Posted on March 20th, 2012
Before social media, an organization could have more control over its public influence because messages flowed from a top-down process—beginning first with key spokespeople and influencers and trickling down through the media before finally reaching the masses. Now, influence “resides in whatever community, Facebook page, or Twitter list that is talking about your marketplace (p. 124).”
Companies can no longer just force-feed the messages they want heard; they have to engage in two-way conversations about the things that the audience cares about. This requires communication that falls well outside the context of advertising or marketing because the conversation needs to be authentic in order to promote trust and increase the likelihood that an “influencer” will recommend your company or products. But before these conversations can begin, Paine suggests a process for building a list of the top influencers in your marketplace.
The key here is that you cannot just track mentions of your product or brand; you have to also closely watch what is being said about your competition and the marketplace as a whole. Finding the blogs that mention these things the most frequently is a good place to start and Paine recommends compiling and sorting through three to six months worth of data as a good place to start—and to “make sure there’s a real person behind the blog (p. 126)” as opposed to spam or advertising blogs.
After verifying a blog is “real”, it must also be verified as relevant. Analyzing the content and determining the sources that blog writers turn to most often for industry advice will point towards the true influencers—people, publications, etc. that your audiences ultimately listen to. Finally, Paine suggests using a tool such as Blog Grader or Twitalyzer to rank the reach of these influencers as well as calculating the Conversation Index for each. A key thing to remember is that this process must be repeated at least on a biannual basis, as the marketplace is constantly changing.
Beyond simply listing and tracking who key influencers are, relationships with them must also be monitored in the same way Paine has previously recommended—define goals, audiences, benchmarks, and KPIs and then select the appropriate measurement tool. Content analysis and regular relationship surveys of key influencers will show just how much these influencers understand and trust your organization as well as how they are portraying you to their audiences.