Return on Influence: Harnessing The Power of Social Influencers with Mark Schaefer


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With social media influencing 90 percent of all purchases, it’s a potential gold-mine for marketers. But how can marketers harness the social influence of others to increase brand advocacy, generate cost effective impressions and increase audience reach? One effective tactic is to create campaigns that will appeal to their target audiences led by those they consider influential.

Consumers take cues from our environment into account when making decisions. In social media, we look to cues like number of followers and Klout scores for badges of social proof. This influences who we follow because ultimately, people will do what they see others doing. The more followers someone has, the more likely one is to believe that s/he is worth following. But what creates the social influence in the first place that drives social proof? It’s in the content. The content that people share builds their social influence, and then their social proof.


To learn more about strategies to identify and empower influencers to spread brand content, we connected with Mark Schaefer, globally-recognized blogger, educator, and business consultant with 30 years of experience. During his webinar with us, Mark shared insights from his new book Return on Influence: Understanding the New World of Social Media Influence Marketing (download a free chapter) on how to empower users to spread content and grow influence.


Content is power.

Mark says that “content that moves through a network is a legitimate source of influence and power.” With over 30 billion pieces of content being shared on Facebook alone each month, it’s not hard to believe. Mark notes that it’s what we share that attracts followers. The quality of what we talk about grows our influence. In fact, most influencer tools – like PeerIndex and Klout -examine what users talk about, who responds to it and whether it is shared when determining a user’s influence.


Who are social influencers?

As Mark puts it, “influence is now democratized.” We are no longer looking to celebrities to influence sales decisions, but often to ‘regular’ people. Mark cites a few excellent examples as proof that moving content can create influence and power:


Meet Calvin Lee, @mayhemstudios. Calvin is an exemplary social influencer – a talented (and shy!) graphic designer from Los Angeles who tweets 200 times a day, sharing great content with his 76,444 followers on Twitter. He’s grown this following not because he’s famous, but because he thoughtfully shares content that helps his audience. With a Klout score of 80, Calvin has become so influential that brands like American Express, Walt Disney and Subway have approached him in hopes that he will mention them. In fact, Audi asked Calvin to take their new A8 on a week-long test drive, where Calvin tweeted about the car’s performance and his appreciation to Audi for the experience. The House of Blues invited Calvin to a celebrity event in Las Vegas, and VH1 invited him plus seven of his friends to the VH1 awards to “hobnob with the stars.” Calvin can give brands the boost in social awareness and interest they are seeking.


For marketers, we need to consider what our audience is looking for and how an influencer campaign can impact this. One effective influencer tactic to consider is giving them exclusive content and offers. The perks make your influencer feel special and, although it may not be specifically requested, they blog, tweet and share their genuine experiences. Ultimately, this influences others and drives in-store actions and purchases. A few of my favorite examples come from companies like Ford, Chevy and Virgin Airlines, who are exploring interesting campaigns leveraging the power of social influence. Here are some examples of exclusive campaigns for qualifying social media influencers:

  1. In case you are not already familiar with the success of Ford’s Fiesta campaign, Ford gave 100 social media influencers a European model of the car and asked the new owners to record taking the car on “missions.” The 6.5 million views from these video missions resulted in the sale of some 10,000 cars in the first six days. Now, Ford is teaming up with the PeerPerks program from PeerIndex to take on its largest social influencer campaign ever. The company will offer 1,000 qualified individuals a special gift – Ford’s new ‘baby carrier,’ the Ford B-Max, launching summer 2012.
  2. Chevy Volt has teamed up with Klout for several social influencer campaigns. Previously, Chevrolet loaned Volts to 20 consumers in the Chicago-area, and later loaned the Sonic to 130 influencers. Recently, Chevrolet launched a new campaign giving a select number of Klout influencers (with scores over 50) a chance to borrow 2012 Volts for three-day joy rides in hopes of generating sales. The April 2012 campaign launched in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and is slated to head to Portland.
  3. Klout also collaborated with Virgin Airlines to offer top Twitter influencers one free, round-trip flight from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Toronto. Mark Schaefer actually blogged about this event on his site, reporting that Virgin Airlines generated 4,600 tweets, 7.4 million impressions, and received coverage by top publications like CNN Money and L.A. Times.


Although referencing influencer tools like Klout and PeerIndex are a good place to start researching, Mark encourages marketers to take a broader approach to influencer identification. Remember, the content that people share, and the subsequent reaction to it by peers, is what drives a Klout score to begin with. A high Klout score doesn’t make you influential, the content you post does.


To catch more insights from Mark you can watch the full webinar, pick up his other book Return on Influence: Understanding the New World of Social Media Influence Marketing or follow his {grow} blog. Additionally, you can download a free chapter of his book.


Tweet us your Social Influencer Tips! How do you engage with your social influencers? Do you know of any favorite influencer campaigns? Tweet us your tips to #AwarenessTips.


Mike Lewis


Mike Lewis
Mike is an entrepreneur and marketing executive with a 14-year track record of success as a senior manager at early-stage technology companies. He is currently the vice president of marketing and sales for Awareness Inc., an enterprise social media management platform


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