Friday, August 12, 2011

Identifying influencers in social media selling

In the realm of social media, almost anyone can build a following and establish themselves as an influencer in a specific market or industry. Complete unknowns can become virtual celebrities overnight. And viral marketing can create new trend influencers in the blink of an eye.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing for marketing professionals.

The downside is that individuals with no real credibility can have an awful lot of influence over others on how your products or services are perceived. 

The upside is that with the right effort, a lot of individuals can have influence over others on how your products or services are perceived. Engage those individuals, convert them to your cause, and you will have a lot of disciples carrying your message far beyond what your limitations are. 

The way influencer selling works is that organizations track the mentions of them on a variety of social media sites and platforms (usually termed “listening”). This includes blog mentions, news mentions, tweets, forum postings, social networking site mentions, web hits, etc. 

Tracking tools are essentially search engines directed to follow specific sites and types of content, looking for keywords and mentions, as directed. They identify and gather all such references, creating an enormous database of viral commentary, with associated information about the source of each commentary collected. 

Using a social media analytics tool, you can slice and dice the information in a variety of demographic views or geographic views. You can zero in on keywords that are of special significance for breakdowns that way. If gathering information from social networking sites, you can do additional demographic breakdowns, depending on the collective data in the profiles represented, such as the known educational levels of all collected Facebook consumers.

Again, you are gathering information on influencers as both venues, and individuals. 

In terms of individuals, once you’ve collected all the conversations, it might seem daunting to sift through it all to identify who the top influencers are. But it really only takes a little bit of detective work (again, the analysts tools come into play here), and some common sense. Just like trying to identify the authority figures in a crowded room, look for the ones that others look to.  

For example, you can filter by product name, industry, and sentiment scores to identify who is talking about you and your products, markets, and in what context. From there, you can dig into the analytics and determine who has the most followers, tweets the most, comments the most, posts the most content on their blog, drives the most traffic, etc. to determine where to focus your efforts in terms of influencing the influencers. 

In other words, when listening in on social media conversations (and you should be doing a lot of eaves - dropping), pay attention to: 

·         who has the most to say
·         who gets the most responses to what they have to say
·         who seems to be accepted the most, and challenged the least, by what they have to say 

Odds are that those are your top influencers.

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