Seventy-one percent of enterprise brand leaders rate influencer marketing as a strategic or highly strategic marketing category, according to new data.
We at Traackr have been fortunate enough to witness the evolution of the influencer marketing practice from the very beginning. One of the most interesting aspects of this journey has been learning from our customers and seeing new use cases emerge.
One strategy, in particular, that’s becoming very popular among our customers is the development and implementation of executive influencer programs, the goal being to increase the influence of company executives and humanize the brand.
Executive Influence = Brand Equity
Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are great examples of executives who have demonstrated enormous influence that spreads far beyond the walls of their organizations. Their visions have not only shaped their companies but our society as a whole. As a result, these visions and what they stand for have become synonymous with their companies, in turn, creating massive brand equity that advertising dollars could never buy.
Although these are extreme cases, and this level of influence is quite rare, it’s absolutely possible for any executive to build a level of influence that has a positive impact on their brand. Social media has proven to be an effective channel for this purpose as it enables executives to connect with their target audience on a scale never before possible.
Rising Above the Noise for Maximum Impact
One of the biggest challenges that executives will face as they build their online presence is rising above the massive amount of noise on the social web. To exacerbate this challenge, executives are very busy. They don’t have the time to spend all day trying to be heard. So it’s extremely important that their online activity is tuned for maximum impact.
Fortunately, what we’ve learned from our customers is there’s a solution to this challenge and that’s to focus your executives’ online efforts (at least initially) on the people that have the greatest influence over your target audience. By engaging and building relationships with the right influencers, your executives can establish their own influence within the community.
Here are 5 steps to enable influence at the executive level:
1. Leverage Influencers for Research to Own the Conversation
In order to tune your executives’ online activity for maximum impact, you want to make sure they understand the tone of the conversation, what’s being talked about, and how to add value.
Monitoring the activity of current influencers is a great way to do this. An influencer is your lighthouse in a messy ocean of noise. By focusing in on the influencers, your executives will have a good pulse on what’s happening and will be able to participate accordingly.
2. Reference Influencer Content to Participate with Authenticity
Once your executives have a good pulse on the conversation, it’s time for them to start participating. It’s important they understand that social media is not a loud speaker. Social media is about making meaningful connections, and the initial goal here is to connect with influencers.
As a first step, help your executives find influencer content to share on their own social channels. Influencer content is quality content - that’s the reason why this person is an influencer in the first place. By sharing influencer content, your executives can establish themselves as a good source of information in the community, which can help grow their following. This will also help them get on the influencer’s radar.
Next, as your executives start developing their own content, a good strategy is to refer to (or link to) influencer content within their posts. By doing this they’re opening up opportunities for initial engagement. Once the posts are published your executives can reach out to the influencers and mention that their content was referenced. It’s very likely the influencers will then share the posts, thus exposing it to their audience.
A possible final step is for your executives to ask the influencers to connect offline and discuss future opportunities to collaborate since there are common areas of interest.
This has proven to be an effective initial engagement strategy among our customers as it’s not a cold outreach, but rather has context and authenticity.
3. Collaborate with Influencers to Establish Credibility
Your executives have connected with influencers, now it’s time to start collaborating. This collaboration can take various forms. Some great examples we’ve seen are joint blog posts, influencer interviews (conducted by executives), webinars, or even in-person events.
By collaborating with influencers your executives are essentially being introduced to the community as a credible source, thus opening up the door to begin establishing their own influence.
Another form of collaboration that we’ve seen which isn’t public facing but can have enormous benefits is for the executives to invite influencers to provide feedback on the business behind closed doors. By inviting the influencers to share their feedback, not only are you able to uncover valuable insights that can benefit the business but the influencers also end up feeling like they’re contributing to the vision of the company and joining the journey. This can set the foundation for an extremely powerful relationship with the influencer going forward.
4. Nurture Influencer Relationships to Form Strong Connections
Now that your executives have established relationships with key influencers, and have opened up the door for establishing their own place as an influencer, it’s important that they continue to nurture the relationship. This means continuing to share their content, interact with them online, collaborate with them, and get their feedback as new developments emerge in your business.
Short-term initiatives can provide spikes of impact, but it’s the ongoing relationship management that’s going to lead to long-term sustainability and success. Influencer marketing is a marriage, not a date.
5. Measure Efforts and Make Strategic Adjustments to Track Success
As your program develops it’s important to continuously measure the success of your efforts, understand what’s working, what’s not, and make strategic adjustments based on your findings.
Alongside the development and management of the program, this is an area where Traackr provides differentiated value to our customers. By uploading executives into the platform, our customers are able to measure the increasing influence of their executives and monitor which influencer relationships and which collaboration initiatives are having the greatest impact. A favorite among our customers is to look at an executive’s network map over time and visually see how their influence expands through the community.
However you do it, it’s important to dig into the effects of your efforts to ensure you’re meeting your goals and investing in the strategies that are providing the most impact.
Make it Easy and Repeatable for your Executives
You now understand the steps to kick-starting your executive influencer program, but there’s one last thing to keep in mind as you proceed down this path and that’s to make this process as easy as possible for your executives. Remember, social media can still be intimidating, even though adoption may be widespread. It’s critical you set up a framework that helps them ease into this transformative world. That said, with time their confidence will grow and they’ll begin to find opportunities to participate and engage on their own.
In the End, it’s All About Value
In the end, the key to success is that your executives ultimately add value to the community. With that in place, leveraging current influencers is a great way to fast track your executive influencer program and establish their place as an influencer and thought leader in their own right.