Most books about influencers focuses on consumer markets. There is less insight into business-to-business influencers. A key distinction between consumer and business markets is that most of the focus in consumer markets is on consumer influencers themselves.
Venturing into Influencer Marketing, your first step is to identify brand influencers. Influencers are specific to discrete market segments, and are used as conduits to the entire target segment. While there are lists of generic influencers (such as the Time 100) they have limited use in marketing branding programmes targeted at specific segments.
Not all business influencers are equal. Some have more influence than others, and some mechanism of ranking is required, to distinguish between key influencers and less impactful people. That is why market research techniques can be used to identify influencers, using modern online tools and pre-defined criteria to determine the extent and type of influence.
Identifying influencers within your industry who will talk about your content, then creating your content that theyíll pay attention to is the key to growing your audience incredibly fast.
There are quick ways to identify who’s influential in a given category by using these online tools:
For example Wefollow.com tracks who the most followed Twitter users are and let you cut it by category or keyword. Meanwhile Muckrack.com is another Twitter directory of journalists, broken down by industry. Often journalists are very influential in a given niche, but more importantly they follow the major influencers in their niches. See who they retweet and interact with, then follow those people and repeat.
Monitor this folks and make a list of what blogs they are posting links to, which people they are retweeting (in context of your topic, not just about breakfast), and who those people and blogs are talking about. Youíll very soon be able to create a spreadsheet (or spider chart, if you roll that way), of who the most-read creators and spreaders are in your niche.
Many of these influencers attained their status by not only creating content of their own, but also by continually posting and tweeting and reblogging and plugging content that helps their followers.
Oftentimes they’ll give their stamp of endorsement to something that simply has a great title, without reading first, but knowing it makes them look good to their followers.
Get to know their style, their habits, their quirks. These are the people you’re going to be writing to, because they’re the people whose audience you’re going to capture.
Later on, this info will help you when brainstorming content that will spread through your industry.
Focusing on Key Influencers on Twitter and Google+
The looming problem many brand managers and business owners expected is how can they pay the right amount of attention, the right kind of attention, to the right audience, to have the best (not necessarily the largest) impact on their respective business.
This is the notion of influencer identification. In a nutshell, these tools do what we’ve all been trying to do manually for a long time: find the people who matter and who people seem to seek. Many of these tools are digital and track some form of social footprint to see where these people are online, who pays attention, who shares their content, what they talk about, how much juice they have, and the like. Each of these tools computes these scores a bit differently, and that’s what sets apart one tool from another.
Look for ways to take the output of these tools and augment what you, as a PR pro, communications pro, or business owner are already doing: listening, reading, identifying, reaching out, forging relationships, long before the ask and long before any sale.
A simple tool is called FollowerWonk. It’s a bit manual, but the mathematics behind it are transparent. As in, there’s no guessing why so and so ranks higher in influence for such and such than someone else.
Another powerful Twitter search tool is Topsy (not 100 percent squarely focused on influencer management, but it flags influencers). Topsy is just Twitter search on steroids, but if you squint a little, you can use the results in a different way to help you uncover some insights.
David Srtom of ReadWriteWeb did a nice job back in October 2011 in “17 Alternatives to Klout”. If you consider Klout, you have already 18 options. That is, use these tools with a shaker of salt. Which is not to say that they are not to be trusted. But PR and communications professionals performed the task of influencer management long before these tools were around. That type of sleuthing work doesnít stop because there are some new digital kids on the block.
Google+ Ripples feature a unique tool that was launched a week or two before Google+ pages, but is important nevertheless. With any post, at this time limited to posts that are widely shared, you can see who and how the particular piece of content is being shared on Google+.
Simply click the the down arrow next to any post published by yourself or others located on the top right hand corner of the content. This menu allows you to perform a few functions, one of which allows you to view Ripples.
From here you can view who publicly shared this particular post and then the chain of events that occurred from the initial share. In the example above, the Dali Lama posted and this is the ripple effect his content created by the other users sharing the same content. You can see who initially shared it from the Dali Lama’s profile, followed by the people who shared from the initial sharers. The main ripple is from the Dali Lama, followed by smaller ripples of those who shared the content and then followed by larger ripples of people who initially shared the content that was then re-shared by members of their own audience.
This is helpful in two ways when it comes to identifying the key influencers of your personal profile or your page. You can identify trends among the people who are consistently sharing the content you’re sharing with your audience. You can see which of the people re-sharing your content have the most influence among their audience, identifying trends and acting accordingly. Changing your tactics to suit these particular influencers or brand advocates can help your content reach a much wider audience.
Above all, the Ripples tool is extremely useful in helping you identify the social influencers of your competitors. This research can be done similar to competitive link analysis in SEO.
You see, influencers help generate links to your profile, but the most important part is that you’ll want to attempt to attract the same valuable influencers to become a part of your audience and help spread your content far and wide.