Image: Citizen influencers can take your message to the masses

Here’s a mistake too many companies make when looking to spread their message: assuming that if they try to reach the mass market they will hit their target market too.

But you want to reach a massive audience, right? How can you succeed if you ignore the mass market?

The mass market and mass media should be the last alternative after exhausting every possible means to narrow and niche your market and message.  Rather than taking the one-size-fits-all approach, marketers need to become experts at identifying key influencers and using them to reach your target market.

Why does this work? Because your target market already trusts those influencers. By earning the trust and recommendations of well-networked individuals, you’ll not only reach your market, you’ll have engaged leads from the start.

For example, when Sony wanted to market its Vaio Duo laptop, it contacted 10 people in the New York City area via Klout, including tech consultant Michael Fraietta. Sony likely reached out to the major media publications and top tech blogs as well, but as Fraietta said, “adding the combination of ads and other forms of top-down targeting along with this ‘middle-down,’ specific approach will help get the word out about their product.”

Image: Sony use top techies to promote its Sony Vaio Duo

More and more, it is citizen influencers — everyday people who take pride in building an audience around their particular topics of interest or expertise — who are at the center of a successful PR campaign. The most effective companies seek out these citizen influencers for help in spreading their message.

So how do you find key influencers?

In Sony’s case, Klout made it easy to reach a handful of key influencers, but lots of other technology is helpful for identifying high-priority individuals as well. Our favorite vendors include Little Bird, AirPR, TrendTopics and RivalIQ.

Before you get to the influencers, however, you need to determine exactly what you want to achieve. The key is to be specific. As Linsey Fryatt of VentureVillage wrote recently, “It’s not enough just to want to get a piece in TechCrunch.”

Instead, you need to look at your end goal. It could be attracting investors, increasing user numbers or selling a product.

Sony wanted to generate buzz about its new laptop and ultimately boost sales, so it sought out techies, such as Fraietta, who travel. That combination not only made it seem logical they’d like a laptop they could tote around easily, but also that they would share their experience via their online footprint and their own personal networks.

Influence is about trust

Once you know who you want to reach and what you want to accomplish, the next step is being authentic. Know and understand your story so you can tell it in an engaging way. Start interacting with your ideal citizen influencers via Twitter or their blogs, and genuinely express your interest in their work.

Once you’ve laid the groundwork for the relationship, present your story or your product for their consideration. Klout provides several case studies that show how companies have done this successfully, even quantifying their reach.

Tapping into key influencers is just part of an overall marketing campaign, but the ripple effect it creates, when done well, lasts indefinitely.