I promised I would write about this in an earlier post, and since the idea was actually inspired by someone, let me get these thoughts written down.
That word – influencers – it’s kind of loaded isn’t it? Let’s look at it from a business, more specifically a marketing point of view (since that’s what I do now). Here is how Business Dictionary.com defines the term:
Individuals who have the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their (real or perceived) authority, knowledge, position, or relationship. In consumer spending, members of a peer group or reference group act as influencers.
The definition specifically calls out consumer spending, but I believe it applies to B2B spending as well. Social media makes it pretty easy to find people who are going to influence buying decisions for our products inside their own companies. Even more importantly, influencers who are active in social media can impact the buying decisions of people outside their company as well. That is why it’s so important to find and interact with the influencers in our community.
There are all sorts of tools to find folks in our industry who have real or perceived authority, knowledge, position, or relationship. I think the danger is that they can’t always help you find the people who are real. I remember when some of the tools first came out, our downstream teams used them to find storage influencers. Luckily they ran the list by me before they sent NDA meeting invites to several competitors. Now, competitors are influencers, but it’s not a good idea to try to influence them with NDA meetings. 🙂 Also, the tools missed people that I considered key influencers, they just didn’t meet the criteria of the matching algorithm . You can use the tools as a starting point, but finding influencers for your product takes more work than that.
In no particular order, here’s how I find influencers who use social media
- Searching for your product’s keywords. Use Google alerts, Radian6, or whatever search tool you like best. Enter the name of your product, as well as the keywords that describe your industry and the technical problems your product solves. Now find the people who are talking.
It helps when people write great blog titles, use tags, tag vendors in tweets….but that’s just not how it happens most of the time. Do your homework y’all!
- Follow people you find, and read what they write. The only way you can know a person you’ve identified as a potential influencer is real (and not just perceived), you have to read what they put out there. This probably means that you don’t want to leave this task to someone who doesn’t speak the language of your audience. If you aren’t technical, and you’ve got to find influencers, do a little homework, maybe interview some of your internal technical resources to learn the lingo. If you find the right people to follow, you’ll learn a lot from reading them.
Pro tip to non-technical marketers: don’t pretend to be technical. We’ll always figure it out. But, don’t shy away from participating! Just be you…be open…and remember that influencers are amazing individuals, they are not cookie cutter personas.
- Follow people that the people you find in your search interact with/follow. From what I’ve observed, influencers are very social. Go read who they link to in their blog posts, who they retweet. There’s a very good chance you’ll find another influencer that way.
- Use Twitter lists twitter lists are great, they are self-curated lists from events or of users who know a lot about a certain topic. You can even follow someone else’s list, and read tweets from people on the list without having to follow them.
- Interact with the people you’ve identified as influencers. The trick to this is to be real, not creepy. This where reading what they write comes in handy. If they write some amazing content, share it. Don’t just share the content if it’s about your product or company, share other content too. Respond in the comments on their blogs. Root against them during the Superbowl on Twitter. You know, the same things you’d do if you were getting to know someone in person.
Once you find influencers, you have to work hard to nurture them. But nurturing influencers is a post for another day.