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Finding your key influencers online: How to do it


The internet is a bit like a class photo. You get everyone’s picture of course, but there’s obviously more to being cool than how you look. In high school it’s where you hang out after school that counts. Who you date, how many people came to your birthday party, what sport you play and whether you’re captain of the football team, or captain of the chess club. Funnily enough, that’s exactly the sort of information people store in their online profiles. They may be out of high school, but the information they display next to their avatar can tell you enough about a person to know how likely they are to spread positive word of mouth about your brand.

Most companies tend to focus on calculating people’s social reach (ie. how many friends they have, where they’re ranked in Google, that sort of thing). I believe it’s the reason people like Julian Cole enjoy publishing (handy but self-serving) lists of ‘top’ bloggers. I also believe this approach is flawed (although Jules’s latest ranking of the top 35 bloggers who may, or may not be under 27 years old does at least include only reaction-based metrics).

I’ve just written an article for Marketing Mag on how we find a brand’s key online influencers which is available here. For the benefit of those who *heart* this blog instead, a distillation of the process is as follows.

I believe the fifth step; figuring out how much influence the people actually wield; is the one that gets results and leads to increased positive word of mouth for your brand. Influence is more than reactions or votes for a blog post, it’s about getting people to take action. This could be as simple as inviting people to a party and having most of the people you invite turn up, or as complicated as being at the start of a long chain of events that change the world. These steps are only a guide of course, but you’ll get the idea. This post is only a summary so refer to the original article if you want more info.

Step one: Find the people already talking about your brand


Step two: Find the people talking about your competitors

Step three: Find the people talking about your industry

Step four: Figure out their social reach


Step five: Find out who is actually listening to them

Ashton Kutcher has over a million Twitter followers but most of them are probably voyeurs. Just because he says jump doesn’t mean anyone asks ‘how high’? The best way to determine someone’s true influence over their peers depends on the social networks they are active in, how old they are and what you want to get out of them, but here’s a few tips:

  • Use a tool like RetweetRank to figure out how often what they say is quoted by other people
  • If you can see their Facebook profile, look at events they’ve created and see what percentage of their friends accepted invitations
  • Check out their MySpace wall and see how often friends get in touch with them
  • See how many recommendations they have on LinkedIn
  • See how many posts they’ve made in forums, and
  • See how many comments they get on their blog and how sources like Technorati and Google Reader’s voting system rank them

A few good social media monitoring tools can do this for you, but they’ll set you back around $1,500 a month. If that’s out of your price range, get in there and start copying and pasting yourself.

Step six: Analyse the numbers and crunch the data

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4 Responses to Finding your key influencers online: How to do it

  1. Tiphereth says:

    Great summary Matt! Its great that you’ve used examples of simple tools accessible to anyone. Also the definition of influence being the “ability to make others take action”. This really puts the immense load of Twitter followers into perspective, because it reflects those with “smaller” networks can be more influential.
    p.s. thanks for reworking post, I *heart* your blog

  2. Craig Pearce says:

    Insightful as always, Matt. It would be great to hear your perspective on what realistic KPIs are for social media campaigns. And this covers the usual suspects like knowledge, perceptions, behaviour, brand equity/reputation and sales targets.

  3. Craig, I think social media campaigns should be able to directly translate into at least a few of these things:

    – Less negative buzz about your brand
    – More positive mentions
    – Fans in a database (Facebook/Email/MySpace/Twitter Followers)
    – Trackable sales

  4. Awesome post — very concise approach 🙂

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