Influencer engagement is as important as influencer marketing: Tibrewal

Digital media has given rise to a new breed of social influencers (also referred to as pocket celebrities). These are not the generally mass-revered Bollywood or cricket personalities, but rather ordinary netizens who have managed to build a social circle of influence on platforms like Twitter, blogs etc. on specific issues and subjects. And the opinion of these pocket celebrities has the capability of influencing a brand decision.

How then should a brand engage with these social influencers. Most of the time, one gets requests from brands wanting to “engage” influencers in one-off campaign or during a product launch. In my opinion getting an influencer to put out a few tweets or write one or two blog does not really create long term brand value. Rather influencer marketing (or shall I say influencer engagement) should be part of a brands’ overall digital marketing strategy. Influencer engagement should be strategic in nature and not tactical.

As an example, let us look a wine brand. Wine, as a category, is something that is very amenable to being ‘influenced’. For a wine drinker, an experts opinion matters. If I had to look at creating a influencer engagement program for a wine brand, here is what I would do

·        Use a tool like Radian6 to run a listening program on conversations around wine. An analysis of these conversations then, say, helps identify 100 people who could be potential influencers (based on Twitter followers or blog views or klout score etc)

·        Then map the social graph of these 100 influencers by looking at their Twitter feed or deep dive into the blogs. Basically understand their inclination towards clients brand, or inclination towards a competing brand. I would then classify these influencers into 3 categories : those who have a favorable opinion for client brand; those who have a neutral opinion; and those who have a negative opinion on clients brand

·        Having classified the influencers into these 3 buckets, one would plan an influencer engagement program

·        For those who have a favorable opinion on the client brand, I would enroll them into a free sampling program, where each time clients brand launches a new product, these influencers get some free bottles of wine. Hopefully some of them choose to share their experiences on their social networks

·        For those who are in the neutral zone, I would get them onto an event-invitation list, where these people, from time to time, get invited to wine-tasting events. This gives an opportunity for the client to cultivate these influencers over a period of time, by repeated engagement

·        For those who are in the negative zone, I would actually arrange to have a representative of the client wine company, visit them one-on-one, engage with them and help them understand the product and perhaps also address any concern areas that they may have with respect to client brand

This process now has to work like a long term influencer engagement strategy where positive relationships are enhanced further, neutral relationships are cultivated, hoping that at some point of time, they turn positive; and negative relationships are addressed hoping they become less negative.

In summary, focus has to be on influencer engagement and not just influencer marketing. And influencer engagement to necessarily be a part of a brands overall digital communication strategy

Hareesh Tibrewala,  is Joint CEO of Social Wavelength. He can be reached at



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