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Why identifying your influencers is crucial

Why identifying your influencers is crucial Eileen Bernardo

The advent of social media has changed how businesses function across all departments -- from sales techniques to marketing strategies to customer service efforts. And because word-of-mouth is the most trusted method of advertisement, there are many opportunities online for businesses of all sizes. Social networks are ripe grounds for conversation through reviews, complaints, praise, questions, etc. In fact, consumers tend to believe and trust the opinion of someone they know or a consumer opinion online over traditional advertising or marketing, making word-of-mouth one of the most powerful techniques in business. A glowing or scathing review from a trusted source can make a huge impact on a brand or a consumer's purchasing decisions.

Brands should take advantage of the way social networks function. There are highly influential social network users whose opinions are trusted -- and many have a hefty following to boot. These users can act as top tier ambassadors for a brand, especially if there is a good relationship between the individual and the brand. This is why companies of all sizes should identify who these influencers are and reach out to them. There are tools that can identify top influencers by impact (those who have the highest following) and by volume (those who mention your brand or product most frequently).

Let's take a look at how three different businesses -- a major brand, a local business, and an independent music artist -- can benefit from influencer identification.

Major brand: Kiehls

Kiehls, the American cosmetics brand retailer, specializes in making premium body care products. Because of the type of products Kiehls carries, the company can reach out to its influencers and offer samples or discounts on products for them to share or try for review. In this case, Kiehls would want to reach out to their influencers who have the most impact, as they have the potential to reach the biggest audience. Kiehl's top influencers by impact include @BCBGMAXAZRIA, @saks, and @SELFmagazine -- all names that would be trusted if they spoke about a cosmetic or beauty product.

Local business: Philz Coffee

Philz Coffee, a local coffee shop in San Francisco, started in a corner grocery store and has expanded to multiple Bay Area locations. Today Philz is known as one of the best coffee shops in the U.S. Philz Coffee's mission is to "better people's day" by "serving an amazing cup of coffee and delivering really great customer service...one cup at a time." A company dedicated to customer service can benefit from identifying influencers by reaching out in a couple of ways: Show appreciation with an offer for a discounted/free cup for being a loyal customer, or reach out to express gratitude with kind words. Philz Coffee can see who some of the most loyal customers are by seeing who mentions the company the most on social.

Independent music artist: Legaci

Legaci, an independent music group from the San Francisco Bay Area, recently toured on Justin Bieber's "My World 2.0" tour, providing backup vocals. Legaci went from recording homemade videos in a living room to touring the world with one of today's biggest singers. Currently, Legaci is working on promoting a solo album and a tour of its own, so identifying and reaching out to influencers is important to the band's marketing initiatives. Legaci should reach out to top influencers by impact, as it is trying to reach the largest audience during promotion. The band should also reach out to its top influencers by volume to allow them to connect with users who are already brand ambassadors, as these users are already invested in the music.

Identifying the top influencers is important to any business because it allows companies to reach out to those on social networks who can help make a difference in any campaign -- whether it's selling, promoting, or introducing a brand or product. Remember that consumers believe and are most receptive to the words and opinions of individuals they trust. Reaching out to and developing relationships with top influencers is a powerful strategy, so if you don't know who your influencers are yet, it's time to find out.

Eileen Bernardo is the public relations and communication manager at Viralheat.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Eileen Bernardo is the public relations and communication manager at Viralheat, a social media intelligence company. She has an M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communication from New York University and a B.A. in Communication from the...

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