6 Rules to Leverage the Power of Influencers

Working with influencers is difficult and can be very time-consuming. Attempting to run a successful influencer campaign when you have a crappy product is impossible. If you”re just looking for a “quick-fix” or you”re one of those people praying that an influencer campaign is going to solve all of your problems, you need to check out these six rules to leverage the power of influencers (and avoid getting burned), previously defined by Pierre-Loic.

1: If it”s broken, fix it!

If you have a bad product, an influencer campaign won”t fix your image problem. If your product sucks, fix it AND let your customers know you”re working on it! Why are we assuming that deception would yield better results rather than bring transparency on everything the company is doing right to fix issues?

Simply showing good faith and effort in the process of product issues can gain more trust and support among influential voices, and customers, than you”d think. Toyota or BP should not have downplayed the major image issue they each faced last year. It was based on something real. Acknowledging the issue, laying out a plan to fix the problem, and executing against it are the first step to regain trust and support among customers and even more so among influencers.

2: Prepare for the unpredictable

As with any type of project or campaign, being able to stay flexible when things don”t go exactly as planned is very important. Simply put, if what you”re doing isn”t working, fix it.

Generally, influencers won”t go around trashing products they don”t like. Instead, they may just ignore the product altogether (if you offend them in the process, or your target list is ill-defined, this could be a different story though). It”s important to first make sure your influencer list makes sense for your product, and second, to give your team the ability to refine or change the engagement strategy as they go along. If you notice there isn”t much traction in the current strategy, maybe you can reach out to each influencer personally and ask for feedback. They may tell you something you don”t want to hear but, guess what, you will have to face the music one way or another…

3: Involve your influencers earlier

The earlier you involve influencers, the better. Why not make them part of the process from the beginning? The more access you give influencers to your product, the more ownership they”ll feel, and the more opportunities you”ll see. Actually, some of our clients did just that – they involved influencers in the conception stage of a new product, got their input and ideas early on, and brought that into the product design and features. What kind of coverage and endorsement do you think they will get when the product hits the market later this year?

4: Speak inside their story

The beauty of influencer engagement is the idea that by bringing to your side a small group of people who have built authority in a specific community, they in turn will bring their following. But you need to keep in mind the reason why these people have built a certain aura in that space you”re interested in. Typically it”s because they have expertise (or at least acute interest) and integrity.

So, if you want influencers to get involved, you need to speak inside their story, not yours. Your engagement campaign needs to resonate with them. Take for blackjack example NY-based marketing agency, Campfire, who sent survivalist influencers a personalized survival pack to introduce them to the new season of Discovery Channel”s show, The Colony.

5: No defined target = wasted efforts

The idea of finding the most influential voices on the web is as empty of meaning as finding Google”s top search results: they only exist in context of what you”re looking for. A poorly defined influencer target will always result in wasted efforts and disappointing outcomes.

An example of this is Tom Webster”sthe limits of online influence.” He wrote a blog post in support of the people of New Zealand in the aftermath of the earthquake they experienced in February. He managed to get social media”s “elite” (people with lots of followers on Twitter and high Klout scores) to relay his message, amounting to well over 500k impressions but a very disappointing 389 clicks, and only 10 submissions (people acting on the post).

Was Tom flirting with the limits of online influence as he suggests? Absolutely not. He actually discovered the hard way of what online influence isn”t: ill-targeted popular social media users talking about a topic they have very little to do about to an audience that doesn”t necessarily care. Kudos to Tom Webster to even get these folks to relay his message as it was off topic and off brand for them.

6: In the end, it”s all about relevance and context

This may be THE most important thing of all and sadly the one that gets most overlooked… mommy bloggers, Klout, and (back in the day) Technorati have trained us poorly on the importance of context. There is no such thing as a universal list of influencers that will heal the world”s wounds. You will find influencers who can help raise money for cancer research, build awareness on the issue of occupied Palestinian territories, or even mobilize crowds in the streets of Cairo to topple the government, but you won”t find influencers who can do all of these things…

If you want to get influencers to have an impact on your business, you need to pick people who have built trust and a following on the topic you”re involved with and have proven their ability to mobilize people in a way that makes sense to your campaign.  To be successful with influencer engagement, you need to find those people who care about your topic – people who are relevant to your business.

What do you think? What rules do you live by in your engagement with influencers?