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InsideFMM | July 29, 2015

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Affluence Or Influence: Measuring Social Reach

Social networks are booming. If a brand were to conduct a survey of 100 of its best customers, they’d find that 75 of them were part of a social network. Moreover, those that were part of a social network probably used more than one platform to communicate with family, share information with friends, consumer news or create content of their own.

Photo Credit: Freshness Mag

The actions of average, everyday social media users hold value – influence – that online retailers are looking to harness. Why? Because online influencers drive revenue through their online audience.

Why Online Influence Matters

For the past several years, most marketers and social media experts have defined online influence as the ability to generate action based on a person’s online popularity. Lately, it seems that the definition and the value of online influence has shifted. Online influence can’t be solely based on popularity. What now matters is that person’s relevance to a certain subject, cause or brand. That relevance and expertise resonates with their audiences and incites them do something.

“Influence isn’t popularity. Brands and agencies must add a qualitative layer on top of the data to support and execute engagement. When the art and science are combined in the right way, the results can be stellar,” says Barbara Bates from Eastwick Communication.

So how do brands identify online influencers that add a qualitative layer that will benefit their brand, product or campaign?

Online Influence Isn’t About Popularity, It’s About Expertise

How to measure social influence is the biggest question among retailers and brands these days. Simply put, there is no one single way to measure online influence. Moreover, measuring influence has been based on popularity or celebrity. In a recent post, Brian Solis, principal of The Altimeter Group, recently wrote, “If we look beyond the word ‘influence,’ we see that the ability to measure effect is complicated and elusive. I believe; however, that we’re closer to measuring social capital, at least in a digital sense, than we are measuring outcomes.” This means that online influence isn’t about popularity, it’s about expertise.

Three Ways To Indentify Online Influencers

While there are many free and paid social media monitoring programs available to help retailers identify, qualify and quantify social influencers, I’ve found that the most effective ones for brands and agencies to use are:

1. Traackr – Traackr is one of the most impressive tools I’ve discovered to measure online influence. The cool thing is that Traackr is specifically designed for brands or retailers to identify and engage top influencers most relevant to their brand, product, or campaign. Traackr doesn’t focus on URLs, it focuses on people. Traackr’s algorithms analyze an individual person’s reach (ability to generate views), resonance (ability to spark conversation) and relevance (ability to cover a certain topic/market).

Tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people participate in an online conversation and millions just listen. Less than 2% of these participants have over 90% of the impact in that conversation (posts read, link backs, retweets, reactions, etc.). The 2% within the conversation are never the same across conversations. Traackr starts at $499 per month and expands to several thousand dollars for large accounts.

Editor’s Note: The screen captures above are from Traackr. The question I asked their complex algorithm was, “Who are the most influential luxury brand bloggers (not specific to fashion, to luxury as whole) that cover social media, online marketing and luxury industry news with a business-to-business (B2B) audience?”

2. Attensity – While Traackr focuses on individual people, Attensity focuses on URLs and where activity surrounding a brand, product or campaign is happening. Attensity offers a complete suite of influencer reports within their social media monitoring and analytics application that covers over 75M+ social/online sources.

Their reports include a listing of key influencers, their reach and impact scores, demographic details about the site(s) they post on, as well as any information available about the individual. Attensity has integrated Quantcast and Klout into their reports, as well. This is one of the simplest, most comprehensive reporting softwares to use. Attensity’s comprehensive suite starts at $5,000 per month.

3. Facebook – By simply monitoring your Facebook community, brands can also identify influencers. SmartPak Equine, an equestrian supplies retailer, has done exactly this. SmartPak Equine has leveraged its Facebook community to indentify what equestrian professionals, their customer base, are influenced by. From the twelve athletes that they leverage as brand evangelists, three riders that are equestrian industry experts and heavily active on social network provided the best ROI for SpmartPak Equine. The equestrian athletes, Alison Spring, Boyd Martin and Tom McCoutcheon are now ambassadors used to build brand and product awareness, and their sponsorship lead to significant customer base increase.

The ambassadorship, in conjunction with community contests and Facebook engagement strategies have allowed SmartPak to develop highly targeted social marketing campaigns that have resulted in 600% YOY sales increase from Facebook. Facebook has also become the #7 referrer of traffic for the site and is becoming more cost effective than print advertising. While Facebook is currently free, brands invest an average of $2,500 for fan page development per application, says Tim Homuth, the head of Redfoot Social, a social commerce company specializing in Facebook application and audience development.

