Who Are The Influencers and How Do We Find Them?

In my last blog, “Clout vs. Klout – Or the Real Meaning of Social Influence,” I pulled together information which concluded that the most visible people are not necessarily correlated with influence, and word-of-mouth recognition can only be harnessed by targeting large numbers of ordinary influencers. That naturally raises the question, “Who are these influencers and how DO we find them?” Is there some way of identifying those people who are connected to a critical mass of easily influenced people?

The first place to find someone who has the credibility and the intent to influence others to change their behavior is in your own network. Going back to The YOU MATTER Manifesto, you already have the power and ability within your means to be an influencer. If you have credibility within a topic and ask those with whom you have strong ties to repeat information about something you like, they will do it because of their belief in you. If you did not like a product or service, and suddenly find something nice to say about it, your circle will sit up and take notice. I strongly believe that consistent engagement on social media is the best mechanism for building your influential base.

Existing businesses can turn satisfied customers into influencers. When someone writes a testimonial or review, post it on your website or send it out through your social media network. Then let them know what you have done and suggest that they tell their friends. Those in the HR field are fortunate that HR Examiner has done the grunt work and developed a list of 175 HR influencers based on Brian Solis’ three principles of influence – reach, resonance and relevance. If you’re not in the HR, you can search for your experts, analysts and journalists, or perform your own keyword search using such phrases as “best,” “worst” or “recommended” related to your product or service, and engage in conversation with them.

The Leadership Learning Community published an article, “Applying Social Network Analysis to Online Communications Networks.” Although directed at healthcare, the principles of focusing on pertinent keywords and linking them with other related topics can help identify top influencers and communication hubs. To test the relevancy of their keywords they used Social Mention, a real-time search platform which gathers user generated content from across the social universe into a single stream of information to help identify key individuals. Factors in their analysis include strength, sentiment, passion and reach.

Tools like Klout and Kred can be used for discovering influencers, but I still maintain that Klout lacks transparency and scores based on popularity, not influence. Klout is limited to social media, compared to a contextual measurement tool like Appinions which measures influence beyond social media. It provides scores based on preference, imitation and trend-setters, and can help define who said what on a particular topic. For example, if I share a Warren Buffett quote and get 1000 retweets, likes, or comments, then Klout assign me a high influencer score based on my popularity, even though I was not the original author. Appinions, though, ignores my shares, retweets, and comments and instead properly awards Warren Buffett with the influence.

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A newer entrant to the contextual influence measurement field is Traackr, which promises to find relevant influencers based on all public internet activity, manage engagement, and measure results. Their rankings are keyword based and can help identify influencers around specific topics based on reach, resonance and relevance. In addition to user-defined searches, they also offer lower cost alpha‑Lists, where influencers define topics they feel passionate about and then create and maintain their own Traackr influencer lists. A new feature is Traackr One which they are billing as “iTunes for influencer lists.” Although I basically like the algorithm they use, something about this is getting too money-based when the influencers start maintaining their own lists. This seems like a conflict of interest at the least and calls their impartiality into question.

Unfortunately the art of finding one key influencer is not yet an exact science. That’s why I’m agreeing even more with the philosophy of targeting large numbers of ordinary influencers.

Comments: 2

  • Thanks for the call out on Traackr, Jure.

    The idea that mass influencer outreach is a safer, more effective, way to go about influencer communication is based on a dangerous silent assumption: that one has unlimited resources to run their campaign, which is never the case.

    For example, say that the marketing person at a small company or agency decides to invest a full week of their time to do influencer outreach for the launch of a new product. Conducting what I call “mass influencer outreach” (for a small firm anywhere between 500 to 1,000 so-called influencers), the only communication tool available to them is to blast the group and spend a few minutes with anyone who cares to engage/respond. Their ability to get any kind of coverage from this group of influencers is slim to none simply because they can’t spend the time and resources to engage them in a meaningful way. So even assuming that your top influencers are in this larger net that you cast, your ability to activate them is very limited.

    This issue affects small and large brands exactly in the same way, only numbers vary (broad influencer outreach for Ford or Coke would mean a group of 10-50k people).

    We have actually run these tests ourselves for our brand and product launches and always found it way more efficient (as measured by coverage and qualified sales leads) to tailor the size of the influencer group we decide to engage based on resources required to create meaningful connections.

    As for which tools you can trust to identify your influencer target group, I’d build a case for our approach and technology but it’s a separate conversation altogether :)

  • Well done here!
    See you posts a lot on twitter. followed this one along the stream.

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