This is Part 2. Part 1 is here.
Any good planning discipline develops tools and methods to make planning more effective. Influence planning is no different. Over the past five years or so, we have been creating tools and processes that help us deliver a more predictive result. Instead of relying on publishers and broadcasters self-reporting on audience demographics or independent databases to then place messages as in most media planning, we are looking directly at what people are thinking, saying and doing and then engaging with them around ideas, tasks and ambitions that are important to them.
Influence planning is on the rise as a complete discipline and serves as an alternate or companion to media planning. This latter function has dominated marketing budgets and therefore has become a self-fulfilling practice where all innovation is some form of paid media. "Iinfluence" is more complex than that. People's hunger for transparency from the brands they do business with and the advice of their more trusted peers calls for a different marketing model.
Here's a quick survey of tools and skills for influence planning. This Part 2 in a series that started with a new research focus.
Listening for insights
Clearly "listening" serves research. It goes beyond what we usually think about when we plan research, though. It is more than that preliminary step you take once or even periodically to inform your messaging. Today, listening is its own discipline that can constantly pay attention to what people are saying and searching for across the Web. This 'always-on' practice pays dividends everyday by delivering consumer feedback and trends that can guide not just messaging but overall strategy. When we started noticing how one of CNN's twitter handles vastly outperformed all fo the traditional media outlets jumping on Twitter last year, we added simple @andersoncooper(for example) outreach to our own efforts to keep these folks informed and fuel the significant retweeting from that handle. That's an example fo a simple action taken from ongoing listening. Marketing has done a form of this for years via direct response marketing. You put messages and offers into the marketplace, see what people respond to and then adjust.
The analogy in communications and PR is typical crisis management where you manage a live listening post for media and consumer generated media (cgm) and make adjustments on a daily or even hourly basis. Does it pay to apply this same intense listening to brands not in crisis?
For a typical brand with 3-4 relevant topics and a collection of 20-30 keyword combinations, a weekly report complete with action steps can be drafted and delivered in about 3-5 hours.If your effort the following week gains in effectiveness it is likely worthwhile.
We do the same thing with search. Consumer Intent Modeling has been fine-tuned by our search group, GSI. They know how to quickly analyze what people are searching for and we can then use that information to fuel our strategy and content development.
Influencer mapping & segmentation
There are a lot of schemes for analyzing the most influential voices online and rank that influence. Some are good. Some are suspect. Some are just plain silly. Many of the syndicated listening tool and service providers - Visible, Radian6, SM2 - have some type of proprietary rank for "influence." My only suggestion is to always unpack the recipe they and others use. If you don't understand and respect it, don't use it.
We create Influencer Maps. We look at 5 data points to tell us that an online influencer is, well, influential. We look at another 4 to determine how relevant theyare for our brand or project. We have fine-tuned this model a few times over the years as new behaviors and platforms have come online. It will always be evolving like Google's algorithm.
So much of what we do is contingent on great matchmaking between brands and influential people online that we have gone to great lengths to adjust and improve our approach. We put influencer public datainto our database and the net result is that we have developed a substantial directory of great bloggers, Twitterers, forum participants and more. They are segmented based upon their stated affinities (design aficionados, green enthusiasts, parents, etc...) Our database is another tool-of-the-trade.
What 'creative' is to media planning, 'engagement' is to influence planning. Figuring out what influencers and grassroots consumers will find attention-grabbing and worth their investment of time is hugely creative. It is also where there is as much art as science.
Are we simply inviting people to experience our product? If so, how does it arrive? What is that out-of-the-box experience that contributes to the talkable moment? Have we created the world's largest tweet-up? Are crowdsourcing a movie for dad's day of "one thing my dad taught me"? The sky is the limit. the guiding principle is always how we can deliver value to the end user.
Tools we use:
- To help plan, we have developed "value exchange" criteria to understand if we are delivering enough value
- We have adapted Emanuel Rosen's drivers of WOM to use as a checklist for activation (will our program drive influencers to share, participate and recommend?)
- Conversation Calendars plan our a la editorial calendars what we plan to release to our followers and influencers that they will find valuable enough to pass along or otherwise participate with.
This is really a form of engagement. I call it out here as it has evolved considerably with the emergence of Facebook and Twitter. Brands now have the opportunity to manage an ongoing relationship with customers and constituents. This is not necessarily about diehard fans. Nor is it quite the same as serving a distinct few by stewarding a community. Both of those efforts can be hugely worthwhile.
Conversation management is that "everydayengagement" most easily recognized in Facebook walls and great email CRM programs. The Conversation Calendar mentioned above is a staple tool. Two others include the actual role of theConversation Manager and the social content management system (social CMS), we use to make publishing across platforms more efficient.
Next up: Measurement