Do You Know Who Your Influencers Are?
In a time when consumers trust what other people say about brands more than the brands themselves, knowing who your most influential customers are has never been more important. The good news is that the investment and time required to take care of your influencers is usually pretty low — but the return on investment can be very high.
Why influencers matter
Influencers have the ability to shape opinions of people around them, and also have a large audience at their disposal. Winning over influencers, giving them the best customer service and surpassing their expectations can boost your company’s PR, brand perception, and customer acquisition and retention efforts.
Influencers who are content with your service and products are your most important customers. They have high "total referral value," so even if they aren't the highest-spending customers, public approval by them can immediately attract many more customers.
If Walt Mossberg, a tech writer for the Wall Street Journal, reviews and highly recommends your company's gadget, you can expect to have a backlog of orders. And while very few of your customers have the influence of a Walt Mossberg, you can get a massive number of referrals by creating nurturing programs for the top 5 percent of your most influential customers.
On the other hand, influencers can also be your biggest nightmare. Just ask Southwest Airlines. Earlier this year, the airline kicked off a passenger for being overweight because he didn't fit comfortably in one airplane seat. Turns out this passenger was actor/director Kevin Smith, who has over a million followers on Twitter. He made sure all of them knew about his humiliating experience multiple times. In the end, Southwest issued a public apology and offered the actor a ticket voucher — but not before word had spread across the social web.
How to identify and take care of your influencers
Recognizing your influencers isn’t difficult. They tend to have lots of friends and followers, and enjoy sharing and creating content.
One way to better understand who your influencers are is to give each of your customers unique coupon codes and encourage them to share them with friends. The customer codes shared the most will probably belong to influencers. These can be your customers with the most reach and/or the strongest ties with their friends and associates.
And instead of just doing single campaigns, try this multiple times and start building an overall "influencer score" for your customers. You can also use free services like Klout and my firm's Rapleaf API to better understand your customers’ behavior on the social web. Once you know who your influencers are, you should do the following:
- pamper them with special promotions, referral rewards and early access to events;
- invite them to a brand advocate program;
- surprise them with free shipping, treats on birthdays and customer anniversaries, and more; and
- set up customer service flags so your employees know they're dealing with a VIP customer that needs to be treated with care.