Identifying Influencers: Harnessing The Power Of Individuals

Image by Tobias Leeger.

Armed with creativity, passion, $150, friends and YouTube, Dave Carroll created more than nine million impressions.

You’ve probably heard of Carroll. He wrote and created the music video “United Breaks Guitars” about United’s baggage handlers smashing the base of his $3,500 Taylor guitar. United refused to pay $1,200 to repair his guitar because of an archaic policy. Carroll got even.

Carroll responded by uploading his music video to YouTube. Within the first 24 hours, 25,000 people viewed it. Then it went viral. Since then, Carroll has had more than 250 media interviews. He has appeared on CNN, The View and several other national TV shows, And his website gets more than 50,000 hits a day.

And what happened to United? Positive sentiment in social media networks decreased from 34% to 28%. Negative sentiment increased from 22% to 25%. Positive stories in traditional media dropped from 39% to 27% while negative stories increased from 18% to 23%. (data from Syomos) Six months after the story broke, United PR continues to receive requests to talk about the incident.

Impressions: The Language Of Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing broadcasts messages to masses of people. Marketers count the number of impressions people receive. One ad campaign might create seven million impressions. And the costs of that one ad campaign can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Carroll had more than seven million impressions on a budget of $150. What’s your marketing and advertising budget?

  • Today, individuals create more than 256 billion impressions talking about products and services annually.
  •  Individuals write more than 1.64 billion posts (blog posts, comments, ratings, reviews) that generate at least another 250 billion impressions.
  • The combined total equals more than half a trillion impressions in the U.S.
  • That’s eight impressions every day for every person online.
  • According to Nielsen Online, people receive about one-fourth as many impressions from each other as they do online advertisers. *

 Which online impressions do you think people give more attention? Does your marketing and advertising strategy reflect the power of individual influencers? Have you considered the positive or negative effect of Word of Mouth (WOM) influence?

IDEA: A Four Step Strategy To Connect With Empowered Individual Influencers

Empowered authors Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler identify a four step strategy to connect with empowered individuals that have great online influence. IDEA: Identify, Deliver, Empower, Amplify.

1. Identify mass influencers.

Focus on people that are most likely to spread your organization’s message. Where do you find these mass influencers?

  • Alltop – the online magazine rack – search bloggers listed by specific subject and topics.
  • BoardReader – tracks conversations within forums, search by keywords
  • Daylife – search news and editorial photos
  • Delicious – search popular posts using keywords
  • Google Blogs – search for conversations on specific keywords and/or timeframes
  • Klout – identify influencers on Facebook and Twitter based on 35 variables (Scores 30 or higher considered influencers.)
  • Listorious  - lists of Twitter users created by others based on specific topics
  • Social Mention – great real time social media search across blogs, bookmarks, comments, events, images, microblogs, news, video, audio, and Q&A
  • Technorati  - grader for bloggers considered top sources of information
  • Twitter Chats – lists of live Twitter chats based on keyword hashtags taking place on specific times and days.
  • Twittergrader.com – find influential people on Twitter based on scores

 2. Deliver groundswell customer service.

Connect with and serve those influencers. Leave comments on their blogs, Facebook page and other social networks. Build a relationship with them. Participate in their Twitter chats. Highlight and recommend them to others and they’ll be likely to reciprocate.

3. Empower these individuals with information.

Provide extra and sometimes exclusive information that they can share with their followers and friends.

4. Amplify your fans.

Find the individuals that already love you. Boost the affect they have on their friends and followers.

Marketers must begin to develop a plan for WOM and individual influencers. They need to think of mass influencers as a marketing channel. It’s a new way to think about marketing, service and customers.

What’s keeping your from connecting with online influencers? What’s the best way to connect with an online influencer?

* Impressions data from Forrester’s North American Tehnographics Empowerment Online Survey Q4 2009 of 10,000 people

Comments

  1. Nancy Largay says

    What this also speaks to is people who have “true passion”. When you find them, you will always know it practically oozes from their pores! It speaks volumes on viral messaging, marketing and the value it has at no cost to the customer~!

  2. says

    If you don’t mind me disagreeing….

    You mention the 256 billion impressions of Forrester, where you should discount all the tweets, blogs posts, reviews and facebook posts that nobody read, or nobody paid attention to. After that you are left with a tiny percentage, which is fine, but then the real question is how do we tell the influential ones.

    To that question you say we should use Klout, Social Mention, Boardreader, Google blogs. While Klout is a good metric for reach and engagement (not influence) the others are if anything mere search engines with no insight beyond, perhaps, popularity.

    You seem to be implying that anyone with a blog or creating content is an influencer….

    Not my style at all going about slugging off blog posts but there is a lot we don’t know about social influence in digital media and this simplistic approaches don’t makes us any favour.

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Xavier
      Thanks for adding your perspective. It is a good one too!

      Your comment about impressions is right on target. It is the same thing for a digital, print, radio or TV advertisement. Impressions are the language of marketing professionals and just because an ad (or post) was displayed, doesn’t mean that people paid attention to it. It is a way for marketers to understand the potential of social networks and social technologies using their common venacular.

      I also agree with you that the tools I listed all have their pros and cons and help you find people that appear to have some influence. I wrote this post for a workshop I did at BlogWorld 2010 where there was much more discussion about numbers, followers, readers, reach, etc. Numbers don’t always equal influence.

      Consider Dave Carroll for a moment. He would not have been identified as someone with influence. He was relatively unknown. So influencers can actually come from anywhere.

      I do think that metrics about blogs (views, subscribers, comments, RTs) will help organizers identify if the writer has some influence.

      Thank you for creating some depth to this blog post. I appreciate it and am glad you took the time to add your feedback.

  3. says

    Thanks for recommenting. I submited the comment and though you would hate me! :)

    You got me with the impressions. They are potential sources of influence just as Tv and we do measure TV on that respect, ar least as a good start. However, there is a little difference between earned ( usually trusted ) and paid ( usually untrusted ) media that we cannot forget. To that respect, we should start considering more “trust metrics” and less reach metrics, all of them falsely attributed as influence metrics ( take klout ).

    However, There is a big correlation between reach and influence, at various levels and cases. Spot on we have to look at those. But there is a strong tendency in the industry towards ignoring the product strategy and to assume that reach is good in all cases. And not consider trust or attributed expertise, which is what leads to influence.

    I think studying influence in digital media is still in its infancy.
    I just started, but consider following @digiinfluentia and let’s be in touch

    Best regards

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Xavier
      BTW, I invite dissenting thought and opinion. That’s healthy and a good way to provide open dialogue. I love your thoughts about trust metrics too.

  4. says

    I will have a think about “trust metrics” they are probably floating around already ( does a RT show trust? ).

    Food for thought, many thanks, I think the comments have added a new interesting layer to the post so thanks for allowing dissidence :)

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