Word of Mouth Marketing Series – Identifying Influencers

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In part three of Volusion’s Word of Mouth Marketing Series, we explore how to identify key online influencers. You’ll learn the definition of an influencer, why it’s important to engage influencers and tools you can use to find them.

Today’s post covers another important task in planning and executing your word of mouth marketing strategy. We’ve already covered the basics of word of mouth marketing and how to best educate people about your products and services. Now we’ll extend the conversation a bit further to provide valuable insight on how to identify influential people who are most likely to share your message with others.

These influential individuals are very scientifically named, “influencers.” The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) defines an influencer as “a person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace.” The process of identifying and engaging these influencers is known as “influencer marketing,” and is defined as “identifying, seeking out, and engaging with influencers in support of a business objective.”

In other words, you’re looking for people deemed as thought leaders in your industry. Then, you want to build relationships and encourage them to speak fondly of your business. But why is this so important? Because more and more people are having online and offline conversations about brands, so you want to be involved in the action. And as we’ve learned, personal recommendations are the #1 source of online searches, and thus, conversions to your online store.

So how do you find these folks? It’ll take a little bit of time and elbow grease, but the benefits will pay off tremendously in the long run.

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Find the rabbit in its hole.
This is probably a saying only known by native West Texans, but it ultimately means that you need to find influencers at their home base – most likely this will be their personal blogs and social media pages. In order to strategically find these holes, you should start off by searching for various keywords that are important to your industry. Thus, if you’re with Elaine’s Electronics, you might consider searching blogs related to “HD television blogs,” “laptop computer reviews,” etc.

There are also quite a few tools you can use to identify important influencers:

  • Technorati – a search engine for bloggers and blog posts, based on keyword search
  • Google Blogs – another blog search engine that is helpful in finding frequency of postings
  • socialmention – provides in-depth information, such as relevancy, frequency and tag clouds
  • Delicious – see what others are tagging/bookmarking based on certain keywords

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Learn about the rabbit and introduce yourself.
Before you start emailing influencers or leaving promotional comments on their blogs, you need to understand how they operate. Make sure you read at least 5-10 of their blog posts and study the type of comments that are left. Then, begin regularly leaving comments that add value to the overall conversation.

So while it’s tempting for Elaine to respond to a post regarding the dropping prices of flat screen TVs with “my TVs are so affordable at elaineselectronics.com,” it would be much more appreciated if she left an insightful comment based on her personal experience as an electronics e-tailer.

Once you become known as a “regular,” or someone that is respected and appreciated in the community, then you can begin personally reaching out to the influencer.

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Offer the rabbit a carrot.
When you personally introduce yourself to an influencer, whether it’s in person or online, you need to be prepared. Make sure you go into the conversation with something to discuss and know what you want (while being flexible). It’s also important to be ready with what you’ll be giving in exchange. This is, after all, a business transaction.

One idea is to ask the influencer to review one of your products or if you could write a guest blog. It can even be as simple as requesting a brief mention with a link back to your online business. Whatever the case, offer them a carrot in return (links from your blog to theirs, free publicity opportunities, etc.).

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Know that the rabbit will hop on its own course.
Even if you follow these steps and more, there’s no guarantee that influencers will respond to you. They typically receive several similar requests, so just be patient and continue to engage. Eventually your paths will align. Again, word of mouth marketing is based entirely on relationships, and these take time and effort to build.

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So there you have it! You now know what an influencer is, why it’s important to build relationships and how to find them. By building your base of voices first, your word of mouth marketing strategy will be much louder and impactful.

Next up in the series we’ll discuss ways for you to provide tools that make information sharing easier.

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Happy (and conversation-sparking) selling!
-Matt Winn, Marketing Associate

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What do you think about influencers? Are they worth chasing after? How do you go about identifying influencers? Do you have any experience engaging them? Any advice you’d like to share? Questions? Comments? Share below!

About 

Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

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