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How to Define, Identify and Engage Social Media Influencers For Your Brand

Social media influencers are everywhere, and they are talking about your brand. This is why social media marketers are constantly buzzing with talk about influencers, and it has become ubiquitous in how we discuss valuable relationships on social media.

The 2015 Guide to Influencer Marketing

But before jumping on the influence bandwagon, there are some important questions social media marketers need to ask: What do influencers mean for your brand? Do you know how many influencers are talking about your brand? Do you measure how many influential posts mention your brand each day?

To answer these questions you need to understand who qualifies as an influencer. In this post we’ll talk about:

  • How you define influencers.
  • What you can do to find influencers.
  • Ways to engage them that can drive value for your business.

Understanding these core concepts will help you develop an influencer campaign that delivers real results.

Defining Influence

In order to define influence, it’s best to start by thinking about what aspects give an individual the power to influence others within their social sphere. The potential to influence can be boiled down to three attributes that are important for marketers to think about.

Those attributes are: Relevance, Reach, and Resonance.

Pillars of influence

You may of heard of these before; they’re common criteria used by influencer identification tools, and Altimeter has referred to them as “The Pillars of Influence”

Let’s quickly address each attribute:

Relevance: The creation of content that is relevant to your brand, or relevant to a topic that’s important to your brand

Reach: The ability to reach an audience that is valuable to your brand

Resonance: The proliferation or engagement with relevant content by an audience that is valuable to your brand

Think about it, all three qualities are needed for a person to be considered an influencer for your brand. For example, a celebrity with a huge audience that retweets everything they post, isn’t an influencer for your brand, until they start talking about your brand.

Note: To be an influencer, an individual doesn’t always need to reach a large audience, sometimes reaching a small niche audience can be just as valuable.

Another thing to keep in mind is that just because someone is influential on one topic, it doesn’t mean they’ll be considered influential on another. For example, if someone is an influencer on all things automotive, it doesn’t mean that their posts about mobile devices will carry the same weight.

Within our own personal networks, we recognize what individuals are experts on given topic; the same is true on social media.

Deciding How To Engage Influencers

Most social media marketers would say that they’re already engaging with influencers, and would probably also say they’re seeking to grow that engagement. But “engaging with influencers” can mean a lot of different things, because there are many ways to engage with users in a social space.

Most brands have a process in place to respond to influencers that mention the brand. Simply Measured’s Twitter reports allow you to email alerts to yourself when an influencer with specific criteria mentions your brand or keyword:

This is an example of reactive influencer engagement, but it’s also important to establish a plan for proactively engaging influencers.

Does your brand have a plan in place for influencer outreach? Knowing how you want influencers to engage with your brand will be important for how you discover new influencers, and identify engagement opportunities.

There are many ways to engage influencers, some examples are to:

  • Have influencers recognize advances your brand is making in the market
  • Sway influencers to amplify a single campaign or piece of branded content
  • Entice influencers to follow your social accounts and regularly champion brand content
  • Persuade influencers to create original and valuable content for your brand

Encouraging different engagement actions requires identifying influencers with different levels of brand advocacy. The degree to which someone is likely to advocate your brand can be determined by their social behavior (ex. what they post and how they interact with your brand, as well as your competitors).

The best and safest way to approach engaging new influencers is to start small, make them aware of product announcements and gauge their response, before calling on them to support your content and campaigns.

Identifying Potential Influencers

Before you can start proactively engaging influencers, you have to identify them first. This is where it can get tricky to expand your list of influencers beyond the group of influencers who already talking about your brand.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve used a variety of industry leading tools designed specifically for influencer identification and while some serious improvements have been made, these solutions still have their drawbacks.

The drawbacks result from one major issue; context. Like the technical challenges that plague sentiment analysis, keyword queries and topical attribution are not yet advanced enough to always identify relevancy and they rarely provide an accurate picture of brand advocacy.

The result can often be a confusing list of “influencers”, albeit with links to a collection of social profiles, that are mostly on topic but that present only a few immediate engagement opportunities for your brand. For that reason, a human touch is still very much a part of the equation when it comes to identifying and vetting influencers.

That’s why I prefer to dive directly into the data I have, and the data I usually start with is Twitter. Why just Twitter data  when I’m looking for social influencers across networks?

I start with Twitter because it’s still the primary channel for syndicating content from a wide variety of sources, especially blogs where more in depth original thought leadership exists. Twitter data is also an exceptionally open and public.

Bar graph of top twitter users and klout score

By setting up a report for a keyword, or collection of keywords, I’m able to find users who are relevant to a given topic – like the  example above. Once I’ve run my report, I can see how frequently individuals posts are pulled into that topic to determine their degree of relevance for the topic that I’m interested in.

With relevance established, I can look at how frequently those on topic posts are engaged with to establish resonance. I can determine whether their content actually gets shared, and by running a report on a group of potential influencers, I can analyze the quality of their follower network to make sure they are a valuable audience for my brand.

Audience quality for potential influencers plays into reach. If my topic is niche, I might be fine with accepting influencers with a smaller number of followers. If I’m looking to drive broad awareness, I’m going to be selective and only accept influencers with extremely large follower audiences.

Since I’m already in the data, I can use keyword filters (for my brand, products and competitors) within the same dataset to help determine the level of brand advocacy. I can make informed outreach decisions based on whether individuals are talking just about my brand, or also discussing my competitors, and whether or not they’re taking sides.

If the devil is in the details and the details are in the data, I think that’s where we as informed marketers should also be.

Simply Measured’s full suite of analytics put that data at your fingertips, with easy to understand and share reports on all your favorite social networks. Get your personalized demo today:

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Nate Smitha

I'm a Marketing Manager at Simply Measured. It's my job to deliver content in a way that engages and informs social media professionals. My areas of expertise are marketing automation, conversion and social media analytics.

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