The darker side of influence: stop delighting & start satisfying the customer

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At a recent customer experience event I went to I watched a presentation from a well known global brand entitled “Stop delighting the customer”.

It was a good title for a presentation as it got everyone in the audience to sit up and take notice - surely businesses should  focus on delighting customers in order to develop loyalty?

The main point of the presentation was that satisfying your customers, instead of delighting them, will increase loyalty in a way that is financially sustainable for a business in the long run.

Many big brands are attempting to use social media as a tool to delight. They monitor Twitter streams and pay more attention to comments from those consumers who are connected to larger social networks, or have higher Klout or other social scoring metrics, and they attempt to delight them. And there is nothing wrong with this as enaging with influencers in the right way can be valuable to your brand or business.

However, consumers aren’t slow at catching on to this and as more and more people leverage this treatment it could come at a cost to the business.

Consumers could build networks to leverage against better services that they haven’t paid for. A free upgrade, a better room, or a reservation at a booked out restaurant perhaps.  Already some hotels offer preferential treatment to those guests with a high Klout score.

All these things come at a cost to the operating business, particularly if they don’t have an engagement strategy for harnessing influencers to benefit their brand. If that’s the case, they’re just giving away freebies and hoping for some kind of return.

So while targeting influencers is an important part of your social media strategy, it is important to think about embedding social media in a way that improves customer satisfaction as a whole in order to get the most value from your social media activity.

Michelle Obama’s $2.7Bn Influence

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michelle obama influencer

Image courtesy of Studio08Denver

There’s been a great deal of talk this week about influence. It’s been driven (dare I say influcenced) by an article in AdAge by Matt Creamer. He takes a swipe at Justin Beiber (dangerous) and points out that automated social media monitoring tools (or influence trackers) like Klout, need some human analysis and insight to get the most out of them.

Clearly there is more to influence than popularity (see this slidshare about online influencers), but popularity can be a pretty key determinant for some influencers. The Oprah Effect is worthy of note as a case in point.

Anyway, all this chatter reminded me of the Michelle Obama Influence Infographic.  The Harvard Business Review recently published reserach by academic David Yermack. He found that there was a strong correlation between the brands Michelle Obama wore and subsequent stock price increases. The percentage increases are small and there is a causation/correlation debate to be had, but when she’s potentially driving $2.7Bn in value for these brands, it’s worthy of note:

influence and michelle obama

5 things to consider when engaging social media influencers online

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Image courtesy of Jack Monson

With the launch of our social media influencers report this Friday 3rd December, we thought it would be useful to think more about how to engage with influencers online.

Our report road tests how well nine of the leading social media monitoring tools - Attensity 360, Brandwatch, Radian6, Alterian, Scoutlabs, Sysomos, Synthesio, PeerIndex and Social Radar - can identify  social media influencers. But once you have identified your influencers, how do you go about engaging them online?

Here a few things we feel that all brands and businesses should consider before engaging with their influencers:

1. Get to know your influencers

Before you jump in and start engaging with your influencers, be sure  listen to the conversation that is taking place on the blog, forum or social media platform where you are going to engage with them.

Read through previous discussion threads, conversations or any other relevant information you can find so that you can learn more about your influencer, what they are saying and how they are saying it.

Perhaps you could even segment by type of influencer, or the value they could potentially have for your brand (eg, spreading word-of-mouth about a product launch, reviewing your product or services etc).

This will help you use the appropriate tone and content for engaging with your influencer when the time is right.

2. Learn when to engage…and when not to

There’s no need to take part in all conversations with your influencers; sometimes the topic may be relevant, sometimes it might not. Sometimes it just won’t be appropriate for you to get involved with an influencer at all.

This will call for you to use your own judgement. Perhaps think about how much value you can add to a conversation or discussion. Or, assess how would you react in an offline scenario - would you join in the conversation or not?

Finally ask “what’s in it for me?”

If you can see no value in engaging with the influencer then don’t bother. Just because they’ve been identified as a potential influencer for your business doesn’t mean you have to engage with them.

3. Build an honest relationship with your influencers

As New Media Age commented in an article about engaging with “mummy bloggers“, it is important to be “authentic, accept criticism, not patronise and ask, not tell”. This is sound advice to anyone wishing to engage with influencers.

In order to build a successful relationship with your influencers you must think of all interaction as a way of building up a relationship. You should be looking at influencers as potential partners; as people who can champion your brand. Make them feel like an insider - they have a key position in your market place as they both speak to and represent your target audience, so treat them with the respect that they deserve.

Be mindful that influencers are giving you their time and expertise so make them feel valued and acknowledge their contributions.

4. Don’t go in with the hard sell

Yes, some influencers will be aware that you have a commercial interest in them.  And while some are commercially astute, there are always other who eschew all commercial influence.

Instead of pushing your own agenda, expand conversations beyond your specific products, brand or messages. Think about the wider topic at hand and then build up a relationship with them before discussing anything too commercial.

5. Be realistic about the results you will achieve

When  engaging with influencers it is important to understand the difference between affecting and controlling perceptions. While engaging influencers will go some way to affecting the perception of your brand and products, you cannot entirely control the outcome of your efforts.

