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Under the Influence

To gain favor online, target those whose opinions count.
May 1, 2007
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/177062

Social networking sites, blogs and message boards are full of rankings and recommendations of products, services and businesses. But all that information can leave a prospect with information overload, says David Meerman Scott (www.webinknow.com), author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR.

That's why the latest trend in marketing via social networking is to appeal to the thought leaders--credible experts, ranging from editors to individuals with message board cred. Through their recommendations, these gatekeepers can be the key to helping customers find your business faster.

Courting these influencers requires more finesse than traditional in-your-face marketing tactics, Scott says. Virtual hangouts, where people chat in real-time or post on message boards or blogs, can be filled with thought leaders. He recommends lurking in these online gathering and info-sharing places. "Before you do anything active, get a sense of what the unwritten rules are," says Scott. "Which are the voices that others respect, and what are they saying?"

Once you do participate, don't be promotional. Join in the conversation in a meaningful way, adding your expertise to the conversation. Post feedback on blogs with your website or blog URL. If people like what you have to say, they'll check out the links to find out more about who you are, says Scott, so make it easy to find you by having your own well-constructed website or current blog.

Pursue personal connections, says Scott, whether it's by making an effort to meet the individual at a conference or simply forwarding information (not about your company) that the thought leader might find interesting. This helps you gain trust and credibility, which is the best path to getting the attention of the influencers who stand above the crowd.