You're all familiar with the term "influence marketing" by now. Though categorizing communicative influence as marketing may not be the best way to reference the fastest medium of customer acquisition, it works as well as any. In the current age of influence communications, celebrity suggestion has been fundamental for PR, advertising, and marketing methodology. This post talks a bit about influencer potential, but focuses ultimately on your business's channel modulation being at least as important as celebrity recommendations.
While expert or celebrity "voices" have always been important, what makes today's "influencers" unique are the multitude of podiums whence your product or service is evangelized. Among the most useful of these evangelism channels, new blogger powers represent a special communicative case many overlook.
Blogged Then - Shared Now
I was reading last week a draft of a whitepaper about to come out on "influence marketing" for hoteliers. Prepared by influence blogger network SnapTraveller (a service of WIHP), this paper explains how bloggers fit into the overall scheme of brand evangelism. Reading the paper I was reminded of how it was when I first became a tech blogger. In the early 2000s, TechCrunch and a score of other popular blogs dominated gadget and startup news. If I remember correctly, even the New York Times and television shuddered a bit at the likes of bloggers Michael Arrington and Pete Cashmore, just to name two. It's an interesting side note to realize it was these and other bloggers who helped social media supplant even their own blogs in notoriety, if not effectiveness.
Just how micro-blogging, social media, and the resurgence of traditional media took the spotlight from blogging is a little bit mysterious for me. Maybe these media are just newer or cooler? Heck, those of us blogging like mad back then even manipulated and fast forwarded how "social" works today. So the fact is, influential blogs held then, and still hold a superlative value for customer acquisition. You see blogs never lost any effectiveness at all, it's just that "bloggers" really morphed into more social practitioners. For niche business, the micro or macro-blogging is the new paradigm.
Facebook, Twitter, and a re-awakening for news media became more glamorous perhaps? But after reading the Snap Traveller piece, the old saying; "more than one way to skin a cat" occurred to me. And for hotels in particular, the idea of highly "connected" influencers with blogs, or vice versa, reveals blogger networks as revamped as well. With what amount to in-depth guest reviews accentuated with images, shared with a wide audience, and through a web-in-a-web of constituents, equals some of the best brand advertisements possible. To quote from a section of the paper on these new "wired" influencers:
"These are often hyper-connected individuals. They are instantly recognizable. Many of them have a blog to complement their social networks. Others choose to focus on a particular platform to be recognized and legitimate (Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.). They publish their experiences, tips, and often enrich their sites with their photos and videos."
Influencer A and B
The transitioning of communicators and influential people such as those we know famously; the Brian Solis and Chris Brogan types, they became analysts, but their "influence" is not exactly the kind or type needed by every business. Context and audience matters most, so Brian tweeting your hotel offer may not be as powerful as lesser a lesser known "expert" or "trusted" evangelist. This synergy is what made blogging powerful in the first place, if you'll remember. The idea here is something PR people have known for a long time, 10 small media outlets is worth 1 huge one where earned media is concerned. In short, if I can get 10 travel bloggers to talk about (via their blog and social) a hotel, it's worth any celebrity mention I can get. So often, so you know, clients soil their linen over getting that TechCrunch story, 250 words about their "about" page, you know. The reality is, one sincere reader who books a hotel for a week is more valuable than 1000 technology readers forgetting the destination where the hotel is. You get the point.
If you can afford Lady Gaga as an evangelist, go for it, but it's not necessary to have one super-star influencer on your side. A good "for instance" here is a travel article by Carrie of WishWishWish (@wishwishwish)on an unforgettable stay in Sebastopol. Point being, Carrie's following will put money on her recommendation should the need arise. As you can discern quickly from looking at her social presence, the case for influencer "B" is a strong one for this hotel.
Finally, this concept of "morphed blog evangelist" is not really rocket science. While the Snap Traveller and other web variants of influencer informatives inform us about key principles like; the customer path, the specialist customer, and new modalities for connecting. We're still just talking about targeting industry experts and influencers to notice our wares. Some people say "the press release is dead", or even that public relations is, nothing could be further from the truth really. After all, public relations never was strictly about "press releases" (some think PR stands for).
Today we are our own evangelists in my business. Having traversed media and PR, done the social penance, wired ourselves into just about every market segment, if the New York Times, I'll find ten smaller influencers who "get it" - or I'll tell the story myself. But the best approach is to ensure all the communication channels have been tried and covered, and the best mix possible is obtained for a business. As such, blogs are more important than ever because of the nature of the blogging game, and because channel assertiveness is more important even than marketing channel mix. Put simply, great blogs and bloggers can fill in for channel mastery, even if your mix is not perfect.