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Social Media : It's Who You Know

6 secrets to leveraging social media influencers for direct marketing

December 2012 By Lois Geller
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Now here's the tricky part: Scott is in the business of influencing people to connect with Ford. He's an influencer with a great reputation. He's also a great guy. It occurred to me the other day that the simple fact that I recommend him often means I have leveraged myself into the position of influencing people to follow him. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it's a win-win situation.

As you know, win-win is ideal.

2. Provide Valuable Content
Some marketers or brands have great authority. For instance, I always read tweets from
Harvard Business Review, because I learn a lot from them. And I retweet them. I look great because I'm recommending something excellent to my 19,000 or so Twitter followers. HBR benefits by reaching all those readers through me.

Some influencers have status. (These categories overlap, of course.) For instance, many direct marketers like to read, so founder Brian Clark has status with people like me; not because he has a lot of followers, but because of the quality of his writing.

3. To Build Clout, Solve a Problem
Brands often get respect when they have hundreds of thousands of followers or high Klout scores—or both. So, if you want to build the number (and quality) of influencers for your company or brand, you need to engage influential people in key categories.

That can be a challenge for a number of reasons. For example, customers will reach out when they have a problem and suddenly the social medium becomes a back door for customer service. That's why I think it's a great idea to have two social media areas, and possibly accounts—one for your brand and one for customer service.

@Comcastcares did a great job of turning around the whole image of the company by responding with excellent service to issues it found on its Twitter page.

I once had a problem hooking Comcast cable up to a huge flat-screen TV in a cabinet in my living room. The top opened and the TV was supposed to emerge when I wanted to watch something. The cable didn't want to emerge with it. At the time, Frank Eliason (@FrankEliason) was heading Comcast's social media team and we knew each other from Twitter. I tweeted my problem and soon, thanks to Eliason, Comcast came to the rescue.

4. Have Wide-Ranging Conversations, Too
Some companies, like Bank of America with its @BOA_community efforts on Twitter, burnish their brand images by focusing on, in BOA's case, community outreach activities.

It's important to remember that social media is a two-way street—perhaps a million-way street. People will review products and services and post comments one way or the other—thumbs up or thumbs down. The way you react will drive consumers to your brand or away from it.

Perhaps that's why financial institutions are not flocking to social media these days?

5. Emulate Leaders, Then Turn Them Into Influencers
One of the best ways to pick up excellent social media techniques is to learn from the best. Follow outstanding social media practitioners and stay close to them—looking for opportunities to get some of them interested in your product or service.

Great companies that interact nicely on Twitter include: @WholeFoods (3 million followers), @Starbucks (3 million) and @JetBlue (1.7 million).

Facebook (1 billion users) and LinkedIn (175 million members) present glorious opportunities for one-on-one marketing to just the right prospects for your business and, at the same time, to hook up with influencers.

It's a direct marketer's dream to be able to reach so many prospects and influencers so quickly, especially on Twitter. Maybe only a few thousand Twitterati can do you any good, but they're all there and waiting to hear from you and/or from the tweeters who influence their decisions.

6. 'Social' Means More Than 'Twitter'
There are a lot of other opportunities with social media influencers. For example, I run groups on Facebook and I invite key people in our target market to join them.

Recently, I started a group on LinkedIn called Marketing Matters More Than Ever. I invite key influencers—people I can learn from. Our online discussions give me insights about them and I can always direct message them with a query.

In a way, the whole social media arena is becoming relationship marketing on steroids, a place to cultivate friendships, create your own influence and have access to people you might never be able to meet in real life.

There are social media stars and they can become friends you make online. I'd never met @FrankEliason when he was at Comcast. He moved on to head social media at Citigroup. When I was giving a seminar at Citibank last week in New York, I tweeted him and we arranged to get together for a few minutes. When we met, we felt like old friends; which, of course, we were.

Lois Geller is president and owner of Hollywood, Fla.-based Lois Geller Marketing Group and author of many marketing books. Follow @loisgeller or email her at



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