Managing your influencers as theme of first day at WOMMA Summit
I'm a lucky guy: I'm in Vegas enjoying some really nice weather. Next to that, we have the Word-of-Mouth summit here and I really hope to get some inspiration here.
During the opening speech of the conference, it became very clear that the big boys want to claim the WOM domain. McKinsey recently published an article about measuring the business value of WOM. Next to that, the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review is covering the topic as well. Once these kind of organizations are claiming a domain, you can be quite certain that the hype is over. The hype is now a trend. In 2011 companies will (more than ever) acknowledge the power of word-of-mouth. However, most of them will still suffer with the ‘how’ question. How can we manage this.
It is NOT about social media
This conference is about how consumers influence each other through conversations. By the way, did you know that you can find about 500 billion branded conversations in 2010 on the internet? 250 billion can be found on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. The other 250 billion can be found on blogs. Even though these stats are pretty impressive, these online conversations are just a fraction of the total amount of branded conversations between people. It’s only 6% of branded conversations that is taking place online. Managing this combination of online and offline WOM is the challenge of companies in this current era. Word-of-Mouth is the form of marketing with the highest impact, that’s why the opening speech of this conference mentions that WOM should be central in the marketing department of every organization. I think we need to take it one step further: WOM should be integrated in everything a company does.
Managing influencers is a new key competence
Managing influencers and measuring the impact of them is the central theme of day 1. In his keynote speech, Josh Bernoff, author of Groundswell and his new book Empower, describes how you can map and manage your influencers. There are three levels of inluencers: potential influencers, mass influencers and social broadcasters. The social broadcasters are the most famous bloggers (e.g. Mashables). These people aren’t always the biggest influencers, but they are great to increase your awareness. Challenging them with a great story is the challenge. The biggest potential is the other two layers of the pyramid. Especially the mass influencers are very relevant. They like to tell stories to other people. These people have a high impact on social media, but also in the offline world they are known to be credible sources. This group is capable in changing the opinion of other. They can help you to get your brand in the considered set of brands of consumers.
Question is: how can you influence them? Easy: through great customer service and conversation management. Bernoof uses the example of BestBuy on Twitter. Through their @twelpforce account, they help clients and answer their questions. Their approach is so great that it can only create more influencers. When I send a tweet about this example during the conference, I found out that Bernoff wasn’t exaggerating. Two minutes later, I’ve received a thank you tweet from these guys. Pretty impressive!
Measuring the impact of influencers: a story of Sony
When you invest in influencers, you want to know the return, right? Conclusions of today: traditional research is not sufficient to do the trick. The only way to create a complete story is to combine traditional survey based research with observational research. In the first situation you ask the questions, in the second case you look for answers without asking any questions.
The survey results showed that Sony was the best brand in the TV industry, but in the online world Sony appeared to be only one of the average brands, certainly not the top. Next to that, the online buzz showed a pretty strong correlation with sales intention. So, something to worry about.
Where do you start? Internally!
During the discussions people wonder where to find these influencers. Funny is that they often tend to forget their own employees. In previous blog posts, I have been talking about the ‘Superstar’ company. I heard this idea coming back in several speeches (without using the term, though). IBM has 17000 bloggers among their employees. The Jamba Juice story brings out the passion of their employees as well. I guess this is probably the coolest form of advertising these days: cool and convincing stories from your own employees.
Conclusion: when you have planned an influencer program, start within your own company. Find your superstars and facilitate them.