Dr. Dave Chaffey is CEO and co-founder of Smart Insights, an online publisher who provide guides, templates and training to help businesses succeed online. Dave has worked with a number of companies including 3M, BP, HSBC. He is author of 5 bestselling books on Ecommerce including Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice which was first published in 2000. Dave has been recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of Marketing. You can follow Dave on LinkedIn or Twitter.
G: How would you define a social media “influencer”?
D: The adoption of Facebook, Linked In and Twitter means that today everyone is an influencer! The question is, how much more influential are the “super influencers”? So there’s a continuum of the extent of influence and any definition has to reflect this. Since we’re wanting influencers to enhance our brand, I believe traditional brand metrics should be used to assess the value of an influencer. So for me, an influencer is simply someone who will be most effective in increasing brand awareness, familiarity, favourability and purchase intent. I think this is a helpful way to look at influencer effectiveness, since it shows that influence is not just about increasing reach and so awareness of the brand, but also changing perceptions, ultimately leading to direct value to the brand through incremental leads and purchases. Within consumer groups I found the Gartner research useful since it identified “Salesmen,’ ‘Connectors’ and ‘Mavens’ as most influential.
G: How do you measure the influence?
D: My personal interest in measuring influence is to help me keep up-to-date with the latest thinking on digital marketing in order to help me develop my advice. I advise companies on how to develop digital strategies and of course, social media marketing is a big part of that. So I have the challenge of needing to know who to pay attention to, what’s hot, since I also advise on many other channels like search, affiliate and email marketing, not to mention website design and conversion rate optimisation! I pay little attention to number of followers on Twitter, although that’s a starting point to scan tweets to review the quality of their posts. Wefollow can be useful for seeing who is most followed in different categories. But the use of autofollow bots mean that still many are gaming the system. Rather than the most influential people or sites, I find it’s often useful to identify the most popular or shared content on a topic and then that helps you identify current influencers. To help this, PostRank is an underused tool – this uses a combination of number of Facebook shares, tweets and an estimate of views to finds the most influential content. These type of measures are really what we need to assess for the individual influencer their number of connections, sharing and impression. On a professional level, I’d advise companies to use our compilation of the many social media listening tools to review the best systems to help identify the influencers. For the companies I speak to, Radian 6, SM2 and Social Radar seem most widely adopted. Of course tools like Vocus which identify traditional media influencers are useful too. I’m surprised that many SEO agencies haven’t used these tools, there’s such a huge overlap between social media marketing, online PR and SEO today, that’s it’s essential these are tackled in a joined up way. Going back to how measure influence, for a free tool I’d recommend Social Mention which many will know of. This gives you reach, but also ideas on sentiment and passion. I also rate Twitalyser.
G: Who/What is influencing you on Social Media Properties?
D: Like many, I listen to and influenced by the published US commentators like Chris Brogan, Jay Baer, Seth Godin and Brian Solis. The Alimeter analysts, particularly Jeremiah Owyang and Charlene Li are also essential to listen to for applying social media marketing for big brands. The leading book publishers do a good job of identifying these influencers really – they won’t sign a deal with anyone. I’d say all of these guys are essential reading for digital marketing strategists today. We don’t really have their equivalent in the UK or Europe, so we tend to take the lead from the US in this area I think although we have good thinkers in the other areas of digital marketing I mentioned above. So in the UK, the most influential sites are the top social media marketing agencies. WeAreSocial is the one I follow most closely.
G: What are the key mistakes when targeting influencers and how to avoid them?
D: It’s easiest to influence the less influential who you have more personal contacts with, so not targeting the more major influencers is a mistake. If you’re strategic you put your effort into reaching the more influential. Direct and traditional PR approaches work best here. I feel this form of online PR, let’s call it “blogger outreach” is under estimated by many companies. I’ve found that directly contacting the influencers by messaging won’t usually work, instead meeting in real world at a conference is the best, perhaps only way to build the rapport and trust needed. Perhaps contacting direct is a mistake, ask who can I use in my network to form the initial relationship with the influencer. Klout and LinkedIn can help here to find out the influencers current contacts. It can also be a mistake to think that traditional and online publishers in your market aren’t influential just because they may not have a well-known face behind them. It’s not just the well-known influencers who influence by their blogs, most traditional publishers have blogs and there is an opportunity here to have an audience through using their platform. For example, I syndicate my content on SmartInsights.com to iMediaConnection.com and MyCustomer.com which allows me to reach and influence a wider audience with only limited repurposing of existing content. Thinking of all influencers it’s important to thank or reward influencers, it’s natural in the real world, but there often isn’t time to thank everyone, but I’ve found that thanking other social network users does help continue their recommendations of your content. Likewise reciprocating is a natural thing to do which is effective, but many not happen due to lack of time or a process. So those are some of the mistakes, another way to avoid these is to have a good process. Danyl Bosomworth, one of our expert commentators on SmartInsights.com has 5 Steps to an Influencer Strategy that can help here. The steps are:
- Identify your influencers!
- What’s in it for me and them – understand the value exchange for different types of influencers.
- Set goals and listen.
- Develop relationships.
- Avoid self-promotion.
G: Do you think targeting influencers is overrated or is it an important part of Social Media Strategy?
D: Certainly not, it definitely should be a key part of social media strategy, although my experience tells me it often isn’t! For me, targeting influencers and identifying content publishing partners is one of the best ways to build awareness and traffic in online marketing. I think it’s also under-recognised with many companies instead turning to SEO which is hard work, unpredictable and can take time and paid search which they find to be too expensive.