Engage first, influence second
I have previously blogged about the appearance of a new type of company such as Klout, Peer Index, ProSkore, Kred, and many others, which are seeking to give people a score based on their social influence on the web and help brands connect with the right influencer.
In a society obsessed with measurement I believe there are inherent problems in brands using these companies (I’m not saying they won’t fix them in the future) – they all use algorithm based software in an attempt to measure your social capital and people will and do try to game the measurement. In my dealings with Mum and Fashion blogging communities in the UK and the US in the last twelve months, I’ve come across high scoring Klout bloggers, who simply aren’t the key influencers within a community. I think it’s fair to say that the very attempt to measure something can often influence what you’re trying to measure and not always lead to accurate results.
When one considers the online influencers who are having the greatest impact on their peers in society – those striving for political freedom in the Middle East and elsewhere – show me their Klout and Peer Index scores; this might sound a bit a fatuous I know but it makes the point.
I also think the other danger with these kind of companies is they tempt brands in to doing short term influencer campaigns – a short cut to get to the right people. Dipping-in and out with influencers, in short term tactical promotions is a mistake. Microsoft for example have worked with Klout in getting their windows mobile phones in to the hands of influencers with scores over 55. This is commendable but I believe that far more important is to engage first and promote second. Short term promotions to key influencers can be hugely successful but only within the context of a genuine longer term relationship rather than a series of one night stands. If they are important and influential in your market sector, you want that relationship for life.
In short, I think there is little point in reaching out to key influencers until you have done two things: the first is work out what the Social Graph of your community is i.e. what is their online profile, where do they go online, what social tools do they use, how do they communicate, how are they connected and what are their motivators? The second thing is to determine what I call the Value Exchange (you heard it here first remember!). It’s what you need to offer your audience to engage with them in a meaningful social dialogue – no more old fashioned messaging at them remember. Now this will vary depending on your brand and the audience but it could be one, or indeed any combination of these for example: exclusive access, entertainment, specialist knowledge, sharing content, expertise, reward (in many guises and yes, including financial), product sampling, or affording enhanced status within their community.
Understand your audience through working out their Social Graph, then engage and generate a rewarding dialogue through Value Exchange, remembering that it’s for life – lifetime value used to be an old direct/database marketing term from the 80’s all about what the marketer could squeeze out of the customer but it has never been so relevant – it’s just now there is no more squeezing and value is mutual.