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Understanding online influence

If Michael Kors declares denim the new black on Twitter, trends will transform overnight. But, if Barack Obama were to make the same claim, social media would erupt in memes of Obama clad in denim suits before anyone can say 'Lee Cooper'. This comes down to the longstanding principle: what is said is just as important as who is saying it.
Digital marketers have taken up a similar strategy to boost brand visibility in digital spaces. By dropping the right names in the right places and knowing the difference between reach and real influence, you can tap into the power of key bloggers and social media superhumans to the advantage of your own brand.

Most often referred to as 'online influencers', these informal brand advocates have a strong digital and social media presence, a good reputation and cupboards full of credibility. They tell stories about brands from the consumer's perspective and provide authentic insights into the lifestyle the brand upholds.

Active web users create about 500 million impressions (the number of times a message is viewed by users) on products and services per year. Eighty percent of these user views were seen and shared by a mere 6% of users on social media. The latter portion consists of online influencers who ignite conversations around a brand and fuel explosions in online visibility.

High impact brand stories

So, if your brand calls itself the leader in its industry, people may consider it a feather in your cap. But if an influencer deems your brand the best in your field, prospective customers are more likely to notice and, even better, tell all their fans. The more influential the person, the higher the impact their story is likely to have on the success of your brand.

The trick is to identify the correct influencers and mention them on the correct platforms - it's not always as obvious as it seems. As noted by Visual.ly, online influencers can be the blogger in the basement, a well reputed journalist or a revered analyst.

On Facebook, new algorithms award brands with higher organic reach if they mention another relevant brand in a post. This also builds a good relationship with other brands on the Facebook playground.

Twitter, a platform form better suited to conversations, makes it easy to target online influencers since the easiest way to measure the potential impact of an online influencer is by the size of their Twitter following. Popular rock band, The Black Keys, took heed of this with the unveiling of their new album via a video on YouTube. The brainwave to share a link to the video on Mike Tyson's Twitter account turned the news into a trend.

The online influencer strategy is digital's revamp of word-of-mouth marketing. It's less obvious than advertorials, more credible than traditional PR strategies and can be as effective as an acknowledgement on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

So, ask yourself: how much time, effort and money is spent targeting online audiences with minimal influence in brand messaging? Call on the right kids on the playground and turn bland messaging into a vibrant (potentially viral) trend.

2 May 2014 08:12

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About the author

After studying at the AAA School of Advertising, Desirée went on to complete an advanced advertising programme at True Blue in Chicago. She then worked for many of the top advertising agencies in SA before becoming an independent creative consultant.

Desirée also holds an honours degree in Psychology from UNISA. In 2004 she co-founded Guerrilla Marketing with Michael Gullan and together they grew the agency into what is now Gullan&Gullan - a digital, PR and social media specialist agency. Desirée also co-founded the online jewellery boutique Lobster Charms (www.lobstercharms.com), for which she is also the creative director.

Desirée lives and breathes digital media and steers her creative team to conceptualise and implement breakthrough brand strategies and content that engages, inspires and entertains.

When she's not plotting world domination of all things digital, Desirée can be found bonding with her daughter, walking her Great Dane and bending to the whims of her two black cats. She's an avid reader, has an insatiable appetite for fashion and is a qualified Inyengar Yoga instructor.




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