John Battelle writes: “Influencers are critical to business success. But the last thing you want to do is treat them like a mass market. Instead, do the hard work of cultivating them in a personal network.”
how do you find your own influencers? In the entertainment business, for example, they’d include the obvious elite — media critics and senior executives in the business, but also well-respected reviewers on Amazon (AMZN), crossover voices like Wil Wheaton (a sometime actor who now has a wildly popular weblog), and outspoken critics of Hollywood. In technology, your influencers would include large corporate customers, industry analysts and journalists, selected policy wonks, and a sampling of early adopters — the folks who eagerly try out new technology.
Instead of hiding behind marketing programs, make it your business to create a personal network. Identify the communities that consume or champion your product, as well as the controversies (like the health value of hot cereal, for example). Then start talking to people. Don’t try to sell them anything, just ask for input. Most people like being asked for their opinions, particularly if their ideas affect how the product is made. Include critics — if you can learn why they dislike your product, and integrate their input, they may become your greatest champions. Over time, this network will start to spread positive word of mouth, and good things will happen.
The act of maintaining a network of influencers may not come naturally, but if you don’t already have one, you’re out of touch with the very people determining your success. Get out and meet them — it’s a lot cheaper than a Super Bowl ad and, I’d wager, a lot more effective.
Blogs can be a powerful way to market and build influence.