Sad but true: I may have learned more about social media from the Twitter community in the last two months than I did during my entire university experience. My good friend Google and I have spent a lot of time together recently. When there’s something I want to know, I of course, consult Google – and what have I found? (Actually, it’s not so much what I’ve found, but rather who I’ve found)… a network of amazingly bright and like-minded people: online and social media influencers. These are the people who have helped me build a solid understanding of social media and I’m certain our relationship will continue throughout my career in PR. It’s important for any social media consultant to know why influencers are helpful/what they do and what qualities to look for when choosing an influencer for a campaign.
These influencers are worthy of said title. They are influencers not because they’re popular, have thousands of followers or Tweet the most. They’re influencers because they know the subject matter and because they communicate it well. Being an influencer means “having the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on, or produce effects on the actions, behaviours or opinions of others.” (Merci, dictionary.com) Ok, so then we can assume that social media influencers are those within the realm of social media who have the “force.”
Cool…but why do we need them? As Mashable author Paul Worthington said, “in today’s world, the way to achieve this is not through bigger advertising budgets or better creative, but through involvement.” Influencers make a living by recognizing the importance of involvement; spending the majority of their day doing just that – being involved – listening, responding and participating in the conversations taking place. It is just as important for you, the social media consultant, to do the same. You’ll need to be present, be human and take the time to connect with the influencers in your field.
Why work with influencers?
Working with an influencer can have amazing power. Consider traditional advertising vs. social media/online influencers: With traditional, companies spend an obscene amount of coin trying to influence consumers. In the online world, we see consumers voluntarily choosing to be influenced (think back to my recent post on word of mouth marketing). It makes sense to have your message delivered by someone the audience already knows, likes and trusts. (Transparency will always be important, though ) Subscribing to influencer blogs or their Twitter accounts might also help you to connect with other like-minded individuals, thereby building your community and online presence. Additionally, they often provide helpful information. These folks are well-connected and know the web! If you’re looking for a certain tool, a piece of advice or a related product, chances are good that they can point you in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to ask – I’m pretty sure they’re used to people coming to them for help and advice. Just make sure you ask nicely.
What makes a good influencer?:
Keren Dagan uses a great acronym (SWARM) to explain the qualities of an influencer. In addition to Keren’s explanation, I ultimately follow people who: teach me something new, write well and make me laugh. I prefer to follow people who act like people! They share their human side, like confusion and frustration – their challenges and triumphs. I also think that a good influencer is inclined to make personal connections. Maybe it’s just a blog comment or a Twitter mention, but it’s nice when either a) they make contact with me or b) invite me to make contact with them. Surely it’s a bit of an ego thing, but hey, the world is like that. We all like to be noticed and appreciated. Lastly, I also think a good influencer is one who does not keep the best tools and resources a secret, but rather, shares the best of the web and is willing to open doors for others to learn new things.
How to find the right influencer for your needs:
Ben Cotton has provided a great list of 10 free online tools to help you identify the right influencer – I highly recommend taking ten minutes to read his post. You should also consider “Klout” when searching for the most appropriate influencer.
- Influencers are people, too! They are not, at heart, salespeople who push products they’ve never tried. They care about their audience and will not jeopardize the trust they’ve built with their audience(s) by recommending something of no value.
- They cannot be bought (the good ones, anyway) and should abide by a set of moral guidelines. If they are being paid to promote something, they should mention it.
- They would probably like to know a bit about you before you pitch something to them – and likewise, you should spend some time learning about them. Follow their blog and their Tweets. Make your presence known…be on their radar, don’t just contact them at random and expect them to jump.
- If you’re going to send a trial product, be prepared for their honest opinion…and for them to share their opinion with everyone on the blogosphere!
Who is influencing me? (in no particular order):
- Todd Defren: I love his educational approach. He provides so many useful articles for people like me, who are trying to form a well-rounded understanding of SM. His “Social Media Jedi Academy” rocks.
- Darren Rowse: Darren is the the founder of ProBlogger – and he is just that – a pro blogger. Anything you want to know about making your blog better, he’s your man.
- Chris Brogan: Chris is a professional writer and public speaker, covering all topics surrounding social media and business communications. I always learn something from him.
- Rahaf Harfoush: As a young woman in PR, I really admire Rahaf. She was a major contributor to President Obama’s winning social media campaign and she continues to write and speak about web culture. She has a great series of blogs on her site, my favourite being “Well Played!“
- Jay Baer: Jay is an author, speaker and social media consultant and trainer. Take it from me, everything he posts is interesting and useful. I’ve especially appreciated his Twitter Interviews with 20 of today’s biggest social media influencers.
If my blog is somehow graced by the presence of an influencer or anyone who has had some experience with such individuals, I’d be interested to hear from both perspectives, how “the deal” really shakes down. After a company has found the right influencer to join their campaign, what happens? I’m also quite interested to know how the company and the influencer remain transparent and what the range of payment is for this kind of service. Please share your comments.