Sarah Thompson: 5 Ways to Find a True Influencer

More and more, marketers are using social media to tap into influencers to bolster reach and sway their audience to see a product or brand differently.

Yet, they spend very little time and energy into the pre-informing stage of evaluating influencers. According to a recent Technocrati study, Facebook likes ranked as the most important metric when evaluating influencers followed closely by Twitter followers. I am fearful for marketers that rely only on these shallow metrics to create an influencer program.

While these are the base foundation of analyzing the potential of an influencer, there are many more criteria that a marketer needs to consider before commencing on a long-term engagement. And yes, it is going to be a long-road to generate value from an influencer marketing program in social media and this road is paved with a financial investment, resources, agency engagement, and a content plan. Influence isn’t a stand-alone one-time marketing program.

Extensive research and analysis is required to set up an influencer program for success. There are recommendations for validating influencer programs where there is no “paid” element for the endorsement.

An influencer program requires extensive validation. Most marketers aren’t investing enough time and energy in this area of pre-informing. Through social data analytics, marketers have the power to truly understand the power of the influence of an individual.

While influence tools like Klout, Kred and PeerIndex are valuable to gaining context to an individual, they are simply an exploratory tool to start the research. Identifying influencers is a start, but validating them requires in-depth insights and rigor aligned to your brand and marketing objectives.

Leveraging social data, there are other areas a marketer can look at to ensure the influencer is valid. These include:

1.    Affinities and Affluence
Exploration of the influencer’s interests in the past-six months to ensure brand and content alignment. This step is about a validation of topics that this person is influencing versus relying solely on the algorithms of influencer tools. Recently, I was deemed to be influential about Portland in an online tool. In fact, I was just posting music from a few area bands that happened to be from Portland. I have never been to the city, but I would love to go!

2.    Platform Pros
Discover their reach and engagement across social media platforms. For instance, an influencer may have more engagement on Twitter, because they are retweeted than on Facebook, where they have more Friends/Fans but limited engagement with content. And if they are retweeted in Twitter often, what type of content do their followers most often share.

3.    Content Resonance
Understanding how often and what content their followers engage around. For example, you may have a great advocate for your brand but they have a stronger influence in Instagram than in Facebook and therefore you need to adjust your cross-social channel content strategy.

4.    The Influencer Circle of Influence
Explore the quality of their “friends” and followers. Is your influencer’s audience the one your brand needs to activate against?  What is their audience interested in? Through social media analytics, you can evaluate their followers’ conversation to ensure there is alignment to your overall marketing objectives.

5.    Success Metrics
Understanding what metrics you want to set up to measure success. Leveraging social analytics you can predict the reach, engagement and impact of the influencer before activation.

This is modeling your influence program before you commence with the long-term marketing investment. It ensures you are creating a program that is set-up on information and not just a “Klout” score that could have been gamed.

Sarah Thompson is director of marketing insights at Networked Insights.

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  1. Wow – great article and much needed in this burgeoning area. I might add a couple more things – we at MavenSocial found that the conversion rate from Visitor to Opt-in on sharing as blogger or influencer ranges from 27% to 37% vs a conversion rate of less than 5% for paid ads, In fact when we look at Owned Media its generally less than 25%. Therefore, we will see an explosion in the use of influencers or Mavens in future once these stats get out.