People are more familiar with the term Social Media Marketing, but very few are familiar with the term Social Influence Marketing — the main focus of this article. Subsequently, both terms are increasingly used interchangeably most of the time, even though they both have different meanings.
What is Social Influence Marketing?
Social Media Marketing (SMM) can be defined as every effort or tactic you use to promote brand awareness, services or products on social media platforms. On the other hand, Social Influence Marketing (SIM) can be defined as the method of using highly accessible technologies (blogs, social networks) and social influencers (people who influence brand, product or service affinity ) to influence a potential consumer to make a purchasing decision. Sounds too complicated?
Well, look at Social Influence Marketing as a technique that is used to influence consumers in making a purchasing decision online.
We live in a world whereby people now make purchasing decisions based on the recommendation of family, friends or expert reviews. This trend isn’t new, it has long since been in existence, the reason why it seems like a new trend is because of social media — which apparently has become a mainstream social activity in our daily lives.
Type of Social Influencers
In other to fully understand what SIM is all about, we must take into consideration the types of social influencers online: Referent, Expert and Positional. Each one of these influencers plays an important role in every brand affinity and purchasing decision online. One very important thing to note here is; when trying to positively affect a purchasing decision with your marketing campaigns, don’t just market to the consumer, but also market to these social influencers, because they are key to influencing brand affinity and purchasing decisions.
For example, you could place ads on websites that social influencers visit more often, of course, doing this will not target your customers directly, rather it is an indirect way of targeting your customers (social influencers will remember the brand and influence the customers). Learn more about social influencers here.
How Does It Work?
When was the last time you made a purchasing decision based on the advice of a friend or a closed one? Do you seek expert advice or read reviews when making your purchasing decisions online? One way or the other, your purchasing decision at some point was influenced by what someone or some people have said about whatever you seek to buy. Thanks to social media, people are daily conversing, socializing and influencing one another more and more in purchasing decisions — reason why marketers and business owners should integrate Social Influence Marketing in their marketing campaign.
Which social platforms do you find your customers? First and Foremost, there are major social platforms such as; Facebook, Twitter, Google + and there are niche social platforms such as; LinkedIn, DeviantART, Dribble, Book In A Week. The social network infrastructure providers that allow users to create their own blogging environment are a separate category too. To cut the long story short, you need to search for your customers on the major social networks, niche social platforms as well as social platforms infrastructure providers. But before that, you need to first understand your customers (which platform they spend most of their time and their participation level). You can use tools like QuantCast to know the relative traffic and your site visitor’s demographics as well as your competitor’s.
Once you have an understanding of your customers, the next recommended thing to do is to research on the social dynamics of various social platforms ( how they sync with your target audience).
Social Influencers Outreach
Reaching out to social influencers can be very difficult and easy at the same time, it all depends on your niche, the size of your business, and the product or services you are selling. However, there are different strategies you can use to reach out to social influencers ( Referent, Expert and Positional).
Reaching out to Expert Influencers is somewhat easy compared to the Referent Influencers, simply because they are popular in their space. Thus, you can introduce yourself to them at seminars, send them a friend request on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and gradually nurture the relationship. The following are a few ways you can reach out to expert Influencers:
- Attend conferences and exhibitions – experts are frequently called upon to give a keynote presentation on products and services
- Spy on the competitive environment – reach out to expert influencers that your competitors have reached out to
- Look out for industry analyst – pay attention to analyst what to say about your products or services
- Keep an eye on the media – for experts who are mentioned frequently when your products or services are discussed
- Customer research – survey your customers to know who they often go-to for expert advice in regarding your product or services
This is quite similar to Referent Influencers in the sense that they are the hardest to find. In other to find them, you need to establish a deep presence on all the social networks where your target audience and their influencers congregate. One way you can reach out to this type of influencers is by integrating social media share buttons into your website so that your target audience can take information on your website and share (socialize it across their social platforms) where their Positional influencers ( family and friends) are.
Activating Your Marketing Campaign
Now that you have identified your target audience, know where they spend most of their time, researched the social network dynamics and reached out to social influencers. What comes next is activating your social influence marketing plan. Certainly, your marketing plan should be aligned with your company’s business goals and objectives. That being said, before you launch your SIM campaign, ensure that you have researched on other SIM campaigns that are out there in your industry.
It would make no sense asking your customers to do just about the same thing that your competitors have asked them to do. Your SIM campaigns need to be defined, practical, actionable and sync well with other digital and offline marketing efforts.
If done properly, SIM campaigns can drive sales and increase brand affinity. Some claim that influencer marketing died when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned more than 90 Instagram influencers regarding the disclosure of brands — this claim is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction. As a matter of fact, the future of SIM is apparently about to get very exciting as a Search Engine Optimization specialist (SEOs) has understood the benefits of SIM in optimizing their client’s website.