How To Target and Engage The Right Online Influencers

It’s important for retailers and brands to focus on targeting small groups of online influencers that are experts in the niches they cover. First and foremost, “don’t think of online influencers as media contacts,” says Derek Skaletsky, VP of Business Development for Traackr.Online influences don’t care about news. They care about experience(s); especially unique experiences that help them differentiate themselves to their audience. This is what they’re interested in.” The need to focus on relevant influencers, rather than the most popular big fish people on the social web can be explained in three ways, says Pierre-Loic Assayag, President of Traackr.

1. Relevant influencers create signals; the ‘big fish’ create noise. For decades, advertising has trained marketers that noise equals success, which isn’t true. Creating noise is equal to irrelevant advertising, which online consumers are becoming blind to. Getting the attention of influencers who have built authority with a target audience and have earned trust in communities relevant to specific businesses is as good as a proxy to sales as it gets; offering impressive conversion rates and return on dollars spent.

2. Targeting relevant influencers also increases drastically the ‘engagement hit rate;’ instead of reaching out very generically with yet another media coverage request from a brand, you’ll be talking to someone genuinely interested in your issues, industry and products. Your ability to create a meaningful relationship then goes through the roof.

3. ‘Big fish’ are actually influenced by relevant influencers. They are much more likely to cover your story and get interested in your product once you gain “street cred” with relevant influencers.

In order to engage relevant influencers successfully, brands must:

1. Target relevant influencers based on expertise and desired outcome.

2. Talk to them inside their story, not the brand’s story.

3. Engage them early and build a relationship that outlasts the brand’s campaign.

4. Be honest and don’t just talk to people who already like your brand.

5. Give up control of the message and trust your influencers to tell the brand story through their words.

Why Brands Should Target Small Groups Of Influencers

As a brand, why should you target small groups of influencers within niches, instead of solely going after the big fish or the biggest online celebrities? Because when you do your homework, and focus on quality over quantity and experience, seven people can reach 350 million.

David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules Of Marketing & PR, shared the story of Cindy Gordon, vice president of new media and marketing at Universal Orlando Resort and finding online influencers. Gordon was tasked with creating a global marketing campaign for the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Studios and Warner Brothers could have spent millions of dollars, but instead, Gordon found the seven most influential bloggers and fan sites for Harry Potter and she connected with those folks. Gordon set up a private screening for them with the people who were developing this new park with the designer who is actually the designer on the Harry Potter movies. Those seven people were responsible for telling hundreds of thousands of people through their fan sites and blogs. Gordon estimates that 350 million people around the world heard the news that Universal Orlando Resort was creating the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park through these seven bloggers.

“Before you engage online influencers, you have to figure out who they are and track their conversations. Understand what these influencers like and don’t like about your products and services, your marketing, your brand and even how they compare you to the competition,” says Michelle DeHaaff, CMO of Attensity. “Once you know who they are personally, then you can engage in relevant ways. Reach out and thank them for their support and create continual dialogues with them. Don’t make engagement a one-time things or a one-off!”

Can You Definitively Measure Influence?

Solis’s observations, coupled with insights from SmartPak, Traackr and Attensity, show that a combination of resources are necessary in order to successfully measure online influencer outreach. Moreover, campaign KPIs will have an impact on how campaign success is measured. When setting measurements for influence, brands and retailers have to consider two things:

1. Brands and retailers must stop viewing online influencers as media contacts. They’ll have much more fantastic opportunities to leverage influences as brand advocates and social media-marketing partners by creating experiences.

2. Brands and retailers can’t hook their wagons to most well known people in the industry in hopes of reaching hundreds of thousands that follow them and converting them into customers. Focusing on smaller groups of online influencers that are highly relevant to their brand, product or campaign is more time efficient, cost effective and potential ROI will be much greater. Who knows, your next campaign may be the next Harry Potter type success story.

In the next few years, how do you think brands and retailers will track return on influencer outreach? Will they want one source to get all the data. or will they continue to rely on a variety of resources?


  1. This is great article. Not only does it give brands something to think about, but bloggers as well. It's about building relationships that foster growth for both brands and influential bloggers. Some people still play the numbers game, but it's more about creating a strategy rather than doing something because everyone else is doing it.

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