26% of U.S. online adults are influentials, people whose friends ask them for advice on what products to buy. And while many marketers place their bets on some of the most obvious influentials, such as mommy bloggers or people with large networks of friends on Facebook, they fail to take note of a vast untapped opportunity to use social media to reach the millions more who are extremely influential over a handful of close family members and friends, says a new Forrester Research Inc. report.
Although there is tremendous variability among influentials, one common thread is that they are particularly likely to engage in behaviors that allow them to learn and research about products-as well as to spread that knowledge to others. For instance, 86% say they busily absorb an array of social content such as blogs and online videos. Many share that knowledge, as 19% regularly post to their own blogs and 35% share their knowledge by posting product ratings and reviews on either retail or social network sites.
But since the majority of influentials aren’t posting to blogs or writing reviews, marketers should focus on directly providing them with important information that they can share with friends and family. To do so, the report suggests marketers:
- Provide custom social content. For instance, Sony Corp.’s Sony Style brand targets women who research and buy their own electronics products, a group that tends to be more technologically advanced than its female peers. To reach those women, Sony created a social media site that features video tutorials for each product, blogs and communities. Visitors are encouraged to upload their own photos, rate and review the tutorials, and educate each other on the community site.
- Give first-hand experience. For instance, after identifying a group of influential women in Florida, Cadillac asked them to test-drive the car for a few weeks. Doing so gave the women first-hand knowledge that they could share with friends looking for a car.
- Be transparent. For instance, Rubbermaid offered its products to any blogger who wanted to test them out, with no strings attached. Hundreds of bloggers chose to receive the product, many of whom reviewed it favorably.
Forrester conducted the online survey of 4,766 people in May.