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Spreading the digital word

Posted 11/19/12

Word of mouth has long been considered the best advertising a small business can get. And in today’s digital world, word of mouth is even more important and effective than ever. But the social media explosion has transformed how word of mouth works.

Social media vastly amplifies word of mouth in a 24/7 system. But many business owners are puzzled about how this works, and what to do.

Basically, it’s about what the social media world calls “influencers.” Other people listen to what influencers have to say. They come in all shapes and sizes, from a busy mom who’s active on Facebook, to a well-known blogger in a particular industry or profession. Influencers are active on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, industry forums and their own blogs or websites.

Your goal is to identify your influencers, and then – well – influence them to spread positive word-of-mouth about your business.

Here are tips on how to do that suggested by a leading social media analytics firm Sysomos:

• Check your own network. Some influencers may already be in your fold. These might be past and present customers and prospects who already know your business and engage with you on social sites. Remember that customers are highly influenced by what their friends and family do and like.

• Use Google and Twitter searches. This will help you find people who’ve already identified themselves (by the keywords them included in their personal or business profiles) as being interested in your industry or demographic. Don’t forget to search related or overlapping terms as well. You can also check their influencer scores or ratings with services such as Klout.com and Kred.com. But don’t rule out up-and-comers. Even people with small (highly targeted) networks can have big influence.

• Personalize your approach. Don’t be shy about reaching out to key influences one-on-one. Use the social tools at your disposal to do this, including the direct messaging capability of Twitter, LinkedIn and others, as well as leaving thoughtful and constructive comments on influencer blogs. A social CRM service such as Nimble.com can also be a huge help.

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