Magazine article Marketing

Azeem Azhar

Magazine article Marketing

Azeem Azhar

Article excerpt

Now that consumer segmentation has moved far beyond demographics, Nicola Kemp asks the founder of social-media analytics firm PeerIndex how brands can harness the power of influence.

At a time when every consumer has the opportunity to become their own media channel, the concept of social influence has shot to the top of the marketing agenda. Where once marketers could neatly segment their audiences by demographics, wealth and age, the growing importance of social influence is turning this traditional targeting inside out.

Brands such as Burberry and Nike have shown that targeting key influencers on social media is just as important, if not more so, than traditional targeting techniques.

Here, Azeem Azhar, chief executive of social-media analytics company PeerIndex, explains how today's marketers can ditch meaningless metrics such as accumulated Facebook 'likes' to get the most out of social influence.

Will social influence replace traditional demographics as the primary method to drive word-of-mouth marketing?

Influence is not new; we see the power of influence everywhere. It is part of the cultural vernacular to recommend products. What is difficult is working out how to track and understand and make sense of it. Social influence existed long before social media; social media is just one lens into it. According to our research, between 5% and 6% of marketing budgets will move toward social influence over the next five years.

Social influence should be part of every marketer's segmentation strategy. This is because people who are influential in a category are likely to respond differently to changes in strategy such as pricing Second, an influencer might give back to the brand in different ways, from raising engagement and awareness to driving sales.

How can brands ensure that social word of mouth is authentic and avoid any potential user backlash?

Brands have been giving samples, products and experiences to key influencers such as journalists for an age; they aren't breaching any ethics. What we are doing is taking this model and giving it scale by allowing brands to engage with indexed influencers.

To maintain authenticity, the brand never makes an offer or samples a product contingent on a consumer liking or sharing it. You rely on the fact that people who have built up social capital will use their own judgement. If the targeting is good, they will engage with the brand.

How do you see marketers' use of social influence evolving?

The only way (for brands) to make sense of social is to use filters to break down their audience. If your brand has 1m followers on Twitter, the question is: do you do a Marmite and smear (your activity) really thin, or do you identify the group that matters the most? …

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