It’s funny how the word “Influencer” has pushed its way to the forefront of the lexicon. Marketing experts will constantly express the need to enlist Influencers to promote a brand or product. Perhaps your friend or family member will refer to themselves as an influencer due to their impressive social media following. (Currently there are over 5 million Instagram accounts exist with over 50K followers![i]) When you really think about it, this concept of influencers isn’t all that new. After all, people for centuries have wanted to follow trends set by “the cool kids”.
So why am I talking about Instagram and what people in 18th-century France did to fit in? Each city is filled with a group of “local influencers”. Perhaps they don’t have a national following, but when it comes to your community, they have as big of a reputation as any celebrity will. For any process where community engagement and feedback is desired, these local “cool kids” can make the difference between the same three people showing up to heckle the city council for three minutes each, and filling the room for a community town hall with fresh faces.
So what do these cool kids look like? It really depends on your community. It can be the local police chief who has served your neighborhoods for decades. Or it’s the high school basketball coach who has led your team to a league or state championship. Or it is the married couple that opens their Shaved-Ice Hut during the Summer. Perhaps it is the crossing guard you greet every morning as you drop your kid off at school.
Any time community input is sought after, such as a survey or open dialogue session, these people need to be aware of it and enlisted to actively promote participation. How you ask them can be something as simple as “Hey Coach Valencia! Our city is beginning a community engagement initiative to help build a vision for the future of [Insert city name Here]. We want everyone participating, which includes a brief survey. I understand you are a busy guy, but would you mind forwarding the survey to your mailing list? Coming from you, I feel it would carry a lot of weight, and we really want to hear from parents and those involved with these sports teams that are such a key point of pride in our community.” Most influencers will respond well to the idea of including those they care about in the process. Start by assuming the best in these people who already have a vested interest in your community, and they typically won’t let you down.
Whether it’s leaving a stack of surveys at the counter of that shaved ice hut, or enabling that endearing crossing guard to update dozens of parents each morning and afternoon on an upcoming event, involving local influencers can help elevate any feedback gathering initiative. When used as a complementary tactic to a larger outreach process, you will find greater public awareness and excitement regarding your initiative. When it comes to influencing others to become engaged, sometimes it’s the messenger more than the message that will make the difference.