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B2B Marketing Trends: The Rise of Consumers as the New Influencers

Traditionally the media and industry analysts have been revered as major market influencers (the people your target audience – those you’re trying to sell to – listen to). A leader position in an analyst report or positive product review was the holy grail of PR efforts. While these influencers continue to wield power, the collective influence of consumers is widening.

An increasing number of people are participating in online conversations – sharing opinions and influencing purchasing decisions (explicitly or implicitly) – as part of their daily routine. At the same time trust in consumer opinions posted online is growing, as social networks become dynamic ecosystems that develop and nurture relationships between people and the content they share.

As social media adoption goes mainstream, we cannot ignore the growing influence consumers have on brand affinity and purchasing decisions.

Here are some interesting tidbits for you to consider as you create your 2010 marketing plan:

  1. Social networks are gaining in popularity. Facebook has over 300 million active users and Twitter was declared the top word of 2009 by the Global Language Monitor. Need I say more?
  2. Online consumer opinions are becoming more trusted. An April 2009 Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey found that people trust consumer opinions posted online as much as editorial content and more than traditional newspapers and magazines.
  3. Social media content influences buying decisions. A study by SNCR Research concludes that traditional influence cycles are being disrupted by social media as decision makers utilize social networks to inform and validate decisions.
  4. People find products through social network sites. According a study released by Performics on how consumers use social networks to discover products 30% of respondents admitted to learning about a product, service or brand on a social network site, 44% recommended a product on Twitter and 39% have discussed a product on Twitter. 48% of people who saw a brand’s name on Twitter went to a search engine to look for the product.
  5. The volume of user generated content is growing. According to MarketingVox and Nielsen BuzzMetrics, “25% of search results for the world’s Top 20 brands link to user generated content.” If this trend holds, it is possible that user generated content will dominate search results as customers far outnumber the number of employees of even the largest brands.

As people embrace and exercise their ability to share their opinions through social networks, we as marketers must take note, listen to the conversations and evolve how we engage with our consumers.

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PR Strategy: The Importance of Blogger Relations

As I reported back in August, Traditional PR is Not Dead, by any means, but the influence of bloggers is certainly gaining ground and should not be ignored as you develop your 2010 public relations strategy.

According to a blog post entitled,Statistics Show Social Media is Bigger Than you Thinkby Erik Qualman there are over 200,000,000 blogs and a reported 34% of bloggers post opinions about products and brands.

With over 1.5 million new blog posts every day and 77% of active Internet users reading blogs, coverage in the blogosphere can greatly increase your potential brand exposure and drive interest from target audiences.

Another upside is the fact that today’s journalists increasingly rely upon blogs and microblogs to find story ideas and conduct research. According to a new survey from Middleberg Communications and the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR), 66 percent of journalists use blogs and 48 percent use Twitter and other microblogging sites to assist them with reporting.

These findings shouldn’t surprise any of us considering the growing lists of journalists using Twitter and other social networks.

To engage this new audience of influencers, you will first need to find the bloggers that cover your space. Free tools like blog search engine Technorati or Google can help you build and research your list. As a starting point, I would recommend that you identify no more than 20 targets.

Next subscribe to the RSS feeds and get in the habit of reading the posts and comments daily. This will help you monitor target blogs for topics that merit commentary or present possible opportunities to engage — but don’t jump in just yet. Blogger relations require different tactics than traditional PR because most bloggers don’t get paid to cover a specific beat.

Technorati’s 2009 State for the Blogosphere report claims over 70% of bloggers are hobbyists and self-expression and sharing expertise are the primary motivations for these bloggers.

According to our social media maven, Susan Getgood, the success of your blogger relations program depends upon how well you translate PR and marketing messages into stories that will resonate with your target bloggers on some personal level. Unlike the news media, bloggers don’t necessarily require the story to be new. Relevant is often more important, although this space will have a tendency toward wanting the latest news.

First and foremost, make sure that you understand your target blogger’s motivation for blogging and personal interests before you attempt to post a comment or pitch a story. With all the noise in the blogosphere, you must provide real value in order to be worth a post or better yet a longer-term relationship.

Finally, make a commitment to be in this for the long haul because blogger relations are very personal and an ongoing program is more effective than a campaign approach.