Digital influence is one of the hottest trends in marketing and it is also one of the least understood.
Instead of sweating over ways to identify and engage with popular bloggers online, marketers should first make friends with the people, who already love them – their customers.
Difference between customer advocacy (existing customers) and influencers (popular people)
Influencers are people who have a large following. They may be a celebrity, blogger, CEO, columnist, or Internet personality. As long as many people listen to what they have to say, brands pay them (or give them goods) to convey their message to their followers.
Advocates, on the other hand, are people who are already brand converts— satisfied customers or people who will always buy the latest product—they spread the brand’s message willingly.
NB! According to McKinsey, a recommendation from a trusted friend conveying a relevant message is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than a low-impact recommendation from an influencer.
Notice how big brands like Apple, Dove and Skype create movements of passion that are built and powered not by influencers, but by real customers.
These passion brands don’t just stimulate buzz, they ignite passions through engaging the true believers who “get” who they are and are fanatical about their brand.
Cultural Movements are about cultural ideas on the rise (think: healthy eating, environmental awareness, negative body image etc) – they do not start with products. But what is clever about them is that people will automatically “buy into” the brand by being part of its Cultural Movement. Products will always naturally link into a Cultural Movement if done right. So you won’t have any need to actually talk about products much at all, which makes it less awkward when you reach out to influencers.
Unlike campaigns, movements are lasting and non-commercial by nature, which is why people are drawn to them.
Yes, your current customers may score low on audience (compared to the influencers), but are off-the-charts on advocacy.
Unlike influencers, customer advocates are genuinely passionate and deeply convinced about the value of your brand, which is why advocates usually do not require incentives for their activities.
I don’t think you should bother with influencer outreach until you’ve tapped into the passion that your current customers have for your product or service. Who would believe influencers without real fans and communities, anyway?
Here’s how to do outreach marketing – the proper way:
1) First, leverage your current fans
Identify and activate the passion for your brand among the people, who already buy from you.
Find the existing and raving fans, get them into the same online room and encourage them to go from like to love, with your brand cheering them on and giving them passion-worthy access and assignments.
Let them become volunteer ambassadors.
Why it’s important to tap into your current customers before outreaching to influencers?
Because. What’s going to influence your behavior more:
a) A vote of confidence from an online celeb?
b) Or an overwhelming statements of support from dozens, hundreds, or thousands of actual customers who have experienced the product and LOVE it?
Here’s the answer.
2) Now outreach to new fans AKA influencers
Throw some petrol on the advocacy fire by making people with inherent audience (influencers) aware of what you’re doing. But the trick is not to ask influencers to cover the product, but rather to ask them to cover the movement.
The whole point is to eventually convert influencers into advocates, because buzz is not enough, you want actual buyers.
Make influencers part of your movement and they’ll understand the brand and its worth far greater than if you just invite them on a factory tour or send them free product.
Because influence without advocacy is just chatter.
Disagree? Let me know in comments.