We discover, consume, and share digital content in radically different ways than we did five years ago. This fundamental change has been driven by the rapid adoption of social media and mobile devices.
Social media is both a content filter and a distribution channel. We discover and consume more content than ever because of social media.
What’s more, as people engage with and share this content with others, it sends strong signals to the search engines that improve its position in search engine results, which increases the content’s reach significantly.
In conjunction with social media’s impact on content discovery, the smartphones and tablets we carry around with us have expanded the time and spaces in which we read, watch, and share this content.
The net result of these changes is that we have more content to consume and more time to consume it in. Sounds like a win-win for consumers and marketers right?
Not so fast. The new reality is that the firehose of content consumers receive is highly filtered and curated through the digital connections consumers trust whether they be friends and/or subject matter experts. Look at your Facebook newsfeed or Twitter stream for examples of this.
Making your message stand out in the stream of content rolling past your target audience is a major challenge. So although we might be spending more time consuming and sharing content, marketers’ access to that time is increasingly limited.
In response to this disruption and the opportunities it creates for marketing through social media and search, content marketing is a hot topic among digital marketers these days. Content marketing involves creating unique content and driving discovery, engagement, and distribution of it through a combination of organic and paid channels.
How 1% of Your Audience Makes Content Marketing Work
What makes content marketing work is creating and distributing content that appeals to the 1 percent of the audience who will successfully refer others to it. These are the users with many connections and authority on the subject, who will pass on links to your contests, promotions, deals, and other marketing campaigns because they think it will be useful to the people who follow them. These key influencers and advocates are more than just fans – they’re brand ambassadors when brands give them content worth sharing.
Brands that track and quantify word-of-mouth impact have found that the sharing done by these key influencers can drive 20, 30, or even up to 70 percent of all of the discovery and engagement with their campaign content, surpassing paid media in some cases as the most efficient driver of discovery and traffic to their sites. That’s pretty incredible, considering these "super influencers" drive an even higher share of conversions — on average influencing 30 percent or more of all conversions on marketers’ sites just by recommending a brand’s products, content, or promotions to their online connections and followers.
What’s more, as people share links and send social signals in the forms of Likes, tweets, pins, etc., traffic from organic search can increase due to improved position in search engine results pages (SERPs).
When you see data like this, you realize pretty quickly that identifying and engaging with the super influencers is time well spent.
If you can build relationships with this 1 percent directly by recognizing their influence, thanking them for sharing with their audiences and followers, and rewarding them for their loyalty, they will be motivated to share early and share often each time you create useful and engaging content.
Identifying the key influencers among your target audience is fairly straightforward. There are a wealth of social media measurement tools that enable marketers to find the people who are talking most about their brand, see what type of content they’re sharing and with whom, and how they are sharing it (email, Twitter, Facebook, their own blogs, etc.).
Once you find these influencers, the trick is activating them to share even more. Here are three tips to help you activate your top influencers.
1. Use Exclusive Content
Your most engaged and influential users love to be an inside source of new information for their friends and followers by sharing contests, information, or deals with their social networks before other people have heard about them.
Create exclusive content you share only with these key influencers, and let them know they were one of a select few to receive this special opportunity. This makes your brand advocates feel appreciated and provides them with exclusive information they can use to boost their reputation as a source of new inside information and fresh scoops.
One client decided to engage its most ardent fans when planning a large industry event. The company reached out to these key influencers, inviting them to post a “register now” button on their social profiles, blogs and websites, and offering them lower-cost VIP passes if they shared the event with friends.
The result was a huge uptick in sharing that significantly influenced registrations for the event. People who found out about the conference from an influencer were 37 percent more likely to register than direct visitors, and influencers ended up driving more than $1 million in total registrations.
2. Avoid Facebook + Twitter Tunnel Vision
When you’re looking for super influencers, chances are you’ve already determined who shares the most on Facebook and Twitter. But, in many cases, the people who really influence traffic and conversion on your site are the bloggers and active participants in industry message boards and forums.
One client launched a social media contest and found that a single blogger referred thousands of people and directly drove 42 percent of all traffic to the contest.
To find and activate the people who are truly passionate about your products, services, or sector, you must monitor the blogosphere, message boards, and forums continuously.
Once you’ve gathered the necessary analytics data to find exactly which individuals are driving the most traffic to your campaign sites, reach out to these people individually. Treat them like the real VIPs they are. Let them know you appreciate their loyalty and interest in your products. Invite them to be a part of a separate and exclusive program for others like them.
This high touch approach to building relationships with the most influential among your target audience is more effective at building a large base of brand advocates than special rewards and brand swag.
3. Analyze and Understand Your Social Segments
Your top fans are so valuable they are worth the extra effort of some special attention. But not all influencers are alike.
When you plot the influence of individuals, you’ll see a curve that is remarkably similar to the long tail distribution of search terms. Influence follows a “power law,” where a relatively small number of individuals drive the lion's share of social referrals. Those at the peak of this curve are what we refer to as “super influencers.” Super influencers have large, loyal followings and audiences who trust their insights and the relevant content they pass along.
Understanding this distinction between the people capable of referring more than 100 friends and followers and those who would be lucky to refer a few is key to crafting your content marketing strategy.
In order for your content to “go viral” you need to have one-to-one relationships with your super influencers, and at the same time target your standard influencers a bit more broadly.
For example, you will want to connect with all your influencers by commenting on their blogs and syndicating their content via Twitter, Facebook, and your own blog. Thank them for their loyalty, and generally give them focused attention.
Make sure to go the extra mile with your super influencers and treat them as an extended part of your team. Offer these valuable individuals the opportunity to obtain and review your products before they hit the market, for example. Offer them after-hours shopping at your stores, a few free hours of your services, or invite them to a special VIP party. Be creative and have fun.
Remember, your super influencers, when treated right, can drive a huge percentage of your brand’s discovery and engagement. That’s reason enough to throw a party isn’t it?
Creating content you think is useful and relevant isn’t enough to make your content marketing program work. You need the energy and influence of the 1 percent of your audience capable of driving discovery of your content through the social filters upon which we all rely. And once you find them, you need to build lasting relationships with them and motivate them to share.
Over the long term, a primary content marketing goal is to increase the size of your influencer base. By finding these individuals, delivering useful content to them, and engaging in a direct dialogue with them you will be setting the foundation for a strong and mutually rewarding relationship.
With the support and engagement of this growing army of influencers and advocates, you will drive discovery of your content among a larger percentage of your target audience directly and through improved position in search engine results. You will also have the opportunity to grow your audience of influencers and advocates.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!