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It’s well-established that the influence of opinion leaders is key in initiating the viral process that is the Holy Grail of marketing.

Going viral isn’t just about becoming a media sensation. On a more practical level, it’s how to reach the targeted traffic that will propel your business to successful levels.

For the record, it can sound trendy to say thought leaders and influencers. I just prefer the original term.

They’re the key component in what’s known as the two-step flow of communication. It refines the notion that the mass media have a direct effect on its audience, known as the hypodermic needle theory. Instead, members of the audience process the information they receive, but they turn to someone they trust before making a decision on it:

Major companies count on opinion leaders to promote their products. Ford Motor Company, for example, puts a high priority on interacting with them directly.

Their Fiesta Movement campaign has become a classic case study Among its highlights was its identification of opinion leaders and then having them test the product:

Opinion leaders form the vanguard of a successful marketing mix utilizing the buying cycle. Here’s a typical scenario:

  • The marketer identifies and targets a niche’s authority figures, ie- the opinion leaders;
  • The marketer tailors his or her message to engage them;
  • The marketer refines the message to secure their trust and endorsement; and
  • The marketer then deploys a campaign to reach the target market itself.

Brad and Emma’s video got major hits online, and Ford gave them an agency.

The campaign then went according to theory:

  • Members of that market then seek the advice of an authority figure they know;
  • If that authority figure, ie- the opinion leader, supports the marketing message, the marketer’s credibility is enhanced and his or her product becomes a viable option for purchase; and then
  • The member then either purchases the product directly or engages the marketer for further information.

One other campaign format featuring opinion leaders is extremely common because of its effectiveness. It’s important to note that the marketing messages in this scenario are quite different:

  • The message to the opinion leader contains fine detail to underscore the logic and nature of the product’s attributes; while
  • The message to the target market is focused on the product’s value in addressing a specific need.

Here’s an anecdotal sample of the Planika Fires video campaign:

The company targeted opinion leaders in this message …

… and the niche market in this message, which was released shortly after the first message had achieved a given level of coverage:

This model works in any niche and has the added benefit of not only increasing sales, but also making your promotional budget — in terms of both effort and expense — much more efficient.

And that, in turn, allows you more time in your day to enjoy the dot.com lifestyle!

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