- These folks all have some relationship to the brand. They are either customers or partners to VMWare.
- Most of them have built their own personal brand on social media, which the page highlights
- As the page points out, these are not necessarily paid gigs for influencers: that only happens over time
- I found the page via a paid social ad with a focus on one of the speakers and their photo – a great example of humanizing a paid social strategy
The Edelman Trust Barometer is an in-depth study of brand perception, reputation and trust that the Edelman digital agency publishes annually.
It looks at many dimensions such as industry and geography with powerful insights into our relationship with businesses. One interesting finding from the report highlights the importance of academics as influencers:
This is particularly interesting given that a lot of discussion around influencer programs tends to focus on customers, employees or other constituents of the organization ecosystem, but rarely touches on engagement with academia.
What is a key takeaway? Organizations that can engage academics and cultivate advocacy in this field stand to gain the most in terms of building their brand reputation. One word of caution: academics are at the top of this list thanks to their lack of inherent bias (unlike financial or industry analysts who receive much of their funding from the people they cover). An influencer program aimed at customers or employees can’t just be transposed onto this group. Leading with product-first is often not the best approach either.
How can businesses best serve the academic community? One way is through sharing thought leadership and an industry perspective. Another is by providing access to sales and client teams that can really talk about what they face in developing business opportunities. We have also seen incredible results from aligning academics to an event strategy: eg. taking faculty to key industry and customer events and offering them opportunities to share their perspective through video and other approaches.
So, whilst academics are growing in importance as influencers, you need to be mindful of how you engage with them.
I found myself going in search of Edelman data I’d heard about some months back that I thought could be useful in building up a case for our customer advocacy program.
I was surprised what I dug up.
Numbers that showed academics and experts are considered the most trusted sources on your company or brand. And that’s where there appears a disconnect. I don’t know too many companies that have active influencer programs for this sector. Most concentrate on press and analyst relations. And I’m especially surprised to see analysts that far down the list.
So what can you do to build advocacy among academics? If you haven’t already, build relationships with those that have incorporated your products or services into their courses. Feature them in interviews and invite them to your events or ask them to give their opinion on new product launches. If you don’t know which academics you should be reaching out to, start with those who are teaching subjects around your area of expertise. And don’t forget the business schools. You can mentor students, offer case studies, guest lecture, just to name a few opportunities.
As an aside, this just goes to show there is a sliver of merit in the practice of coming up with an assertion and then finding fact-based evidence to back it up: occasionally you may surprise yourself in what you uncover. I certainly didn’t expect what I found here 😉
BTW, I do think these kind of surveys should be taken with a pinch of salt. After all, what we say we do doesn’t always match up with the behavior we see in the digital realm. Google wouldn’t be the cash cow it is today if the surveys were true and virtually no one clicked on search ads.