People ask us all the time about our internet marketing tactics and philosophy. It’s tempting to dazzle these folks with complex graphs, big (made-up) words, and elaborate pageants where we dress up as our favorite internet mascot to act out the Creation Story of the Interwebz. But at the end of the day, it’s hard to deny the truth; that all marketing strategy is the same across the web. The tried and true method for gaining traction of any kind in any industry is the same strategy you might use to be socially successful in high school. Win over the influencers.
Who are the Influencers?
Every group or sub-culture has a few key players who are responsible for most of the opinions and thought on behalf of everyone else. Like high school cliques, each group has its leaders and the others (both inside and outside the group) look to those leaders as the inspiration for group opinions, attitudes, and behaviors. Think of a group of teenagers on the bleachers deciding whether or not Johnny’s new jacket is cool. Usually there are one or two kids who decide and everyone else follow suit. This is basic group think and it’s been influencing the direction of the internet since its inception.
You may think this idea of thought leaders and group think is just a social media thing but Google has been employing this “popularity contest” model for ranking websites for a long time. The early days of SEO was largely a matter of getting the biggest websites to give you the most links in order to rank well for a given search term. It was like saying whoever the group votes for with links is the winner. SEO algorithms are a bit more complicated these days but the same spirit of group decision making and appealing to the most powerful influencers is still at the core of any good internet marketing strategy.
So How Do You Reach the Influencers?
Once you know your niche and who your target market is, it’s time to figure out where these people hang out on the web and who they listen to the most. Every industry has a few vocal “poster children” and talking heads that tend to put out a lot of content and opinion. These are usually bloggers, journalists, gurus, talk show or podcast hosts, magazine editors, or celebrities in the field. The big players that everyone else in this group will defer to when it comes to expertise, that’s who you want to endorse and promote your brand.
These people will often give you a guest article or promotional shout-out if you approach them with a respectful request. You can also get a slice of their audience and influence simply by being present on their platform and participating in the discussion they lead. The trick to getting started is simply to identify the market influencers in your niche and create a strategy for communicating with them and roping them into your marketing strategy. The group gathered around these folks will do the rest.