Friday, November 11, 2011

The Care and Feeding of Influencers and Advocates

Companies are spending a lot of money and time identifying people who are Influencers in their industries. They slice and dice their own data to see who their Advocates are in their Social spaces. But, what, exactly, do companies do with this data once the have it? Too often they attempt to hitch their cart to these people and let them do the heavy pulling for them.

The importance of Influencers on your business shouldn't be downplayed. Influencers in certain industries can make or break a company in early stages. The right kind of coverage on the right blog can be the difference between great success or relative obscurity. Influencers see you as someone they want their audience to know about.

Advocates are members of your market that spend their time praising you/your business, sharing information with other people in their own networks and generally expanding your ability to get the word out...because they like you, your product, your goals and your voice. Advocates see you as someone they want their friends to know about.

Many companies make the mistake of seeing Influencers and Advocates as people over there, not people who are right there by their side. Or as animals to harness and pull the company cart. Or numbers to be measured and used, rather than valuable members of the team, to be integrated into the business strategy.

So, how should one take care of Influencers and Advocates?

Influencers and Advocates are, first and foremost, relationships that need to be built up. Sending out well-written press releases is important, but actually taking time to meet, speak with, and build up a relationship with an Influencer is the difference between someone reporting your press release and someone writing a glowing post about the press release.

Listen to what is being said by your Influencers and Advocates. This is an easy point of contact for you to engage those people talking about you. When someone who links to you all over the webs says, "this new thing - it's not so great," stop what you're doing and ask why. That Advocate might have a personal beef, but they might very well put their finger on a weak point that you never saw. You won't know unless you listen to them. An Influencer in the space who calls attention to your new product could be the difference between an amazing launch, and something much less amazing. Know what has been said, know who says it. Listen to those comments and absorb the insight into your strategy and tactics.

Acknowledge contributions made by your Advocates - thanks Persons 1, 2 and 3 for a lot of insightful comments recently! And thank those who retweet and share, as well. Thank Influencers for their time in mentioning you. Every kind word from an Influencer in your field is another person out there who has their eye on you, waiting to be impressed.

Reward positive gain behavior. Don't offer reward for minimal efforts such as Liking, but do take time to notice the time and effort your Advocates put in for you. "Hey, we notice that you're really being awesome and we wanted to say thanks" goes a very long way. Influencers often can't legally take gifts, and in any case that is not the relationship or reputation you want to build, but taking a moment to thank someone for their Influence and promotion is never a moment wasted.

The more you listen to, and talk with your Influencers and Advocates, the more of a relationship you build.

Take good care of your Influencers and Advocates, don't try to harness them to do your dirty work. It's your cart - put in your best effort to pull it yourself and your Influencers and Advocates will pitch in right there next to you.
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