Your customers don’t come to your website or your own social channels (such as your Facebook brand page) to discover whether what you offer meets a need or fulfills a desire they have. Instead, people discover you mostly through ads and word of mouth (WOM). To spread your message to a new audience, update your understanding of "reach channels" to include not only traditional tactics such as TV, search, and print but also the three key social tactics for this phase of the life cycle: influencer marketing, advocate marketing, and social advertising.
In my most recent research report, I examine how these different reach tactics are related and how you should balance trust and targeting in your social reach strategy. Specifically, there are four categories of contributors create content on your behalf:
Your marketing team uses social ads to target your prospects and customers precisely.
Employees, resellers, and partners share their experiences with your prospects.
Your customers relate to your prospects as peers.
Influencers shape the conversation about your solutions.
Our 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards (submission deadline is August 30th!) are structured around the Forrester Marketing RaDaR model, with awards for outstanding social marketing in each phase of the customer life cycle. My research this quarter focuses on social reach – tactics to help people discover your brands, products, and promotions – so I want to highlight a 2011 winner demonstrating the power of advocate marketing.
In 2011, Unilever introduced a new extra-strong variant of Marmite, a yeast-based spread that no one is just “meh” about – consumers either love it or hate it. Marmite’s consumers are extremely passionate about the product, and Unilever created an exclusive community for only the top 200 fans and advocates to feed (pun intended) their excitement. Each community member received one of 200 commemorative jars of the new Marmite.
Your perpetually-connected customers are seeking information from a much broader range of sources than ever before. If you just work with the same traditional influencers you have for years — industry analysts and mainstream media — your message risks getting lost in a sea of noise. Instead, leading marketers are identifying key online influencers for their products and marketing to them specifically. These influencers are highly specific, and are not the same for any two products or solutions, or even two different audiences of a single product.
The value of reaching out to a non-traditional list of influencers was illustrated this week by Microsoft’s marketing campaign for the new Surface Pro.
Mike “Gabe” Krahulik is the author of the long-running Penny Arcade, a popular webcomic about video game culture. He said on Twitter he was “interested in the Surface Pro,” and due to the target audience and popularity of his comic, Microsoft sent him a demo unit. Gabe’s not a technology journalist; he’s not an industry analyst; he’s just someone with a passionate and tech-savvy following — a following which includes perpetually-connected customers who influence technology purchasing.
What happened next? Gabe wrote a full-length, relatively positive, review of the Surface Pro and its applications for media professionals that was not only read by his audience, but became a top link on TechMeme, a tech news aggregator.
As you plan your 2013 social marketing initiatives, one area for you to focus on is influencer identification and engagement. I’ve been speaking to a number of B2B marketers recently who have begun to move beyond reactive responses to complaints to proactively reach out to people who are speaking out socially and creating influential content about their products and services.
Don’t let yourself be deceived; your key influencers are already having conversations, whether or not you’ve begun a marketing initiative to interact with them. However, engagement will fuel the fire behind their conversations, and allow you to generate more positive content about your products and your company. Finally, your engaged influencers, when they are your promoters as well as being influential, can supplement your existing customer advocate (or reference) programs. Traditional reference programs don’t scale because each reference only speaks to one prospect at a time. By engaging those folks and encouraging them to create public content, you can expand their influence on your prospects.