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targeting social media influencers

Influencers or Normals: Who Do You Ignore?

There is a plethora of tools today that allow you to find the level of influence that someone has online. Many companies, ourselves included, have advocated focusing on influencers in your segmentation. But the question that must be asked is whether or not this is the right approach. What challenges are you going to face in this process, and where are the stumbling blocks?

Be it Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, Quora or whatever ranking that you want to use, the idea of social influence is here to stay. But from the sales and marketing perspective, this fact raises many questions. Who is the audience that you want to engage? Should you treat the “influencer” any different than the regular Jane? Let’s dive in to see if we can answer these questions, and find out how much weight, if any, needs to be given to the social scores.

We will start by looking at the zero-sum options, where you focus only on influencers, or direct all of your efforts toward “normals”. There are definitely advantages to each.

Targeting “Influencers”

The Pros:

  • They tend to be early adopters, who can gather more of the same.
  • Influencers are loud. They talk about what they’re using.

The Cons:

  • They are often fickle, dropping one product for another, similar product because of something like a missing feature.
  • Normal users may feel abandoned by your targeting of influencers.
  • Influencers are loud. They talk about what they’re not using.

Targeting “Normals”

The Pros:

  • For the majority of companies, these are your long-term customers.
  • The normals tend to have higher lifetime value because they stay with what they know.
  • They tend to be highly influential to others who are just like them.

The Cons:

  • Normal users tend to be slower to convert, because they’re careful about what they spend and with whom.
  • Reaching this audience is more challenging, as they’re not as likely to be heavily connected online.

The Decision Process

With the pros and cons of marketing to each segment laid out in front of us, it seems obvious that we need to focus on both sides. You first have to answer what you’re trying to accomplish with every outreach. If your goal is to get fast growth, then your efforts are likely better spent on influencers. However, if you’re shooting for long-term, sustained metrics you will want to focus on your average user.

The graph below is referred to as the diffusion of innovation. It lays out the approximate percentages of every piece of your audience, from the inception of your product through its cycle of customer acquisition. Our influencers are almost always going to fall in that first 16 percent, which covers innovators and early adopters. But once they are gone, you will have to rely on the normals for your continued growth.

[getImage id="" class="size-full wp-image-7510" src="https://363ndj1nmgib42vgprkzrg43-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/20110714211709DiffusionOfInnovation.png" width="685"] Diffusion of Innovation, via Wikipedia

Your average user is going to look for a few characteristics from your company. They want a great product, they want to feel secure doing business with you and they want absolutely stellar customer service. In short, they want to feel like they are important to you — and they are! Always bear in mind that these are the customers that will eventually carry you to long-term success. They absolutely can not be ignored in your marketing efforts, but it is likely fair to say that they can be a smaller portion of your focus.

In Practice

For a prime example of marketing done right, we have to look at a product that many love to hate – Google Glass. The Google Glass Explorer program was launched with a roughly 70/30 split between technology and social influencers and normal, everyday folks who happened to have a Twitter or Google+ account.

You can take just about any crazy idea and sell it to an early adopter. They get excited by new and shiny. But getting your mom to strap a pair of no-lens glasses to her face and then talk to them? That takes a bit more work. The latter half of Google’s split was comprised of people who would be able to pull off that daunting task.

When you’re making marketing segmentation decisions, you have to see yourself real. What percentage of your audience do you need to be socially influential? Does it matter if Robert Scoble or Gary Vaynerchuk ever use your product? Does it matter if your mom will?

Segmentation is only as effective as your understanding of your market. You need to ask yourself “who is my customer?” Start there, then figure out who needs to hear what you have to say. Marketing solely to any one group of people is a fool’s game. Market to the audience that you need, but provide amazing customer service to everyone.

Image Credit: comdedy_nose via Flickr

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