At the recent PRSA International Conference in Atlanta, we were given a peak into the world of brand influencers. With the proliferation of technology and communications channels, brands are now rethinking how they engage with the consumer. As a result, brand influencers, who can provide those meaningful recommendations that lead to consumer action, have become a key communication strategy for many companies. Below are some highlights that illustrate its success.
Identifying key influencers
Priya Ramesh, Director, External Communications at IBM Cloud cited the following as reasons why brands must leverage influencers who can offer key suggestions that lead to action:
- 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they don’t know over branded content
- 70% of consumers cite online customer reviews as their second most trusted source for product information
- 47% of U.S. readers consult blogs for new trends and ideas
- 35% of U.S. readers consult blogs for discovering new products
- 20% of women on social media are motivated to consider products recommended by bloggers they know
In order to maintain a successful program in an ever-evolving influencer landscape, brands must take a thoughtful approach to discover and map influencers and measure results. Through research and analytics, appropriate and effective influencers can be identified using the following framework:
- Reach: Is the influencer popular among a brand’s target audience (e.g., number of followers, unique visits per month)?
- Relevance: Are they a trusted authority in the brand’s space (e.g., qualitative analysis of topics discussed on their sites, quantitative analysis of keywords)?
- Resonance: How frequently do they generate valuable content that engages the target audience?
Once influencers are identified and vetted, it is up to communicators to build the relationship by providing them with content and access. Access may be in the form of information that is privy to a limited audience or, perhaps, in the form of interviews with key people associated with the brand.
How Ford leverages brand influencers
Here’s an example as discussed during the session: Ford selected 100 bloggers and gave them a Ford Fiesta for a period of six months during which they were required to share their experiences. As a result, the influencer engagement effort led to 50,000 interested potential customers. While that may seem like one good result, diving deeper into the data can offer additional insights, as well.
For many brands, key metrics may simply include unique site visits, page views, or shares. However, it is also important to track the consumer further along in the buying process through sign-ups, leads, and other similar engagements, as well as sales when possible. Ongoing measurement is necessary in order to determine the success (or failure) of such efforts, but research may also be conducted to determine if the influencer engagement has resulted in the desired changes in consumer perceptions.
Finally, it is important to understand that while an influencer has the ability to impact buying decisions or perceptions among a target audience, their loyalty may be short-term and self-serving in that they are attempting to build their own audience. Therefore, while building a network of influencers is desirable, brands should not stop there. The goal is to move the influencer to the next level where, as an advocate, they will support, promote, and defend the brand.
Using research to fuel engagement
Survey research among target audiences can be used to identify trusted sources for product information, as well as for tracking awareness and perceptions before and after campaigns to determine if the efforts have moved the needle. Ultimately, a well-researched and engaging influencer program can be a powerful tool for providing target audiences with trusted recommendations that can ultimately lead to action.