How do you influence influencers?
PRNews/Ogilvy training is not cheap, but when the opportunity presented itself to attend a workshop on identifying, managing and maximizing online and offline influencers for marketing and PR I did not hesitate to make my way to NYC to meet with three Ogilvy PR executives running the training: Jennifer Scott and Michael Briggs who are focused on strategy and planning at Ogilvy PR and Rohit Bhargava (whose blog on influential marketing I have been a fan of for quite some time) who focuses on influencers in digital spaces.
Is there a set of rules and best practices?
Identifying and engaging with digital influencers is not a new concept for social media strategists, but definitely an activity all of us are still learning how to do well. Going into the workshop I was looking to 1) identify influencers (both in social media and beyond) 2) to find a framework to score their influence and 3) to figure out ways to engage them without jeopardizing the trust I’ve developed for my brand and putting me at odds with FTC guidelines governing social media disclosure.
Did Ogilvy delivered on their promise of teaching me how to formalize my influencers outreach program? I definitely think so. Here is the process that was identified:
STEP 1: IDENTIFY AND MAP YOUR INFLUENCERS
Before the advent of social media it was much easier to identify and develop strategies for influencer engagement since the influencer model had just two layers. Mass media was influencing a selective and fairly small group of opinion leaders who in turn where influencing their groups of followers. Nowadays things are not so simple any more because of social technologies making it easy for folks to raise up to the level of high influence as simply as publishing content to a blog or contributing to a group of like-minded individuals with the help of an online social network. We are no longer after a handful of influencers but a large number of highly connected individuals who form highly engaged communities.
Who is it that you are trying to influence?
We often fall victim to not realizing how many different categories of influencers we need to engage with for a successful influencers’ program. For a brand you might consider the following groups: customers, investors, reporters, non-governmental orgs (NGOs), legislators/regulators and of course your employees.
Is there a formal process for influencer identification?
Ogilvy PR has a formalized Influencer Quotient (IQ) Mapping system which is an extensive process for identifying and prioritizing key influencers. It is a large undertaking that requires a team of ~ 10 data analysts formally scoring influencers and placing them on the influencer matrix based on two criteria: influence (aka the power to reach) and opinion (influencer’s existing perspective on the client’s product, brand or activity). So imagine a graph where the x axis is the opinion and the y axis is the influence axis and you end up with four quadrants: starting with a low opinion, low influence quadrant in the lower left corner and the high opinion and high influence quadrant in the top right corner.
If you are not able (or cannot afford) to go through a formal IQ Mapping process you can use a more basic DIY influencer mapping exercise of using stars for individual dimensions of influence ( e.g. reach in mainstream media and in digital media, level of authority/connectedness and level of investment in the issue or brand.) For mapping the opinion level you may use the following dimensions: orientation and consistency of opinion on the issue and willingness to engage others on the issue.
While trying to identify different groups of influencers remember that there might be other departments who are tasked with developing and maintaining relationships with influencers (e.g. your government affairs department) and it is to your advantage to collaborate with them to avoid effort duplication and having several people outreaching to the same influencers without a coordinated approach
What if I have many influencers and limited resources for outreach?
Once you have your influencers identified narrowing their number to several that you are actually going to reach out to might be a difficult task, but a task you need to do particularly if you are short on resources. Your sweet spot on the influencers matrix might not necessarily be the high opinion and high influence quadrant, but folks who fall in the high opinion and lower influence category. These are people whose opinion is already in favor of your message, but who might not (or not yet) have developed the influence in the digital or non-digital space (e.g. academics). It might be to your advantage to reach out to them and help them amplify their positive comments at the same time banking on their high degree of credibility.
STEP 2: DEVELOP THE INFLUENCER MESSAGE
What do you do after you’ve mapped out your list of influencers? You develop the right message for the right audience. Michael Briggs described a shift happening in influencer messaging that is now based on informed targeting rather than marketing. To come up with the perfect message we need to look at the influencers in the context of the networks they are influencing. What matters to these networks will ultimately matter to the influencer. Take time to identify not only your influencers, but also the networks they are influencing. It is the community and not necessarily just one influencer that will increase your chances of success.
STEP 3: IDENTIFY TACTICS AND CHANNELS TO CARRY YOUR INFLUENCER OUTREACH
There are 6 basic principles of influence Ogilvy identified as valuable tactics in addressing your influencers:
- Reciprocity (when you receive something from someone you feel obligated to reciprocate). This is the strategy behind re-tweeting messages of others with an expectation that they might be more inclined to re-tweet yours, exposing your messaging to their network.
- Commitment & consistency – if you make someone promise to do something they are more inclined to do it.
- Social proof – what’s right for our friends is right for us.
- Liking – we are more likely to say “yes” to people we like.
- Authority – being an authority or being perceived as an authority is a powerful tactic for influencing others. Be careful not to abuse it though.
- Scarcity – by limiting the number of items or communicating scarcity of an item (e.g. popular toy at X-mas) you are able to influence buyers to hurry up and get it in fear running out.
Remember to be flexible and willing to adjust your messaging to make your program a success. That’s why listening to the influencers and even more so listening to the communities where influencers play is crucial to the success of your program. Having a robust social media monitoring tool such as Radian6 or Scout Labs with properly configured keywords for searches will help you manage mountains of data to find the conversations you should pay attention to and engage in.
STEP 4: ENGAGE WITH INFLUENCERS
Here are a few basic tips from Rohit:
- Don’t assume your message will be spot on and will resonate with all the people you are trying to influence. Prepare to amend your message based on your influencers’ feedback. Be accessible to the community to gather that feedback and respond to issues as they arise. The strategy should be “manage, don’t dictate”
- Make sure you are listening to the right things in social media. Don’t be limited to just monitoring your branded terms. Expand to include industry keywords and keywords to identify customers’ needs. (try Google keyword analyzer, great idea, Rohit!)
- Don’t focus too much on negative comments particularly if they are coming from people with low influence. Avoid the paralyzing effect this might have on your upper management. Continue to go after and shape conversations in high impact areas and where you can deliver value.
- Leave your communicator’s or marketing hat at home. Talk like a human being. Great test for making sure your copy is conversational and free of marketing speak is to read it out loud before posting it. If it sounds unnatural it is probably “marketing speak.” Fix it!
- Make sure to work in concert with other teams. If you are engaging with influencers in social media make sure you know what the web team is doing and what the PR folks are doing and government affairs … you get the picture.
- Measure progress, but be smart about it. Don’t fall victim to the “spreadsheet effect” where you are reporting quantifiable results only for the sake of entering numbers into the spreadsheet. Understand that your KPIs might include change in behavior or might not be easily quantifiable at the time of the engagement.
What I am planning on doing when I get to the office?
I am definitely going to change my ways of classifying digital influencers, adding some of the scoring criteria that were discussed during the workshop.
While I am not going to use a formalized IQ process for influencer identification I am still planning on going through the influencer mapping exercise by manually placing the top 20-30 influencers on the influencer matrix. It will not be an exact placement, but it will give me a visual representation of my high prominence/high engagement and low prominence/high engagement quadrants I am going to target.
Do you have any influence engagement tips that worked for you?