Working With Influencers and Enthusiasts For Your Brand

As somebody that develops strategy for large corporate brands, I often work with different types of brand advocates in various social media channels.  A common tactic of many marketers and PR professionals is to try to go after “influencers” to get them to talk about their product.  Sometimes these influencers are individuals, sometimes they are communities, but a common denominator is that they have substantial audience sizes. The typical way of approaching these people or groups is to ship them a sample of your product and include a note that says something like, “Hope you enjoy this, please blog about it”.  I think this is a good shotgun approach to communities, it’s a good step up from a press release and it gets your product information out to a lot of people very quickly.  For individuals, I think we have to look at a more measured and personal approach.

Influencers and Enthusiasts in Social MediaTo truly be effective in social media with influencers, I think you need to build a relationship, not ship a press package. You also have to recognize and understand the different groups that exist in social media, so you know how to develop and target brand programs and exposure.  In case you fear that I’m starting to sound a little too professional and polished in this approach, I submit for your approval a hand drawn diagram in the picture to the left.  Fancy, isn’t it? I put this beauty up on our office white board this morning while talking through the concept with a client.

Before we discuss what to do with these various groups, let’s start by defining them.

The consumer has the least amount of influence or interest in the product, but they represent the largest purchasing power…these are the folks that we are ultimately trying to sway, to move to purchase. Consumers are you and me and everybody else that has the ability to purchase your product or service, hereafter referred to generically and entirely to business-school like as “Brand X”.  This is the goal of the company: to get these (so far) non-customers to make the decision to give your company money in some capacity.  If they do this, you get to keep your job and keep on making more cool things like Brand X 2.0 and the new and improved iBrand X.

The enthusiasts are the people that still have a (relatively) small audience size (probably fewer than 3k total) but are hard-core lovers of the brand. They like all things Brand X and will talk about it day and night. They are also eager to assist the brand in many ways, including grass roots WOM marketing efforts, forum moderation and even customer support. This group of loyalists are invaluable to your marketing efforts (as we will look at later), but unfortunately are often passed over in an effort to reach somebody with a larger audience.

The influencers have a sizeable audience (from the tens of thousands to millions) but have little interest or knowledge of Brand X. In social media they have a massive audience, and are constantly asked to retweet a message, put up a link to a product or page, or just talk about a brand. Often they will do this, sometimes because they are being paid to, sometimes because they are just kind.  Corporate types and marketers usually get a good rise when an influencer mentions their product, the oh-so-popular Brand X, and think this is a completed cycle of marketing…that they have succeeded.  It is my belief that this isn’t the end-game, this is the starting line. This is the group that we want to convert into the most powerful and final group: the inciters.

The inciters have great interest in the product, use it, like it, and talk about it to their sizeable audience.  When an inciter knows and understands something, and feels passionately about it, they will talk about it…without a press kit to tell them what to say! Better yet, they won’t just talk about it, they’ll talk about it frequently.  This ultimately will drive the consumer (remember them?) to think, “well golly, since this really popular person obviously loves Brand X, I bet I will also!” and then rush down to their local big box store to buy it.

I described the four sectors of the community in a somewhat glib manner, but in all seriousness they exist roughly within the roles described, and all serve a very important part of the product (or service) sales cycle.  In our next post, we’ll look at the strategy and methodology behind the cycle, and how to move a person from one segment to the next.

By Matt Singley

Personal: husband to Alison, father to four amazing kids. I used to live a fast but enjoyable life in Los Angeles, now I have chickens on acreage in Charlotte, North Carolina. Just a bit different. I'm an advocate for cycling as much as you can and eating as cleanly as you can afford. Professional: I'm the CEO of Singley + Mackie, a creative digital agency that serves well-known lifestyle and entertainment companies around the world. Clients include Microsoft, Samsung, Hulu, YP and others. If you want to find the more-professional me, go to