Trendwatch: How to start listening to your influencers

Trendwatching is an expensive hobby. And observing influencers is a new one. You may have radars, listening tools or sentiment measurement in place. These solutions tend to be expensive, and when you talk about that to your clients there are several thresholds you need to overcome.

Firstly, customers may be sceptical that these tools work, or even that, if they work, you won’t be able to get relevant insights from it.

Secondly, customers may think that these solutions are difficult to get “up and running” and resonating with their own websites, and therefore the learning curve would consume a substantial amount of fuel until it’s providing new results.

If you work in a result-oriented way — and I certainly hope you do — then you are facing a problem: how long until your insights pay the costs you and your project represent to your client?

I’ll give a quick example: I wanted to use an AI solution with my clients. After discussing for a long time with Don, a super nice guy from, I was amazed by their solution. They have brought to web design principles of gene pool, gene recombination and evolutionary stabilization. I was amazed. The price-point: US$ 3000 per month, minimum. So if you think that to this cost, the addition is enormous: getting everybody onboard, getting designers to do the creative layouts, content writers, development and implementation, approval — and only then getting to put the project to work, to only then reap the results. — you’re talking about a €50,000, easily. And like every business, this is not exactly a science, but a bet. Do you see my point?

Thus you are passionate about listening to influencers, observing them, understanding how they behave, right? Yet, how to get your customer to be convinced it’s important to listen to these influencers? And more importantly, how to get to listen to the right influencers?

There is a myth that “influencers” can be just any celebrity enough related to the business you are working with. That could not be further from the truth, because influencers are parameters of behaviour and aspiration that vary significantly from person to person, region to region and even to different stages in life.

Listening to the influences that matter: a primer

Hopefully, I have created enough awareness and despair up to this point, so I can now talk about the solution we can implement: a little intelligence hub you can call your own.

Experiment with different Value Propositions that, when combined, calibrated and equalised, constitute your Unique Value Proposition.

1. Create a pitch test

Preferably on Facebook or Instagram, and target it broadly. Create restrictions based only on the markets you work with. Say, if your client operates in Germany, make that your target group. Avoid demographics, they are restrictions that are losing its relevance quite rapidly, because what it means to be 50 or 60 changes year by year with new technology. Experiment with different copy, images, you know the drill. More importantly: experiment with different Value Propositions that, when combined, calibrated and equalised, constitute your Unique Value Proposition. If you don’t know what proposition that is, you’re in a fucking big trouble and you should contact me immediately and I will help you for free.

2. Collect, collate, observe

Observe who responds to your ads. Where are they? How old are they? Are they men wor women? What are their main interests? Can you group them into significant groups?  Then, drill down to the pitch. Which pitch have they responded to? Can you re-group them considering what type of ad have they clicked? To make an abstraction concrete: say that your Unique Value Proposition is “great groceries, to your door”. “Young urban people in relationships have clicked our promise of delivering fast to your door, while Senior citizens on the countryside have responded to the quality and safety of our products, and GenZ has just ignored the ads.” So you can have a breakdown of these values and understand which of them matters the most to each consumer group. This is particularly important because, to my view, consumer groups should be seen as a mutant, evolving entity of, in this example, “people who trust our quality” and “people who value our delivery efficiency”. This technique is not new nor exclusive — the team I work with has used it for a while, and I fell in love with it.

3. Hunt!

Now you are quite enlightened about what works for your client’s customer base.  You have proof of who was interested in your pitch. I think there’s an entire world of difference between asking a bunch of people how likely are you to buy our product and how likely are you to recommend our company. Remember, fellows, the Net Promoter Score was really “the one number you need to grow” — in 2003. Remember, 2003 was more than a decade ago, and counting.

Don’t rely on what they tell you, rely on the strings you can pull.

The main differences between this approach and the survey approach, to me, are two: firstly, you are not asking for a promise, you are relying on a sample of people who showed real interest on what you are offering; enough interest to move click your ad. Secondly, you are not relying on their own interpretation on what they like, want or need. You are pulling the strings that resonate with them, and that’s essential because you also want to capitalise what they don’t know that they know (I love the epistemological turn that digital marketing has taken; I haven’t learned this from Kotler, but from the simplified definition of ideology from Slavoj Zizek).

Once you have this collection of information, the task complexity is all up to you. Get the age, location, gender, social class and personal interests of the indefinite mass you have mapped, and find them. Find them on Facebook, find them on Pinterest, find them on Instagram. I particularly like Instagram for that part, because there are so many open accounts.

You can even choose if you want to follow plain samples of your target audience, or influencers who are influencing your targeted audience. The number of followers can hint you a little bit about that. Check who follow them, and if their followers resonate with your audience, too. Create a little database — even a second personal account, even disclaiming your are a trend hunter, and follow them. Create a tab of protocols to observe daily or weekly (I promise to get back to that soon), and in a month you will have valuable data on your very targeted customer group. The more specific, the more regional, the better. You will be able to tell your customers about the hypothesis this database has generated with strong rigour. The catch is also this: treat your findings as filtered, high-quality hypotheses for further experimentation.

There are more details, such as evaluating volumes in your market for each consumer group, breaking down your pitch into different value variations (so you can really refine what works for whom), and what works for everyone, and more. I’ll get back to that here. Subscribe and keep in touch!