I think we’d all agree that some people are more influential than others, especially online. And it turns out that there is now a whole science of “influencer marketing” that focuses on these individuals rather than a larger target market, because socially-inspired shoppers trust the opinion of people considered to be trend setters.

Influencers are particularly important in the fashion world, where the company Reward Style has formalized the process by creating LIKEtoKNOW.it  In addition to publishing over 1,000 pieces of original content daily, the program — which has over 2.3 million consumer followers looking for shopping advice, most between 18 and 34 — delivers 20 million emails each month.  This is how Reward Style describes their product: “a turn-key ecosystem of simple-to-use tech products, strategic consulting, educational services and the LIKEtoKNOW.it mobile publishing and distribution platform to maximize the economic success of their [11,000 global influencers] content across all platforms: web, mobile and social.”  

The site offers a link for people to apply to be a rewardStyle influencer. But as Dustin McKissen points out in his social media article for Linkedin (the source of today’s illustration) about how to become an influencer, you can’t just proclaim that you are one.  True influencers are givers, and are especially generous about sharing their experiences, through endorsements and reviews, and only occasionally post about a negative experience.

Social media is perfect for influencers, because they can reach a large number of people through their posts and blogs.  Their relationships can become your relationships if you are able to make them fans of your shop.  How do you do this?

The first step is to identify who the influencers are in your community. Yelp does a good job of this by putting together groups of Yelp Elite Reviewers.  These individuals, who are either self-nominated or suggested by members of the Yelp Elite Council, are selected because of the frequency and quality of their reviews.  They are then invited to special events and given VIP treatment.  Hosting a Yelp Elite event in your business district is a great way to access a group of people already identified as influencers.

Bloggers also tend to have a following that is influenced by their opinion.  We have held an event in our store for food bloggers who showed an interest in our kitchenware, and it makes sense that a store focused on toys or clothing could do the same for local “mommy bloggers.”  Bloggers generally love to get together with others who write about the same topic, so inviting them to a private gathering may net you some positive mentions.

Ask your customers and employees who they follow on Instagram or Pinterest to see if you can find other influencers in your area. Pay attention to those who consistently like your Facebook posts, and who write kind comments on your about your shop.  Be sure to respond to comments soon after they are posted.  Thank anyone who writes something nice, and make note of their name. Make sure that anyone you recognize as an influencer is on your email list and part of your preferred customer program. It pays to make a special effort to keep in regular contact with anyone who may be willing to influence others to shop in your store.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder 

PS Please note that there will not be a Specialty Shop Retailing blog next week due to the NY NOW gift show. Hope to see you there!