Posted on : 17-02-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Social Media
Okay, I know the headline was to catch attention, but it still brings up an interesting point. I am constantly hearing about influencers, and I thought it was a topic we should further discuss. By all definitions, Hosni Mubarek, former President of Egypt, was an influencer. He held control over much of the media, and in some ways, the internet. Yet the overwhelming voice of the people were able to change that. Simply by banning together, and connecting on the web and offline.
I meet people who are probably smarter than me when it comes to marketing, or even social media, but they focus so much on the influencer. Many want to give product to the influencer, in hopes they will speak well of it and add to sales. This always makes me wonder if influencers always started to hawk these products, how long will they retain their influence? I know for myself, I would want to turn them off. I like to connect with people for their intellectual ability not selling abilities.
Every time I think of influence, I always remember a conference in Atlanta where a telecom marketing person spoke about how she rewards people for saying nice things about her brand. As soon as she said it, I immediately thought ‘thank you for telling me that, now I do not believe good things said about that brand. Now I do not kid myself, I know that companies have policies for press and others so they can use product for reviews or articles. But for the most part press tend to work on ethical rules regarding gifts and free product. Companies also have similar rules limiting what they offer. There are also rules for disclosure for bloggers which should be enforced by the blogger, as well as the company who provided the product.
My favorite is when people start talking about giving preferential treatment to influencers when they need Customer Service. I personally feel everyone is an influencer and would be happy to share examples where negative or positive experiences by everyday people who have shared the experience and the content became influential. I know many will say companies provide preferential treatment to those who buy a lot of product or take advantage of multiple services. That is true and to me that makes sense. They create the revenue for the company and are very dedicated to the company based on their actions. Companies may provide them a dedicated team, or even other discounts. I think many understand that. I should point out that my first management role was in one of these service departments for the Vanguard Group of Investment Companies. My opinion is if you start to treat those with high Klout scores with preferential treatment, you run a number of risks. First if I regularly buy your product, have a lower score and find out, I will be irritated that you do not value me and you may lose me as a Customer. You are sending a message to other Customers that they are not as special as an influencer. The opposite can also cause trouble. People love to know they receive preferential treatment, but what happens if they feel a ‘regular’ person received a better Customer experience? Could they be loud regarding what they perceive as their poor treatment?
I also think this type of trouble could cause us to we see another Mubarak moment directed at the brand providing this ‘special treatment.’ I can see ‘regular’ Customers banning together and becoming the major brand influencer in a major negative way. Personally I would like to see brands realize every Customer can be an influencer and treat them in a way the builds them as advocates. What do you think about special treatment of influencers?