Meet The Influencers

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Dave Armano, over at the super smooth Logic+Emotion blog points us to a fascinating piece written by Nilofer Merchant and published over at Marketing Profs about influencers and the mechanism by which they... well, influence others - and each other. Here's a bit from the piece (Five Ways to Develop a Dialogue with Key 'Influencers') that kind of sets the stage for the entire discussion:

When you want to buy a new BBQ, whom do you ask? If you want to know which smartphone to buy, what blog do you read? And if you're looking for a school in which to enroll your child, whose advice do you seek?

Those people you're calling, emailing, or reading—they're special... the alpha crowd: They are influencers. Not just one person or type, influencers are many people who form a unique profile. Parts of that profile are common across the entire group of influencers, and many are specific to the category we're talking about. So, the school advice might come from the BBQ expert, but probably not.

In this Web 2.0 era of ready access to information everywhere, anytime, we've got a new class of people to whom business and marketing people can and should pay attention.

Those of you old enough to remember, there was a time when you couldn't Google up information to find out what the opinion makers and advocates were thinking. Amazon didn't exist, so we couldn't see what others worldwide thought of a book and learn of its sales ranking. Instead, we had to go to places like churches or synagogues, grocery stores and book clubs, and ultimately hang around with neighbors to find out what "the news" was.

That's because influencers were active, engaged members of local communities. They've always existed—opinion makers and opinion leaders. What's different now? Today they have a much bigger bullhorn available to them—it's called the Web. Where they once talked to 100 people in a month, they can now reach thousands or tens of thousands with a single click, comment, or ranking process.

(...) These alpha influencers are the key to other customers' awareness, consideration, preference, and purchase. They advocate, rank, sort, evaluate, and ultimately create marketplace adoption. They come in the form of users, developers, channel partners, and press people. Many PR people have thought of influencers as "their audience" or writers, but influencers are way more than analysts and writers. They are ultimately the tip of the market.

(...)Influencers are key conduits of information. (...) Influencers know many people and are in contact with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people in the course of a week. They have a powerful multiplier effect, spreading the word quickly across a broad network when they find something they want others to know about. (...) Four in ten have a connection to a professional association. This is a sign of their restless intellectual interests. Influencers continuously take input from what they see, hear, read, and keep turning it over in their mind for new insights and ideas. They are sometimes entrepreneurs.

Influencers and alpha consumers are people who place importance on values: enduring love, knowledge, authenticity, stable personal relationships, learning, and freedom. When you can get them to pay attention to your offer/product/solution, you have the opportunity to shape the market.

Read the rest of Nilofer's article here. He discusses ways in which companies can start a dialogue with influencers and reap the rewards of having an open line of communication with them, which is a good primer if you're new to this type of business thinking. David's piece on Logic+Emotion continues the discussion a little further. (Good stuff.)

And the graphic is pretty cool to boot. (I guess I'm somewhere between a 3 and a 2, which is good to know.)

Have a great Wednesday, everyone.

PS: If you're in Greenville, SC tonight, be sure to swing by NGL's little shindig between 6pm and 8pm. (They're celebrating their move to their swanky new offices @ 16 north Main Street.)

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