Phil Davis: Influencer Identification Isn’t Just for Tools

PhilDavisInfluencer identification is a detailed process and one that shouldn’t be rushed if you’re expecting good results. There’s much more to it than simply finding an online tool that promises everything (I’ll get to that later), plugging in some keywords and exporting the list. While those are steps in the process, what is often overlooked is the amount of research, exploration and analysis that it takes to truly find credible and valuable influencers.

While trust in branded websites has increased slightly over the past 5 years, up to 69% since 2007, according to a recent Nielson Global survey, 84% of consumers cite recommendations from people like them or people they know as their most trusted form of advertising. Best Buy doesn’t ‘know’ me, but the tech blogger whose posts I read every day? I know him.

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The same study found that less than 40% of global consumers found online ads (social, banner and video) to be personally relevant. Brands will spend thousands on advertisements that go nowhere, are seen by few, and interacted with by even fewer. Endorsements and advocacy from credible influencers, leading voices of your target audience, are hard for your consumers to ignore.

It’s a process.

First, develop the profiles or personas of your target audience, and yes, there should be more than one. Who do they listen to? What do they value? Where do they go for information? The answers to these questions will help you to find the channels to focus on, the networks where they participate, the types of messaging they engage with, and how to reach them. Don’t slack on this step, because this sets the tone for how you begin to identify the influencers.

Establish some criteria and don’t just rely on fan/follower counts. What good does is an influencer with 100,000 followers on Twitter or 50,000 Facebook fans, if no one interacts with them? It doesn’t, so don’t waste your time. Instead, look for influencers with good engagement rates, and consistent visitor interactions on their blog. Try a web search to see if they’re mentioned by others. If they’re cited outside their own networks, it means people are listening to them and value their opinion.

Analyze their blog and review some posts to get an understanding of the types of messaging they share so you know how to reach out to them. This will also help you get an idea if their message and approach is consistent with yours. You may even find that they don’t like your brand. Consider it a mission to change their mind, or avoid them entirely, either way without proper research you won’t find this information.

Speaking of tools…

Not one tool is going to deliver everything you need, no matter what the salesman who calls you after your free trial period has ended says. There’s the option to utilize social listening tools if you have them (Radian6SocialChorus), but that often

requires a lot more sorting and tedious setup and analysis. The majority of influencer identification tools gather information based on two main sources, Twitter and Blogs. Some will incorporate elements of Facebook data, but because of strict privacy laws, you’re not going to get much outside of total fan count and some post examples, if anything at all. Collecting Facebook stats and information is a manual process but a relatively easy one, so don’t let it hold you up.

Pricing for identification tools vary across the board. Some are quite affordable for what they provide, and some make you wonder how they can get away with charging what they do. That said, most paid tools deliver great results for your search. Tools such as TraackerGroupHighand BlogDash provide a variety of different metrics and information pulled from Twitter and blog data. Depending on the tool, you get upgraded features, like a built in CRM, sentiment analysis, influencer scoring, and monitoring capabilities.


Trying to identify without signing a contract? TopsyFollowerWonk, and Twiangulate all allow free keyword searches that pull mainly from profiles and tweets of potential influencers. Twitter data may be the only information you have to begin with, but from there you can get to the influencers’ blog, which will often lead you to their Facebook page and additional networks. Some of these free tools even have paid options, that can provide you with more detailed info. And of course, there’s always the Google Blog Search too, if your goal is blog leads.


Don’t Rush It.

From start to finish, valuable influencer identification is a comprehensive process. No single tool can be relied upon to deliver everything you need, it requires diligent research and vetting to sort out the crap from the gold. Take the time to identify the types of influencers you’re looking for before you begin. Establish criteria so that you don’t end up with a long list, of which half provide any true value to your marketing efforts. Influencers are trusted individuals that have the ability to change a consumer’s decision about your brand. You may even find some loyal advocates, and as you should know by now, a powerful advocate is a brand’s most valuable asset.

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