Posted on April 25, 2013 by appinions

Influence Marketing: Not Customers as Shills

Some people mistake influence marketing for the process of getting customers to shill for brands.

To the uniformed, it may seem that influence marketing is all about convincing customers to, perhaps in an unsavory way, cajole other consumers into buying from you. Of course, brands do have the goal of selling more, but such blatant promotion and empty connection is most definitely not what influence marketing is all about.

Influence is About Connections

Instead of asking your customers to sling your wares, influence marketing involves making logical connections to people who have the right audience, and providing something of value that those influencers can feel good about sharing with their followers. It involves developing relationships and using those relationships to better inform and engage your target market. And influence marketing can help you do something so much more important than simply telling your prospects to buy: it helps you to learn what they want and need from your brand.

Influence is About Being Social

A lot of influence marketing today takes place in social media, with influencers using their blogs and social channels to connect with their communities. Your customers – who should be the audience of your influencers – use social media in ways that benefit and interest them, such as staying close to their friends and family members, following news stories, searching for jobs, or talking about their kids, hobbies or travels. They use social media for the things they value.

When a customer discovers your brand, or gets further engaged with your brand, via an influencer they trust, it’s often because they consider their connection to that influencer as a social connection or recommendation. That’s a very powerful thing for you and your brand.

Influence is About Conversations

Influence marketing can encourage the kind of conversations that help you build, launch, or improve your product or service. Your interactions with influencers stimulate conversations that provide valuable insight into how to make your products and services more beneficial for your target audience, and even discover how to make your marketing efforts more effective.

Influence is, Most Importantly, About Trust

Influential touchpoints for consumers and businesses are shifting away from company-driven marketing to consumer-driven marketing. By increasing the number of brand trust points™ you have with your consumers, you can increase the likelihood that they will engage with you and buy from you.

Influencers can create or be part of multiple trust points on your behalf. But trust is not bestowed on influencers by their audience, it’s earned. If influencers don’t stay true to their personalities, areas of expertise, and expectations they’ve developed with their followers, they risk losing their audience altogether. So when they work with your brand, it’s going to be only when they feel there’s a true benefit for their community, and that it will maintain their community’s trust.

When you use influence marketing for your brand, you aren’t asking customers to pick up their megaphones and shout to other customers, all for your profit. Influence marketing is both more subtle and more complicated than that. Make sure your influence efforts include carefully choosing influencers – people with the ear of your market – and enlisting their help to amplify your brand’s message and influence buying decisions in a trustworthy way.