Why identifying your influencers is crucial

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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.