social influence

Rethink The Way You Engage Top Social Influencers

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Social influence may very well be the current zeitgeist of digital marketing. With the blossoming of services like Klout and PeerIndex that help brands find and meet social influencers, any marketer may come to believe they need to use such services to discover new influencers and automate relationship building.

But a recent post from the Business2Community blog claims that the era of the social influencer is dead. Rather, “long live the instigators”. Instigators, as the author posits, are the true influencers:

Instigators are the drivers of actions and conversations, and it’s down to one simple fact – they have the innate ability to create conversations and actions based on those conversations, as opposed to being a shill for a brand.

What he’s getting at is that as a brand, you should shy away from services such as Klout, and focus on building real relationships with real people who have real influence. What’s not explicated is that he’s basically talking about bloggers: People who have a following not on Twitter or Facebook, but on their own blog.

Is this sort of call meaningful? Are there brand or marketing managers out there who are only focusing on services such as Klout to spell out their influencer graph? I doubt it. I think all you marketing gurus know that when it comes to building out your network of influencers, you have a well-rounded reach. Pull out your Rolodex of influencers and you likely have a healthy mix of media journalists, niche bloggers, celebrities, and the like. As of 2012, you may have added a few influencers that Klout sent your way. But you treat each of these differently. And most of your attention is aimed at where you will get the most visibility for your brand: established influencers with a large following.

Good, so don’t use Klout, right? Not quite. Typically an influential blogger also has a Facebook or twitter profile. And that profile will usually have lots of followers. Most smart bloggers do this. When it comes to staying abreast of your favorite blogger, many if not most of you will use Facebook or Twitter to do so. And this is where the beauty of a tool such as Klout comes to play. Since Klout relies heavily on Facebook and Twitter to determine influencer score, it can help you identify and target bloggers you may not currently have in your Rolodex.

But use such tools with a bit of caution. Definitely don’t put too much stock in the scores – they’re automated via a black-box algorithm and aren’t always going to be spot on. But they can give you clues as to where your strongest potential influencers are.

So who are your top social influencers? Klout may indeed help identify current trends with your influencers, but only to the extent it searches for influencer data (primarily Facebook and Twitter), and only through the lens of it’s mysterious algorithm.

Ultimately, your true top social influencers should be determined by more than just an automated-and-algorithmic tool. My suggestion is to continue building real relationships the old-fashioned way. But be vigilant with tools like Klout to maintain broader awareness of the influencers within your niche.

How do you connect with top social influencers?