Organizations of all types are beginning to understand the importance of integrating digital into all aspects of their marketing and communication plans. Blogs, webinars, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and LinkedIn groups and other services are becoming part of the vocabulary. So is a word that describes the desired audience… “key influencers.” In the PR and Comms world, that typically means single individuals with large-to-massive audiences; a carry-over from what Seth Godin calls the Television Industrial Complex.

Targeting key influencers means a lot of things. I’m going to kick off the week with a sobering look at “key influencer” marketing.

OVERSIGHT

Going after key influencers means leaving behind a lot of “smaller” voices that may have an aggregate influence greater than a single big voice. The smaller voices can have significant reach and probably enjoy a closer relationship with their cozy audience than a key influencer does with his/her enterprise.

INFLUENCER AND AUDIENCE FATIGUE

Many key influencers are pitched more times a day than you can imagine. Your issue and pitch must resonate with the influencer and should come to them at a time when the issue can be wedged into his/her established editorial calendar. In considering whether or not to participate, the key influencer will consider if the audience will eel put off by yet another call to action. Key influencers will not want to engage in anything that will result in audience fatigue.

DRIVE-BY EFFECT

With large and engaged audiences comes the risk that any single Twitter message or blog post will go largely unnoticed. One Twitter message among one hundred or more in a day might come and go without capturing the interest or even the eyes of people in the community.

PUBLIC VALUE STATEMENTS

An organization that selectively decides whose voice is worth responding to in the digital world makes a public declaration of which voices have value to them and which don’t. This can be a dangerous proposition since an organization loses audience one person at a time and a company one customer at a time (oh, and a politician one voter at a time). Miscalculating who should be acknowledged could be disastrous (see The Cataclysm Effect).

THE CATACLYSM EFFECT

Ignoring a sea of “small voices” expressing concern over an issue could mean an organization will face a rather large storm if that issue hits a tipping point. For example, there was already a swell of anger growing online when, in 2005, Jeff Jarvis went public with his frustration over problems with his Dell computer and the lackluster service the company was offering him. Mr. Jarvis’ blog post became the catalyst that turned that sea of small voices into the head of the storm which was just as angry for being ignored by Dell as they were about problems with their computers and the company that had failed them.

In a conversation with a “key influencer” last year, we laughed that “A-listers” like himself have only one direction they can travel in quickly. The small voices are the ones building strong and engaged communities everyone else will join.