E-FLUENTIALS ARE OPINION LEADERS, NOT STEALTH MARKETERS
There is a lot of energy in the industry to define and distinguish between terms such as word-of-mouth, viral, buzz and stealth marketing. This is a large task and will require plenty of discussion among marketers, organizations, companies. But in the meantime, we would like to clarify that e-fluentials, online influencers that Burson-Marsteller has been studying, are independent opinion leaders. As our research shows, e-fluentials check their facts from multiple sources before they pass a story along or make a recommendation. They are wary of marketers who pose as typical Internet users on discussion boards.
The only way e-fluentials are going to start spreading the word on a brand, company or product is if they have done the research on it and believe in the concept. Communicating with e-fluentials is essentially CRM - customer relationship management. Companies that respond to e-fluential audiences' queries in a transparent and candid fashion will earn these opinion leaders' trust.