With the recent addition of $8.5M to Klout’s coffers, influence has become a prized commodity in social media engagement and monitoring. As we talk to our clients, there’s a real disconnect between the idealized form of harnessing the power of influence and a practical approach to disseminate marketing messages and affect the overall discussions occurring across the web. How can an organization discover influencers when influence for an individual brand or industry is not just about followers, tweets or reposts?
During the fall of 2010, HP Labs conducted a study that analyzed the factors which determine influence on Twitter. It’s a pretty interesting read, and one of the conclusions that jumps out is that the correlation between influence and popularity is relatively weak. Dr. Huberman and the HP team also note that influence depends on both the size of the influenced audience and its passivity.
In short, an individual must have a large audience as well as a following that actively passes along messages to be influential. The HP study also noted that an average Twitter user retweets 1 in 318 URLs. That means that posts are either being read passively or they are simply disappearing into the vast noise of social media chatter. To be honest, it is probably a little bit of both.
As social media goes from being a buzz word to a requirement in marketing, our clients are looking for individuals or domains who are already influential and can help spread messages. Brian Solis and Vocus conducted a study (September 2010) in which they polled about 700 business leaders about social media influence. Among the many nuggets of data, it is interesting that 57% of individuals polled were willing to pay an influencer to drive actions. Of these individuals willing to pay for influence, C-level executives made up the majority. This may help to explain a growing need in the market for better influence data as well as the growing success of startups like Klout and PeerIndex.
So how do we recommend that our clients find influential individuals across the social web?
1. Monitor for Volume – While many would tell you that volume is a poor judge of influence (or even popularity), we find that monitoring across keywords specific to your company, competitors and industry will help lead to those individuals who have the potential for being influential. You have to start somewhere, so rather than pontificate on what influence really means, go find the people who are talking a lot about the topics that matter to your organization.
2. Listen to Potential Influencers - Once you have a set of 30 or 40 influencers, take the time to understand who they are, what they typically write about, and what they are trying accomplish with their online persona. Figure out quickly which individuals are useless to what you and your business are trying to accomplish, and try to not to waste time on them.
3. Cross Reference Influencers - This is when sites like Klout can become helpful. You have paired down your list of 30 to 40 influencers to people and domains that could affect your brand in a substantial way. Now take the individuals and cross reference them with their online rating. In addition to seeing the number of followers, these ratings can give a more holistic view of an individual’s online presence.
Influence is a hard thing to gauge in both the physical and the online world, but it is getting a little easier by the day. Determining the activity (or lack thereof) of an individual’s audience is another thing all together. But when certain individuals propagate more relevant conversations than others, it is a good sign that they are potentially a valuable influencer. As additional money is invested into making the tools and technology more accurate, we will continue to have better insight into an individual’s overall online influence.