In the last couple of years, as companies have become more interested in social media, they have tried to find ways to use these tools to reach "influencers." Sometimes these initiatives are referred to as 'blogger outreach' programs. But there is a much more influential and important group that most companies could be reaching via social media, and they are often totally ignored.


Think for a moment about the examples of companies targeting 'influencers' via social media. Recently there was the 'Pepsi 25' program that was rolled out to myself and 24 other people in front of Pepsi's new branding and logo. Around Christmas, there was the KMart sponsored post that Chris Brogan and a few other 'influencers' in the social media space participated in. And a few months ago, HP targeted top tech blogs in a laptop giveaway.
While we can think of many recent examples of companies reaching out to 'influencers' via social media and blogger 'outreach' programs, why are companies stopping there? Why aren't companies using social media to target the RIGHT influencers?
Can you name a few recent examples of companies using social media to embrace, empower, and excite their customer evangelists?
Go ahead, I'll wait. It isn't easy to think of any good examples, is it? But it SHOULD be! Companies reaching out to their most passionate customers via social media SHOULD be a no-brainer. These are people that WANT to promote your company and that actively are DOING so! So why in the world wouldn't more companies want to find their blogging/twittering/facebooking evangelists and reach out to them?
When I received my empty cans from Pepsi showing the history of the company's branding, I honestly wasn't overly impressed. I mean on one hand I appreciated the effort that Pepsi went to in sending these materials to me. Obviously they send the cans and promotional materials to myself and 24 other people because they thought we were 'influential' in the social media space, and that we would blog/twitter/podcast about this promotion, and hopefully in a favorable light.
Now the problem for me is, I know I'm not influential to Pepsi drinkers, cause I don't drink Pepsi (Dr Pepper here. Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?). But as I was shaking my head at all this fuss in trying to reach me because someone deemed me 'influential', I noticed a letter that came with the cans. It informed me that this was the new branding for Pepsi, and that I was one of 25 people in the world to be seeing the company's new branding and new logo.
Think about that for a moment. Here, Pepsi had just spent a lot of money to put their new branding into the hands of...a Dr Pepper lover. But what if a true Pepsi evangelist had gotten that letter telling them that they were one of the first 25 people in the WORLD to see the new branding for a product that they loved and evangelized to others? It would have been an early Christmas for them. If they were active in social media, they would have broken their necks to get to their blog/twitter account/facebook profile ASAP and let the WORLD know what just had happened. Every person that they come in contact with would know imediately what the new Pepsi branding looked like, and they would likely be hearing about "OMG THIS IS SO COOL!!!!"
Because that's what happens when you empower your fans to sing your praises. This is where companies should be investing their time if they want to reach 'influential' people. Focus on your most passionate customers that are active in social media, and reach out to them immediately. 'Influential' is fine, but influential and passionate about your company is what you want.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Mack Collier

Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier