When brands think of influence they often think about an individual or about the actual act of driving someone to make an action or decision. The real question is who is being influenced and what are the desired outcomes. To understand who is being influenced you must listen and engage your community to understand what they are passionate about and how they go about making their decision.
Communities Path to Decision
Much like a path to purchase for a customer, a community will have a path at which they validate, test and listen to someone or a group of people who are influential. Communities booth internal and external of any brand product or service become the key driver for understanding not only who is influential but where they're influential and what their influential about. In today's digitally connected and socially driven age it's no longer about what someone did in the past rather what is their involvement in the community today. Therefore who was brand deemed influential last year or even last month might have changed based on the relationship and community involvement happening today.
Relationships Role in Influence
The funny thing about community and relationships is there isn't an easy button or a short cut if you want to make these work. Relationships in the context of influence are extremely important between the influencer and the community, the community and the brand and the brand and the influencer as true lasting influence requires all three.
- Influencer and the Community:
- This relationship is the most important but also the hardest to identify and maintain as communities unlike networks are built around a common purpose not strung together because of who you know. With that being in mind the influencer not only has to identify and believe in the purpose but they must maintain that dedication and conversation with the community on a regular if not daily basis.
- Community and the Brand:
- Most consumers today don't trust Brands, but that lack of trust is usually in the logo not the people that make up the brand. So to build trust, have conversations and establish a relationship with the community brands must empower their employees through employee advocate programs and social business initiatives allowing for 1 to 1 conversations between brand employees and members of the community.
- Brand and the Influencer:
- Brands too often think of the influencer relationship as something that is established early on but seldom do they understand the visibility and value communities place on that relationship. For a community to trust the brand and the influencer they must also trust that the brand and influencer have a strong relationship and together both will look out for what's best for the community.
A community that trusts a brand and the influencer will be loyal and become it's greatest advocates but that trust and loyalty are only possible when the brand understands the importance of community and relationships.
Someone can be influential but without a relationship with the community and with the brand their influence will be limited. I am a big believe in the power of relationships and there is no better Evangelist for realtionships than my friend Ted Rubing #RonR. I recommend all my clients and friends to read, follow and learn from Ted, Also so Hi I promise he will write back and make you feel like a friend!
So before brands look at the number of followers or the books someone has written, they should first listen and build a relationship with their community by utilizing their employees so that they fully understand the communities path to decision. After understanding the communities path to decision, it's important to identify and build on those relationships so not only will the brand identify the best brand influencer but that influencers relationships with the community will make it feel like a natural fit.