Written by Noemi Pollack on December 7, 2012.
Excerpt by Noemi Pollack from PRNewswire & Agility@Work’s crowdsourced e-book, The Practitioner’s Guide to Social Influencer Engagement
Nielsen reported recently that consumers trust “real friends” and “virtual strangers” over newspapers, TV, magazines or ads.(1) This trend, coupled with the increased value of third-party endorsements and positive word of mouth, demonstrates a fundamental need to earn trustworthy endorsements from influencers in today’s increasingly consumer-driven environment. The challenge for brands, however, is not just finding an influencer – it’s finding the right influencer. Measuring Influence
Influence is a commonly used word with a very broad definition. Without dissecting the etymology of the word, suffice to say it refers to the act of compelling someone (or a group of people) to a particular opinion or behavior. In other words, a successful influencer would be one who can incite others into converting, whether that means purchasing a product/service or agreeing with an idea.
Since influence is more than merely being heard, one must look beyond metrics such as audience size, friends/fans/followers, website visitations and impressions. There should certainly be a baseline expectation of a person’s network size, but that should not be the only metric. Influencers should be weighed more in the quality of interactions they have with their audience, the amount of responses they earn with their interactions and, perhaps most telling, the evidence of positive conversions. For example, looking at the number of Facebook friends is not enough. Do the friends interact and engage with the influencer? How many comments/likes does an influencer produce with each post? Is there evidence of conversations in which the influencer has swayed the opinions and/or behavior of audience members? This information can be found through an influencer’s blog, through Twitter mentions and any other platform on which he or she is active.
Qualifying the Influencer’s Audience
Determining whether or not a person is influential is not enough, alone. Your brand advocate could have sway over millions of people all over the globe, but if those people are not the right people for your brand, that influencer may as well be shouting in a vacuum as far as you are concerned. Age-old market research tactics can ensure that the right person is saying the right message to the right audience. Vetting a potential influencer’s audience need not be time-extensive and costly.
One can simply research his or her online network and view their profiles. What types of organizations do they like/follow? Do they respond in a positive way to brand messages similar to yours? Would they buy your product or be influenced by your ideas? The influencer’s offline audience can be researched as well. What organizations is the influencer involved with? Do their affiliations and offline activities support or conflict with your target audience? If you had the budget, would you pay to advertise to this influencer’s audience?
If you are engaging an influencer to become a brand advocate, or even if you are paying them to be, be clear that on many levels you are relinquishing control of your brand to this person. Therefore, it is paramount that the influencer personality and the brand personality be aligned. If the influencer’s communication style, general personality or personal opinions greatly conflict with your brand, then you could have tremendous exposure and heightened risk of negative word of mouth.
In essence, influencers behave as brand spokespeople – but unlike real spokespeople, brands don’t have direct control over their message. So a brand should be comfortable with an influencer’s voice, style and public positioning.
In a Nutshell
When actively pursuing influencers, take the time to gauge their level of influence, as well as their target audience and public persona. When there is a perfect match, then brand advocacy is effective and far-reaching.
1. Nielsenwire. 2009. “Global Advertising: Consumers Trust Real Friends and Virtual Strangers the Most.“ Retrieved from http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/ global-advertising-consumers-trust-real-friends-and-virtual-strangers-the-most/