How to Understand, Define and Identify Online Influence


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A recent post about how to become a social media influencer over at the Salesforce corporate blog shared tips and ideas to become a social media influencer.

While there are some good pointers here in using social, I think the post is more about becoming a thought leader or becoming popular in social media than it is about becoming an influencer.

The main challenge is the definition of influencer by today’s social web meaning. Sure, you can create great content, get a ton of followers, social shares, etc. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be any good for a brand to work with.

There are way too many factors at play when it comes to influence that trying to gauge the term as a generic entity results in failure for the brands connecting with them.

One Size Fits No-One

Let’s say Persona A becomes an “influencer” as determined by social scoring platforms like Klout, and their definition of “influence”.

She’s known to have a great lifestyle blog and her audience are primarily women between the ages of 25-44. So it makes sense that a brand whose demographics are made up of this audience should work with that blogger.

But the audience has a very different make-up. Blog Reader A is a single mom with two young kids under three; Blog Reader B is a married mom with one kid aged ten and one teenager; and Blog Reader C is a mom who has a child of college age, who’s no longer living at home.

All three of these reader segments fall within the broad category of “women between the age of 25-44? – but that’s where the similarities end.

Let’s say the brand sells toddler toys.

Using a generic influence outreach campaign, the blogger might be successful at putting the brand in front of the Blog Reader A segment, but the message will be completely off-point for the other two, just-as-important segments.

The Customer-Centric Influence Model

This is the where the flaws of putting today’s definition of an influencer at the heart of the marketing circle appear; and why we need to move beyond this, and start putting the actual customer at the heart of the circle, and work back from there.

By taking this approach, we understand who the true influencers are – customers – and what they’re looking for, as well as who’s influencing their decisions at a specific point in time.

Then you have the current situation of the brand’s customer that you’re trying to get this generic influencer to influence. There are several factors at play that highlight why generic influence is a very limited model.

If we, as marketers and brands, are looking to truly understand what drives actions in people – the definition of influencing someone – then we need to understand much more than a Tweet or social network update. These include:

  • Situational factors – what’s affecting someone’s decision-making at any given time?
  • Peer factors – who offers the most influence based on where you are in that decision-making process?
  • Financial – can you afford to buy, or are you more logical and prudent with your money?
  • Emotional – tied into the financial factor, does emotion for a product override common sense, logic and lack of funds?
  • Familial factors – who’s the decision-maker in the family and how does this impact a brand message being accepted?

These are just a few of the factors involved into identifying where influence may play a part, and who the influencer would be to instill the brand’s desired action – a purchase.

This is why brands need to move beyond the generic influence that social scoring platforms has created, and really start to understand who the true influencers are – the customers – and then begin working back from there.

Once we do that, we can provide real business metrics and ROI for influence marketing campaigns – and these are the signs of successful influence marketing that truly matter to a brand.

A version of this post first appeared on the Salesforce blog.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown is partner at Bonsai Interactive Marketing, a full service agency offering integrated, social media and mobile marketing solutions. He is also founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a social media-led charity initiative connecting globally and helping locally.


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