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Most discussion on the generic topic of social influence centers on persuasion in a social environment.

Through an active online presence of blogging, commenting, participating in forums and on social networks or through word of mouth we all are in a way looking to influence and find influencers. Those that are actively involved in particular areas may be researching, simply voicing opinions or trying to draw attention to a product or service albeit from a positive or negative aspect.

Using influencers to increase market awareness of a firm amongst target markets is a method that can accelerate your visibility and culminate in getting known in circles that can have a huge impact on one’s success.

All of us who are actively involved in social networking whether it is online, offline or a combination of both are all looking to further ourselves or our company in some way.

Getting noticed by an influencer whether it be a decision maker in a company with whom you would like to do business, one who is well connected with key people in your industry or a current or potential customer can often act as an accelerator for business.

Influencer Marketing, as increasingly practiced in a commercial context, comprises four main activities:

Identifying influencers and ranking them in order of importance.

Marketing to influencers to increase your awareness within the influencer community

Marketing through influencers, Marketing with influencers and turning influencers into advocates of the firm.

Influencer Marketing is enhanced by a continual evaluation activity that sits alongside these four main activities.

Exactly what is included in Influencer Marketing depends on the context (B2C or B2B) and the medium of influence transmission (online or offline, or both). But it is becoming increasingly accepted that companies should be identifying and engaging with influencers.

As marketing experts Keller and Berry note, “Business is working harder and paying more to pursue people who are trying to watch and listen less to its messages." Targeting influencers is seen as a means of amplifying marketing messages, in order to counteract the growing tendency of prospective customers to ignore marketing.

Onsite social communities and newsletters are an effective and low cost method in which to engage with and gain valuable knowlege from influencers both in B2C and B2C.

Social Communities allow businesses not only to connect and follow existing customers but also to engage with their employee base. This is a centralized way in which to communicate with, retain and turn your existing customers and employees into marketing influencers and brand ambassadors.

On the B2C side Newsletters help to connect with influencers to draw their attention and educate them on the value of your company and what makes you unique.

But a large part of the problem is that many companies view social technologies as yet another tool to be implemented rather than as an enabler of organizational and marketing transformation.

It is said that one in every 10 Americans is what they call an "influential." These people have a tremendous impact on the rest of society because their ideas and opinions are sought out by the colleagues, friends, family and community members around them. The conversations they hold and the examples they set have the power to shape the community's behaviors and attitudes.

Based on this statistic, how many untapped influential customers or employees might already be in your database or working within your organization. And with a one in ten chance of finding an influencer and making them an advocate for your business through that newsletter, onsite community, forum or professional group it is an economical avenue worth pursuing that can provide substantial long term rewards.

William Cosgrove