her home after seeing it on a morning TV program;
• 76 percent are more likely to read a book recommended by Oprah than other women.

To win these women over, MMC advises marketers to:
• Choose the right endorsers to reach her. One of the most surprising findings of the survey is that this savvy group of women is unusually open to the influence of people that marketers can control, such as celebrities, paid expert endorsers and media. Without exception, Influence-Hers are far more likely to value the advice or opinions of brand endorsers than all women. The key is finding the right endorsers, because category context plays an important role in determining who moves them to action. An endorser who resonates on beauty trends, for example, may fall flat in the health and well-being arena.
• Provide her with relevant, share-able information on your web site and social media properties that can enhance her life vs. sell your brand benefits. Information is the coin of her realm; “Did you know?” are her three favorite words. Tap into her desire to share and give her the tools to pass what she learns on to others. She is also an enthusiastic product reviewer, so include review functionality on all brand online properties. Make brand websites a one-stop shop by aggregating brand discussions from across the social web and allowing her to log in to the brand site from a Facebook or Twitter account.
• Show her you care. Because Influence-Hers are, by nature, over represented on brand online sites, chances are the woman sharing her opinion or asking for information has a powerful social graph. So talk to her. Engaging in real conversation and showing you value her opinion will convert her from an observer to an advocate.

The firm has introduced a comprehensive Brand Influence Model, a research-based tool that maps a brand’s influence with target female consumers and designs appropriate paths to reach her, and the MMC Brand Endorser Index, a tool to measure the relative influence of potential brand endorsers and their distinctive connection to this powerful group of women, the Influence-Hers.