Which tool is best at finding social media influencers?

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shutterstock_65038519While Social media monitoring tools are invaluable for helping with buzz tracking and for finding influencers, it’s important to take into  account the importance of human analysis.The results are not just about the quantitative metrics; it’s more nuanced than that and you need someone who can understand and interpret the data according to the needs of your business.

When choosing a tool, one of the most important things to consider is how the tool lets you sort, filter and drill down into the search results. This will help you identify influencers that fit with your overarching social media strategy.

Depending on your requirements, you may want to pick a tool that focusses in on one platform, like Twitter or Facebook. Alternatively, you may also want to look for a tool that gives you a broad understanding of influencers e.g. how active they are across different social media platforms, or their average level of engagement etc, which will really enable you to focus in on the type of influencer or influencer activity that is most suitable for your brand or business.

Our final report, released via our blog on 3rd December, will give detailed information about the ability of each tool to identify influencers, and we’ll also reveal which ones we felt performed the best across a variety of critera.

For now, here are a few of our highlights:

Brandwatch

  • Perfect for giving you an overall view of where your influencers might be located.
  • Allows you to drill down into results to find key information e.g. number of relevant posts.
  • Very well integrated platform with easy to view influencer metrics .

Alterian SM2

  • Drill down capabilities allow you to completely tailor results to focus on a particular site of influence.
  • Easy to compare data.
  • Well presented data with interactive graphs.

Attensity360

  • Integrates metrics well e.g. Klout scores.
  • Gives a broad picture about influencers and influence scores.
  • Ability to add customised “user-defined metrics” to influencer search.

Peer Index

  • Great for targeted influencer searches based on individual business objectives - results are very much tailored to your own needs.
  • The ‘results’ report gives you influencers both at an individual level and a site level.

Radian6

  • Allows you to drill down in to data in several different ways .
  • Range of ways to segment and sort data to enable you to customize the dashboard.
  • Easy to user interface to enhance user experience.

Scoutlabs

  • Gives key insights about influence at a glance, with the ability to also drill down into data.
  • Functions like “key quotes” and “frequently used words” give insight into the online conversations.
  • Simple and inviting user interface that is easy to use.

Social Radar

  • Gives a broad overview of what conversations are taking place about your topic.
  • Allows you to view the relationships between different sources of influence on the web using their infographic style “Visualizer” tool.

Synthesio

  • User can create an environment that is completely tailored to your specifications.
  • Strong multilingual performer.
  • Allows you to see influencers at both an individual and more general level.
  • Great data presentation including graphs and charts.

Sysomos

  • Unique feature include a tool that allows you to see the authority of people who are following influencers on Twitter.
  • Allows you to find both sites of influence as well as individual influencers.
  • Good segmentation of data.

How do social media monitoring tools find influencers?

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0Social media monitoring tools identify influencers through a series of algorithms. Each tool uses different parameters and metrics to help identify influencers online.

The different tools look at influencer in different ways. Some can help you find an influential person or influential people; some help you find a site of influence.

Not dissimilar to Google, most of the tools don’t openly talk about the algorithms they use to calculate influence, but the majority  do take into a account a number of factors that aren’t just based around popularity.

Most of the tools we tested, including  Sysomos and  Alterian SM2, use metrics that are dictated by social media channel or platform  - eg, the tools use “number of views” to find YouTube influencers, or “number of followers” for Twitter. Rather interestingly, Attensity 360 uses information from another influence identifier,  Klout, to identify Twitter influencers.

Some tools, like Social Radar,  determine influence based on the number of posts about a topic and the number of backlinks (the number of incoming links for external sites that link to a web page or website).

Other tools, like Brandwatch, not only look at the number of inbound links but also take into account the age of the site, the PageRank and traffic to the site.

As well as using some of the more standard metrics seen throughout the tools, some of the tool providers have also developed their own terminology and measurements to help brands find influencers.

Scoutlabs use an algorithm to determine what they call “importance”. This includes their own editorial opinion about a comment or post, as well as its relevance to the topic that is being searched for.

Meanwhile, Attensity 360 uses “impact” to define influencers. Impact is a proprietary metric created by Attensity to provide “a more accurate estimate of the impact/influence of coverage related to a specific topic”. Attensity also offer users the chance to add “user defined metrics” to their search, allowing clients to customize metrics to the needs of their businesses.

It is this ability to sort and customize influencer data for individual business requirements that makes the tools valuable.  Synthesio, Radian6 and Sysomos are the most flexible when it comes to to drilling down into information about influence as users can sort and interact with the data using a variety of metrics.

As the tools all identify influencers and then segment data in different ways, it is important to carry out your own research into the tools before you use them. Research the tools before investing time and money in using them. Talk to the tool providers about your objectives so that you can really find the right fit for your brand and your social media strategy.

The final version of our social media influencers report 2010 will include detailed information about how each tool identifies influencers.

The report will be released online on 3rd December following on from the launch of the report at our breakfast seminar on 2nd December. You can sign up for the event by clicking on the button below:

You can register for the event by clicking on the button below:

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