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January 6th, 2012

How Influencers Fit Into Publishing Programs

Over the course of the last week or so there was a lot of talk about Google+. Much of that revolved around a new ad campaign to promote the still young social network with TV spots starring The Muppets and more standard online placements that’s been designed to get more people on board.

(Of note is the fact that Google+ is, indeed, advertising to bring attention to the nascent platform. But if Twitter and Facebook were themselves responsible for even a fraction of the ads their logos appear in but which are run by other companies – something that’s questionable from a branding perspective, but let’s not dwell on that – Google+’s ads wouldn’t be a drop in a bucket.)

The appearance of those ads comes at an interesting time for Google+. After the initial rush to launch brand profiles immediately after they were available things seem to have slowed down a bit. Brand managers who weren’t part of that initial rush appear to be taking a breath and considering whether a profile there makes sense as part of their online publishing strategy.

Part of that, of course, entails an evaluation as to whether or not their target audience is actively participating there. Specifically, are the influencers they’re trying to reach among those whose attention can be captured by publishing there? And even if they are, is Google+ the best way to get that attention?

All that is a long way of setting up the real question that needs to be considered: What sort of material are you, as a communications professional, offering those you’ve identified as being influential either as part of your regular publishing program or as part of a specially targeted outreach program?

Going the “publishing program” route, reaching those among the audience who are more influential among others (be that with a broad audience or a more narrow, specialized one) is easier since they’re exposed to the same messages that everyone else is. But it’s still possible to gear the message in such a way that it will (hopefully) resonate a little more deeply with a select niche of the audience, though honestly that should be the goal of everything that’s published on owned platforms.

By taking a “targeted outreach” approach it’s a little easier to set aside some special material just to send to them, whether it’s an exclusive news item that they get to be the first to publish or some sort of other special access.

Theoretically Google+ allows brands to get the best of both these worlds, publishing some updates to everyone who’s following them there but then taking some material and only pushing it to select Circles. But, assuming such Circles have even been created, doing so has some notable potential downsides.

The one that sticks out most in my mind is the “why am I not in the exclusive Circle” problem. Everyone who follows you on Twitter or Facebook has the same access to what’s posted there, regardless of whether or not they actually see it. But if you’re fragmenting your Google+ publishing a class system is being created that, if found, can lead to some resentment among those who feel they’re worthy of velvet rope access but who aren’t getting it. Instead of a platform you’ve created risers, with some people told they’re sitting higher up than others with no good explanation why.

This all isn’t necessarily to denigrate Google+ as a part of the publishing mix. Client experience has shown it’s a valuable way to reach some members of the audience in a way that best suits them, which is exactly what corporate publishing programs should do.

Instead it’s meant to be an illustration of how reaching influencers isn’t something that happens in a bubble. It’s not, even when it’s part of a targeted outreach effort, completely separated from the rest of the communications program that’s in place. Far from it. Influencers communication is something that needs to be accounted for in all levels of a program and folded into the overall effort so it fits seamlessly, achieving goals in the same way, if not the same manner, as any other tactic that’s being executed.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Publishing Programs

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