Who is an influencer? An influencer is an ordinary person who has an above-average impact on a specific topic, in a social environment. Influencers persuade others in favor or against a given parameter of consequence in society. For example, one can find influencers of brands, products, ideas or beliefs. Sometimes, influencers band together towards a cause, like consumer groups, industry associations or community advocates. For one to standout as an influencer, in a statistical sense, one must be able to influence the minds of the community well beyond the average influence of any other single person or small group.
Influencers can be important to your business. They may not even be aware of your company, but may possess control over a customer segment you seek. It might be beneficial to recognize and win over such pillars in your target community, not merely as marketing tools, but as more subtle “social relationship assets.” They could act as people responsible for leveraging key contacts, supporting new product releases or simply to increase market awareness and foster industry paradigm shifts (e.g. evangelizing the value of Mobile Apps).
An exciting new development is the emergence of influencers via social media, and the possibility of identifying and rewarding them for their good work towards a particular cause. Let’s consider the story of Yago, a hypothetical small to medium-sized dress store. Yago updates their Facebook page and Twitter stream on regular basis, as their principal method of promoting the store. Fans can get actively involved with the Facebook page by:
– Liking the posts and photos
– Commenting on photos and posts
-Sharing the posts and photos, etc.
Followers of Yago’s Twitter handle can get involved in the evolution of the brand by mentioning or re-tweeting posts. Thus Yago can begin to recognize their Facebook Fans and Twitter Followers as potential influencers. For example, a fan can share a post from Yago’s Facebook page and thus make it visible to her entire network of friends. This would introduce Yago to a whole new audience.
This theory of influencers via social media is nothing new – it’s indeed what attracts people to social media use. This is the era of social media, and thanks to social media users everyone now has the opportunity to standout and become leaders with respect to their interests. According to Social Media Today, influencers on social media are either passionate individuals who turn out to be specialists or they are professionals who use Web 2.0 tools as part of their regular work. They tend to take advantage of their presence on social networks for personal gain or as a representative (or “ambassador”) to a brand or a company. They produce and share relevant content, appealing to the interests of the community at large. This can trigger discussions that might have influence on consumer behavior. As a result, marketers and public relations professionals have obviously been forced to reassess their approach to social media and to define the influence and influencers via social networks.
According to Barone, L’ study (2010) there are five types of influencers:
- The social butterflies – The social butterflies love to connect people from inside their different networks. For instance if you need a stylist they would know one. If you need to get drawings they’d have contacts. Social butterflies are always willing to do the introduction for you. They’d have the biggest contact list and establish themselves on all social media platforms. The problem is in finding out how one can identify them. One could create contact groups (Twitter lists, Facebook groups, etc.) and then check for overlapping names. These folks would be likely candidates for butterflies.
- The Opinion Leader (Thought Leader) – The opinion leader can become an excellent ambassador of a brand he/she has built, relying on her strong, proven competency in her field. Their messages are the ones that are commented on or re-tweeted most often. Thought leaders can help you construct a “social imprint” by providing you their endorsement. When they re-tweet your tweets or recommend you with a Facebook post, you may be able to benefit from their circle of influence and thus could massively boost the audience for your product or website. How can one identify thought leaders? This is fairly easy; they usually are well known personalities in social media culture and thus, have high counts of followers, etc. They’re likely to speak at conferences and are always being referred to in other’s tweets and posts. And so on.
- The Discoverer/Trendsetter – these types are continuously on the lookout for new trends. The Discoverer is always the first to use a new platform. They’d know every detail about the newest technologies before others. Discoverers are powerful social media assets because they are the news distributors. If you looking for discoverers, you could find them reading tech notes, commenting on new articles and tweeting about sites and applications you have never heard of before.
- The Reporter/Sharer – Reporters distribute information to bloggers and journalists through dedicated webzines. They are extremely important since they hold three desirable traits; press, coverage and links. Creating links with reporters helps you to enhance your public relationships.
- The User/ Everyday Customer – She signifies the regular customer. These folks are just as important as the above; because they will pass the experience along to their families and friends.
Social media influencers are a new breed of opportunity for marketers. They include a larger variety than influencers pre-dating social media such as, press, analysts, politicians, etc. Today, social media has made it possible for the average Joe to become influential on a topic, brand, etc. unlike ever before. But, remember that influence can be both positive and negative. Therefore, continually monitoring the impact you have with such influencers for your brand and website is more important than ever.