You try to be good to all of your customers, but you may want to reserve extra-special treatment for those who talk about your business online. A “peer influence analysis” by Forrester Research found that 13.4 percent of adults online generate 80 percent of the posts that influence others, which may include blogs, tweets, and Facebook status updates.
So, how can you tell which customers will rave about their latest purchases to Facebook friends and which ones will create PR nightmares with angry tweets (a la Dooce’s Heather Armstrong vs. Whirlpool)? Short of cyber-stalking your customers, it’s tough to be certain — but here are several ways to gain some insight.
- Measure your followers’ influence. Online tools like Klout and premium social analytics tools such as Lithium and Radian6 can help you identify which of your Facebook fans and Twitter followers have a lot of followers themselves. Numbers aren’t everything, though: Credibility is a more important indicator of influence. When analyzing your company’s fans or prospects for influence, examine details such as whether their comments are frequently “liked” or retweeted, and how many people add thoughtful comments to their blog posts.
- Study your customers’ demographics. The Forrester report found that the people who are most likely to wield significant influence online are between the ages of 25 and 44, with household incomes of $89,000 to $98,000. If you have access to detailed information about your customers (whether through a survey or other means), segment your customers accordingly — and send more frequent offers and promotions to those in the target group.
- Ask for video testimonials, and track their stats. Recently, the ubiquitous reality TV star Kim Kardashian’s shoes-of-the-month company, ShoeDazzle, began asking its customers to submit short videos citing what had most surprised them about the company. More than 70,000 videos were submitted, and the company was able to discover which customers were most influential by analyzing their viewing statistics.
- Offer referral bonuses. Give customers incentives to share your business’s name by offering perks such as discounts for every new customer they bring in. Keep track of which customers make multiple referrals and which ones don’t deliver any. Whether or not these frequent referrers use social media, they’re helping your business, so make sure to look after them well.
Once you’ve determined which of your customers are most influential—whether online or off—consider incorporating them into your marketing campaigns in a number of ways. You can ask them for testimonials for your brochures or advertisements, provide special gifts to those who bring in the most referrals, and even host special events exclusively for the customers with potential to spread the most buzz about your business, like the Klout shopping event cited by PSFK. Befriend your company’s most influential customers, and they may lead you to valuable connections and untold profits.