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Set strategy to target social media influencers

Forrester's Zach Hofer-Shall outlines how to set a startegy to help identify social media influencers.

How do we determine who the real influencers are in our world on social media?

To harness the power of social media, companies need to identify the influencers in their markets. With all the hype and interest around influence in social media today, it remains an elusive metric and a confusing subject to companies.

Many companies looking for social influence scores today may find luck with the simple metrics approaches from companies like Klout or PeerIndex. These companies provide quick and easy customer scores based on data collected from social networks. But all companies should consider one of the largest factors of influence: topic relevance. One person may have great influence over consumer electronics but likely little influence regarding artisan breads. Starting with simple influencer scores works, but firms must then narrow down based on relevancy to their products and brand.

Regardless of how companies identify, calculate and measure influence, the biggest challenge many face has nothing to do with metrics. Companies must start with a strategy. Determining why you need to know who the influencers are and what you will do once you find them will dictate how you actually find them. For example, a corporate communications team tracking the most influential outlets may use volume metrics that tell you, for example, how many blog readers,Twitter followers, or Facebook fans does an outlet or individual currently have. On the other hand, a customer support team wishing to prioritize its social interactions should start with its database. Determine which individuals are higher-value customers, then compare that customer information to their social media metrics.

The most successful companies today start with strategy and then focus on relevancy, giving them enough to build a program around influence. From there they test and re-evaluate their practices in an iterative way. There is no perfect calculation, but over time and refinement, any company can identify its social influencers.

This was first published in August 2011

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