Who are the new Influencers? And how in-person Word of Mouth impacts decision making

Two interesting pieces out there today, Takahashi from the San Jose Mercury (link via Jennifer Jones) has a article on the “New Influencers”. He highlights what some early bloggers have done, and how being first helped them to become powerful.

He discusses how “Conversation Marketing” is key in the new marketplace:

“To influence the influencers, companies need to have two-way conversations with bloggers, whom Gillin terms “enthusiasts.” Disney courts John Frost, author of the DisneyBlog, for instance, because it knows that his posts can inspire stories on mainstream TV shows and in news publications.

Such “conversation marketing” requires a completely different set of skills than those that marketers typically use. When New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman criticized General Motors for fuel inefficient cars, GM punched back just as hard with a post on its corporate blog, Fastlane. Friedman fired back, and in the ensuing spotlight, GM got its points across to a big online audience.”

In the article, he futher suggest that being early is the only way to become powerful and infuelntial, which is not true. Guy Kawasaki was a late comer to blogging and quickly rose to the top 100.

While I’m not an A-lister, this blog is in the 2000 Technorati rank, which I started less than a year ago. Of course, I did have a previous URL domain, so reputations matter, and that’s really what’s important, not numbers.

To further the influence of word-of-mouth, eMarketer indicates that decision makers rely on first had, or in-person word of mouth above all other forms. It puts technology bloggers at a influence rate of 19%.

In the past, a few former colleagues and friends have teased me about attending so many tech events on weeknights. Well, if it’s not obvious to you, face to face meetings build so much more than any blog could.

Lastly, eMarketer reports that word of mouth only works when a company has solid offerings, without it, word will not travel effectively; “Without satisfied customers, there was nothing for WOM marketers to talk about.