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How market research can make you an influencer

FEBRUARY 7, 2012 – It’s a common challenge for marketers: How do you advertise to consumers and convince them to buy without making them feel like they’re falling victim to a sales pitch?

According to Cision North America’s Peter Granat, writing for BtoB magazine, the vast amounts of online data that consumers generate – Big Data – can be used to make influencer marketing more effective.

“Social media has replaced the traditional influencer model with millions of mass influencers and opinionated customers,” Granat comments. He notes that out of the billions of user posts published on Facebook, one-quarter of them refer to brands. “Marketers that tame the big-data beast – which can aggregate, normalize, mine, analyze and act upon it – can achieve a huge return on investment from earned and owned media campaigns and optimize their marketing mixes.”

Yet this new insight into what makes consumers tick comes with a caveat – your business has to be able to store the Big Data, know how to process it and turn it into actionable information. There will be several components for companies to address when they start to use Big Data for this purpose.

For instance, companies will have to tailor their old systems for finding “traditional” influencers, such as journalists and analysts, to include the countless influencers who are now communicating with audiences around the world, Granat notes. Data aggregation processes will also have to be updated, since the stream of information has turned into a flood. Blogs, ecommerce websites, messaging boards and “hundreds of millions” of other online and offline channels are adding to the pile of Big Data, he says.

Analyzing the data and integrating it with the rest of the company’s operations will also be major challenges that organizations will have to face and overcome. The next step in merging Big Data with influencer marketing, Granat predicts, will be to draw the connection between customer profiles, their social profiles, corporate content and transaction histories. That information will make market research even more in-depth and useful for advertising purposes.

Despite this insight, some companies may still struggle with the idea of using content to influence people. Writing for Business 2 Community, Amanda Maksymiw explains that the first step has to be setting clear goals for what you want to achieve.

From there, get in the mindset of your audience (a task that market research and online panels can help with) and create content that is actually valuable to them. You’ll also need to research the influential bloggers, tweeters and social media royalty that you want to reach out to consumers and learn what kind of messages and opinions they are currently distributing. Then sort them into various “influencer persona” categories, and pair them up with the various segments of your audience. 

“Make sure you understand what each persona looks like, what their needs and goals are, what information they are looking for and how they prefer to receive their information,” Maksymiw advises.

As the program gets underway, it will also be necessary to check in and measure response rates and returns on the investment. She suggests asking a few questions at this point:

“Is the content helping you build better relationships with your influencers? Are you able to participate in more conversations? Are your conversations meaningful? Has traffic to your site increased?” are a few of the queries Maksymiw suggests. Also check to see if consumers are starting to respond to your company’s social media content with their own. This engagement will provide some of the momentum to keep the content/influencer program going.