By Neicole Crepeau, Contributing {grow} Columnist

Love it or hate it, the topic of “who is an influencer” is hot, right now.  There are plenty of tools like Klout and PeerIndex to drive you crazy on this subject, but here is an important thought. How can we use this information to help our businessess?

The idea behind being an “influencer” is that you are at the top of the “Word of Mouth” foodchain. This is important because Word of Mouth can be the most powerful, inexpensive and effective promotion you will ever receive. The big brands are spending mega-bucks on this stuff. What about you and me? The little guys? How do you apply this idea to OUR world and get a piece of the action?  How do you even decide which of these influencers is most valuable to your particular business?

Here’s a framework I developed to help you determine which influencers to target for your commercial activities:

Influencer Categories and Activities

We need a way to categorize influencers. Here’s one take on it:

  • Opinion shaper—Influential in an area because of expertise, and therefore tends to shape people’s opinions with reviews, posts, comments. Think Walt Mossberg
  • Amplifier—Shares information or ideas widely, has broad reach.  Think Guy Kawasaki.
  • Thought leader—Develops new ideas and concepts that are widely recognized and well-regarded. Think Jeremiah Owyang.
  • Conversationalist—Interacts with large numbers of people in one-on-one or small-group conversations, perhaps through a blog or a social network. Think Gini Dietrich.

There could be additional categories. And I’m not saying this is THE categorization for influencers. It’s a proposal. Something to think about.

Next, we need to consider the activities that these influencers participate in. “Influencer” has become synonymous with blogger and social networking. People can be influential through other activities, as well. Here’s a list of the activities I thought of:

  • Creates content—Creates a lot of original text, video, podcasts or other content.
  • Speaker—Attends events and speaks at them.
  • Social networker—Participates regularly and very actively in online communities.
  • Consultant—Consults with businesses and makes recommendations.

Again, there may be others.

Create Profiles for Each Influencer

Now, create a profile for each influencer. Your profile lists the categories the influencer falls into, and the activities the influencer participates in, within each category. Also, do some research to identify the venues for each activity. For example, if the influencer is an Amplifier through Social networking activities, which social networks is he or she active in? Include information about each influencer’s reach, too. Your influencer profile might something like this (Kay is not a real person):

Kay Alexander

Type:

  • Opinion shaper
  • Amplifier

Activities:

  • Content creator
    • Blog (audience: 5,000/month)
    • Books (average sales: 20,000 per year)
  • Speaker
    • Social media conferences (40/year)
    • Content marketing conferences (10/year)
  • Consultant
    • Large organization (Fortune 1000 and up) in B2B (Number of clients: unknown)
  • Social networker
    • Facebook (12,000 fans)
    • Twitter (30,000 fans)

Once you have the profiles, you can start to filter down your list of influencer.

Determine the Types of Influencers that are Most Valuable

Based on your social media goals, you should have a good idea of which influencers are going to be most valuable to you.  For example, if you’re looking for brand awareness, then content sharing and brand mentions might be particularly valuable to you. In that case, you’re probably most interested in the influencer categories of Amplifier, and maybe Conversationalist. If you’re especially interested in brand reputation, then you are probably most interested in Opinion Shapers.

Brand awareness = Amplifier, Conversationalist

Brand reputation=Opinion shaper, Conversationalist, Thought leader

Word of mouth= Amplifier, Opinion shaper, Conversationalist

Website traffic= Amplifier, Opinion shaper, Thought leader

Compare the profiles with your audience analysis

I’m assuming that you’ve done an audience analysis to determine things like where your audience lives online (in what social networks and communities), what kinds of content they consume (videos, podcasts, blogs, etc.), demographic data, and so on.

Now, you should have a shorter list of potential influencers. So, compare the profiles with your audience data. If your audience isn’t on Twitter, you don’t need influencer’s whose primary activity is social networking on Twitter. If your audience doesn’t like videos, Opinion Shapers who primarily distribute content through video move down on your priority list.

By the time you finish this process, you’ll have a good list of influencers to target. You should be pretty confident that these influencers are worth building a relationship with. Now, you just have to figure how to build that relationship!

Here are some resources to help you:

Stop the PR Madness By Ardath Albee

The Art and Science of Blogger Relations – Updated eBook by Brian Solis

Six Steps to Better Blogger Relations By Jen Zingsheim

 

Neicole Crepeau is a partner in Coherent Interactive, which specializes in web, mobile, and social media design and implementation for small and mid-size businesses. You can read more of her original material at her blog, Coherent Social Media or onTwitter where she is @neicolec.


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