Dave Balter is a man who needs no introduction. As CEO of BzzAgent, a company that connects brands with over 400 million global brand advocates and author of two word-of-mouth marketing books, there's hardly a person better suited to speak on influence and word-of-mouth (WOM). We recently caught up with Dave to interview him for our latest e-book, 3 Keys to Influence: Understanding and Leveraging Social Capital, and talk about influence and how marketers can leverage it.
Dave defines influence as the "ability to motivate others to take an action." He notes influence also incorporates elements of reach and amplification - as those with influence know key people and can communicate effectively with them to drive action. According to Dave, the way to most successfully harness influence is to create advocates out of those with influence, as WOM marketing is made even more powerful when it begins with an influential voice.
In order to leverage influence, marketers must provide their brand advocates with the tools and insights needed to influence others. Brand advocates, Dave feels strongly, must be brand users. A brand advocate must have first-hand experience to effectively communicate and influence others. We differ a bit here, as I believe advocates can come from outside of one's customer base. However, we agree that no matter how you identify and motivate influencers, you must do it in a transparent and honest manner. Marketers must be upfront with those they are engaging.
We live in an era where peer-to-peer marketing is a critical component of our campaigns, but challenging to pull through. To that end, Dave shares two key tips for influencer engagement strategy.
1) Be upfront with your ask. A critical component of getting someone to take an action is to invite them in a transparent way. Reach out to your target influencers and invite them to be a part of your campaign (e.g. your innovative new strategy, or cool product launch). They can't advocate for you without being asked. Plus, Dave adds, people love feeling specially selected.
2) Appropriately equip advocates with actions that will create activation. Once you've asked your influencers to participate, you need to tell them how to help. Clearly identify the right tool to motivate your audience to take an action, whether that's a tangible item, like coupons to distribute, or knowledge that's worth sharing and communicating.
Dave believes measuring influence and measuring return on advocacy campaigns are different. If you are identifying influencers, there are tools like Klout, PeerIndex and Traackr. To measure return on WOM and advocacy, marketers need measure it the same ways they measure traditional marketing campaigns. For BzzAgent, the leading company that utilizes a global network of advocates to create value for brands, that means tying campaign performance directly to purchases.
Dave is confident that the industry is increasingly moving towards tying social with purchasing behavior. We are moving away from 'squishy' metrics to ones that are measurable and defensible, complementary to metrics marketers use in traditional campaign measurement. You can expect to see more marketers measuring sales during the time an advocacy campaign is running.
Those looking to grow their own influence, Dave advises, need to focus on growing their reach, or the number of people with whom you're able to communicate, and their credibility with those people, generally achieved through creating and sharing high-quality content. For more on growing and leveraging insights, as well as even more tips from Dave, download our latest e-book 3 Keys to Influence: Understanding and Leveraging Social Capital.