Influential buying and influencers

A survey conducted by Dimensional Research in April 2013 found that 90% of customers’ buying decisions are influenced by online reviews (Marketingland, 2013). Product reviews matter to them a lot, and they do not proceed with purchasing it until they are convinced of its functions. Sometimes, hypes are created about a product, influencing customers to buy the product. Most hypes are started by a handful of people, which means that in a given process some people matter more than others (Bellehemeur, 2008). Companies should thus focus on influential people.

Influencers throughout history as sales advocates

In every network there are people who communicate with more people about a certain product than the average person does. These people are called  ‘network hubs’ but in the industry they are often called ‘influencers’ because they tend to influence other people’s decisions about products (Lee, 2012). The recognition of influencers is not new; Buzz Marketing Resource Center (2005) traced back the usage of influencers throughout history. These people do not need to be ‘big’ media like celebrities, politicians or the press, but can also be regular people who are influential or a source of information for certain products. The difference between these two is that ‘big’ media or mega-hubs as Rosen (2000) call them, spread information to many people one-way, while regular people or hubs spread information to less people but mostly two-way through interaction.

Who are the influencers?

The challenge for companies is to identify the influencers among their current and potential customers. Possible characteristics of influential people given in the literature (Rosen, 2000)are the following:

  • Ahead in adoption.
  • Connected to many people.
  • Interest in travelling.
  • More exposed to media than others.
  • More motivated by brand and less by price.
  • Value popularity of a brand.
  • Express strong opinions.
  • More demanding than others.
  • More years of formal education than others.
  • Favourable attitude towards change.
  • And active information seekers.

A mistake some companies have made is to think that regular and satisfied consumers of their products will also spread the word. But there is no evidence for any correlation between satisfied customers and influencers (Rosen 2000).

Credibility of influencers matters

Credibility is an important issue in the effectiveness of people who spread the word about a product. People listen to people whom they trust and who give an objective opinion. Word of mouth has more effect if it comes from a third party other than from the company itself. It has to be mentioned though, that people often do not rely on a single source of information. That is why companies have to use word of mouth marketing initiatives in addition to other marketing activities.

References

Abhinash Jena

Partner at Project Guru
Abhinash has worked in sales, branding, and marketing functions for GPS companies including MapmyIndia Navigators (www.MapmyIndia.com). In addition to writing for Knowledge Tank articles, he also writes the expert's advice for Thesis & Dissertations and Power Designs.

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