Influencers are individuals or entities who impact the perceptions of the products or services of your company. The role of influencers has grown dramatically in the last few years as social media usage has exploded globally. Influencers are a constituency that must be managed actively by a company to ensure that customer experience and perceptions are not impacted negatively.
In order to manage interactions with influencers, it is essential to understand the different types of influencers and their motivation. Broadly speaking, influencers fall into one or more of the following categories.
- Celebrity Influencers
- Power Users
- Socially Conscious Users
- Taste Makers
There is one other demarcation that cuts across all categories – paid versus unpaid. For obvious reasons, an unpaid influencer will have greater sway with their constituents than a paid endorser of your products.
Let’s review the motivators and demotivators of each type of influencer.
- Use their celebrity to introduce their fan base to quality products and services.
- Enhance their own image and perception with their fan base by association with quality products. For example: a celebrity who endorses a brand that has a stellar reputation benefits from the fact that the brand has deemed the celebrity worthy of endorsing their product.
- Make a fashion, political or social statement. For example: a celebrity who endorses an eco-conscious brand enhances their own perception with their fan base.
- Cash in. They simply want to get paid to endorse your product.
- Any kind of bad publicity associated with the product or company. Celebrity influencers will be the first group to distance themselves from your company should there be any adverse news or hint of a scandal.
- Any action by your company that angers the fan base. An errant tweet, poorly chosen verbiage on an ad, shoddy business practices or anything that inflames the fan base.
- Remember this – the fan base is the celebrity’s bread and butter. They will ALWAYS pick their fan base over your company.
- Reviewers make their livelihood in one of two ways. They are experts who review products and are paid by their employers (magazines and other publications not affiliated with your company). Advertising revenue paid by companies like YouTube driven by the number of ‘views’ of their reviews. Any suspicion of bias or ‘pay for play’ will kill their reputations and by extension their livelihood.
- Being perceived as an expert in the field.
- Being perceived as impartial and incorruptible by their followers.
- Recommending products or services that offer high value to their followers.
- Quality problems. No matter how well designed a product may be, if there are quality issues, reviewers will balk.
- Marketing hype unsupported by final product. Reviewers will be brutal if there are expectation gaps between the promise and reality. Their followers expect nothing less from them.
- Attempts to ‘buy them off’. As mentioned above, perception of honesty is critical for a reviewer. If their followers suspect they ‘are on the take’, it can be career ending for them. They will likely go to great lengths to detail efforts to ‘buy them’ to retain credibility with their followers. This can seriously impact your brand and image.
- Genuine love of the product and technology.
- Extract every ounce of performance from the product or service.
- Enthusiastically recommend the product if they love it.
- Offer valuable feedback to the company on the product – the things it does well, things that need improving and future areas of exploration.
- Quality problems. Poor customer experience will cause them to sour quickly.
- Hype over substance. They take your claims literally and will be disillusioned easily if there is too much hype. They are realistic and expect some hyperbole, but the product should be able to stand on its own merit.
- Being unresponsive to suggestions. These are some of your most passionate advocates. If you give them the cold shoulder, you are losing some of your best ‘product managers.’
Socially Conscious Users
- Business practices of your company that emphasize ethics over profits.
- Eco consciousness of your company.
- Focus on policies of your company that are friendly to disadvantaged groups and women in your workplace.
- Actions, statements or behaviours by company or employees that violate any of the motivators.
- Socially conscious users are super-influencers. They can cause Celebrity Influencers and Taste Makers to withdraw support for your company and set in motion events that can in short order overwhelm your ability to react and respond.
- Offer something perceived as leading edge and outstanding quality to their followers.
- Users must genuinely have a ‘wow’ experience when exposed to the product or service for the first time.
- Be perceived as impartial and incorruptible.
- Customers do not have an outstanding experience. Since they deal in perception, any dissonance will cause them to abandon your product or service. They will also remove endorsements publicly to ensure that there is no damage to their own reputation by continued association with your brand.
- Hype is not matched by the delivered product.
Armed with this basic understanding of influencers, you can devise a marketing strategy to engage productively with each constituency. Regardless of their motivators and demotivators, honest and open communication is essential. If there are problems, be candid about them and explain the steps you are taking to fix them. Times of crisis are also the greatest opportunity to enhance your standing with your influencer community. It is inevitable that there will be times when there are product failures and disappointments, actions by a few that reflect poorly on the company and other crisis situations. Managing these situations with each group in an open and honest manner will go a long way towards establishing your reputation. Reputations are built in times of adversity. Understand your influencers and address their unique concerns when things are not going well. They will reward you richly with their loyalty and endorsements.