From Likes to Social Influence, Part 2: Ready, Set, Activate

This is Part 2 of a 2-Part series on how to find, engage and active social influencers.

Read part 1: From Likes to Social Influence, How to Drive Action

Marketers in both B2B and B2C companies are starting to realize that achieving “likes” and “follows” is only scratching the surface social media’s potential as a marketing and sales vehicle. To turn social media into a viable tool with real top- and bottom-line impact, companies need to develop content, tap into relevant communities and build relationships with key influencers.

As discussed in From Likes to Social Influence, Part I, one way to leverage social media engagement is to use big data – Big Social Data – to zero in on communities of like-minded people, and then identify which members are most influential.

Find and Engage

An influence platform can identify individuals important to your product segment – and then assesses how frequently that person is retweeted, replied, mentioned and followed on Twitter. It can also check the person’s outreach score, based on how much he or she reaches out to others in the form of retweets, replies and mentions of others.

Once you’ve found your man or woman on-the-street influencer, how do you nurture him or her without compromising objectivity and turning the individual into nothing more than a paid tweeter or blogger? There are two considerations here: Getting the influencer on your team, and then keeping him or her fresh, alert and genuine.

To get the influencer on your team, your data provider can map the influencer’s Twitter bio to other datasets to determine his or her name, occupation, company, location and other identifying characteristics. Being able to contact influencers by email or regular post allows you to make a personal connection, to offer them rewards, in the form of product samples and information that will allow them to speak even more clearly and enthusiastically about your brand.

To keep your influencers fresh and objective, human intervention is necessary. A brand advocate needs several touch points and a steady stream of quality content and product samples to keep their social conversations interesting. Conversely, a brand advocate who suddenly turns on your product or service becomes a liability, and should be managed accordingly. Ongoing monitoring will keep your team of influencers functioning according to plan.

How It Works for B2C

One example of how this works was the 2012 GRAMMY Awards. By identifying key influencers on social media months ahead of the broadcast, the GRAMMYs were able to boost both social media activity and viewership the night of the event.

Thanks to its program of finding and cultivating influencers, GRAMMY viewership soared to 39 million in 2012, its second highest audience ever and up over 50% from the previous year, delighting sponsors. Nearly 8.3 million tweets were sent on the day of the show, three times more than 2011’s mentions.

Here’s how the program worked: The GRAMMY Awards influence program zeroed in on key communities, including Beauty, Autos, Music Bloggers and Music Fans. The organization engaged and involved Influencers, which meant treating them as an important “red carpet” constituency. All through GRAMMY Season, the GRAMMY team engaged with influencers to drive up viral social mentions of the GRAMMYs and its sponsors. Beauty influencers, for example, were invited to become part of a site experience about award show fashion and glamour.

How it Works with B2B

B2B works a bit differently, and results are more incremental.

One global company, an enterprise software vendor, identified IT decision makers and asked them to join its community and follow, and offered them a relevant webinar series.  The result: The company created a more well qualified community than they were able to create on their own.

Conclusion

For brands seeking to use social media as a tool to boost sales, receiving mentions, likes and follows isn’t enough. Companies need to identify those who are most influential in their subject areas, engage more deeply with their target audiences,  nurture and amplify them.

Both B2C and B2B consumers are looking for authenticity, and will gravitate to those in social media who are speaking with passion and intelligence. Thus part of your digital content marketing strategy should be social media content – provided by real people with real opinions.

Marketers have been trying to get to this level of information out of social media for a long time. Big social data is now providing answers – listening in real-time to make distinctions between people, and then grouping them into localized communities where true influencers can be identified. These communities are easily addressable, if you know how to find the influencers who start discussions, state opinions and engage others.

A vast number of people are now active on social media worldwide. The interrelationships between those people, and the valuable data they generate, is too important to ignore.

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About 

Based in London, Andrew is an internationally renowned thought leader in the field of social business and social media networks. Andrew is a Global Partner with IBM, with a focus on Social Business.