“Be the Best Answer” is an expression my team and I have used many times in client strategy planning, training, presentations, webinars, blogging, and in my book Optimize about the intersection of search with owned, earned, paid and shared media.
Being present in a relevant, credible and useful way on all the channels where buyers are looking is a powerful (but often difficult to execute) way to provide the kinds of customer experiences that greatly differentiate one brand from another.
Influence plays an important role in a “Best Answer” marketing strategy as buyers pay less attention to ads and brand content, and more time listening to peers and industry subject matter experts.
While many companies are experiencing increased competition and waning interest in their marketing, brands that infuse influencers into their marketing initiatives do not suffer this decline of attention.
For example, Adidas maintains command of customer attention by boosting credibility with advocates via dark social. Our client SAP grows their influence and reach in specific areas of interest by co-creating content with industry experts in a variety of formats including video, blog posts, ebooks and interactive experiences.
Both of these brands build their own influence with audiences they’re trying to reach and engage by partnering on content with influencers that already have customer attention.
So how can your company take advantage of growing brand influence by working with industry influencers? Here are 5 guidelines for building brand influence you can follow:
1. Audit your brand’s influence, advocates and influencers
Establishing a benchmark for your brand’s current level of influence is essential. But you must first ask, what are you trying to be influential about? Whatever idea pops into your mind needs to be reconciled with what customers actually care about.
Assess your brand’s share of voice for the topics you want to be influential about on social channels, in search and anywhere else customers discover, consume and engage with solutions content. These are the places where you’ll be co-creating content with experts to be the best answer and build your brand’s influence, as well as grow leads and sales.
Identify the gap between the quantity, quality and sentiment of conversations happening around your brand and the topic currently and where you want to be. Closing that gap will be a key driver for your brand influence program.
Determine who is already advocating for your brand in relation to the topics you have in mind. Whether those fans are customers, partners or users, they can be activated to be advocates. They can also help define an advocate persona for recruiting more advocates.
Who are the best influencers for your topics? For your industry? For your brand? Identifying potential influencers to collaborate with takes time, technology and expertise. Leaving it to anyone with an opinion about who is an influencer could create some major mis-steps. Influential experts are not the same thing as influencers, for example.
It can seem overwhelming, but there’s good news: there are specialty influencer marketing tools and platforms you can use for auditing your share of voice, identifying advocates and finding influencers – just like there are experts (like TopRank Marketing) who can be your guide.
2. Identify internal influencer candidates
Growing brand influence from the inside is often forgotten with campaign driven influencer marketing. Besides industry influencers, customers and community members, one of the most significant and powerful sources of growing brand influence can come from within. Everyone has some degree of influence from the CEO to front line employees interacting with customers on a daily basis. Especially front line employees.
Influence is the ability to affect action. Many internal subject matter experts can have credibility and respect but not have any idea or interest in “behaving like an influencer”. Developing SMEs into influencers takes time, but it can be well worth it.
Some companies already have internal influencers to work with. Being an influencer means creating and sharing content amongst an interested network that engages and takes action. Brands that can effectively connect to relevant internal influencers can create a symbiotic relationship and value exchange of exposure.
Internal subject matter experts and established influencers are valuable. Both need to be approached differently. Together, they can amplify brand influence in meaningful ways at scale.
3. Map topics of influence to content marketing and communications plans
Content is what closes the influence gap using the right topics, resources and industry/internal influencers. Once the influence topics are identified, they can be incorporated into content marketing plans.
A best answer strategy maps a connection between influence topics and content for PR and media relations as well as marketing tactics like content, social, SEO, advertising and influencers. Information hungry customers interact with numerous touch-points, ignoring overly salesy content and advertising, so including credible voices in marketing and PR communications increases reach and engagement.
By mapping the internal and external voices to collaborate with in marketing and PR content, you can facilitate the credibility of your brand as the best answer for the topics of focus.
4. Build executive influence with content and influencers
Executives are not automatically influential – at least not in a useful way. It is often assumed that company executives are influential by the nature of their position. To some degree that is true, but those senior business executives that create content and engage with industry influencers become far more influential. That influence can be leveraged for more significant media coverage, more credible engagement with customers and employees.
Operationalizing influence best practices amongst brand executives can be very rewarding for all. Recently I’ve observed companies make organized efforts towards building their executives’ profiles through content, social and events as well as by interacting with industry influencers. The boost in credibility and top of mind consideration as a result is impressive.
5. Build influence of internet subject matter experts through brand channels
Investing in influence can be more powerful than renting it through association. Besides identifying external influencers and advocates for content collaboration and building executive influence, there is an opportunity for brands to grow influence in a way that is almost counterintuitive.
Brands associating with known industry influencers gain influence themselves. It is also very powerful for the brand to help up and coming influencers grow. When brands can help their niche subject matter experts transition from simply possessing influence to learning how to behave as an influencer, the resulting content, reach and engagement can outperform the effect of external celebrity influencers, or “brandividiuals”.
Our client LinkedIn Marketing Solutions does a great job of showcasing their employees in marketing materials as well as co-creating content with their internal subject matter experts. By doing so, LinkedIn provides more credible content and builds the credibility of their team members at the same time. More credibility can translate to more reach, engagement and sales.
By incorporating these 5 steps your brand can begin to benefit from being a source of content that customers actually want to consume and from the people they trust and want to hear from. In the process, your brand will earn credibility and trust points that can extend influence to the brand, but only if the brand learns from why customers favor creators and adapts those practices itself. At the same time building internal influencers while helping external micro-influencers build their influence will result in even more influence for the brand.
Are you ready to get started?
Be sure to check out the influencer marketing services we provide at TopRank Marketing. Hey, that’s what makes this blog possible and if we can help your brand become more influential, everybody wins!
Of course we’re also hiring talented influencer marketing professionals with community management, content marketing and social media experience. So, be sure to check out our careers page as well.
Upcoming Influencer Marketing Speaking Events:
Nov 7: Dreamforce, San Francisco
The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success
Nov 15: SMXL, Milan
Content Marketing & Influence Integration