Social Media Influence: For the Prosumer, the Context Will Always be the Queen!

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In the past few years a number of start-ups, such as Klout, Peerlndex and Kred, have been offering Web applications that make it possible for companies and organisations to identify the most influential social media users.

These analytical tools, based on private algorithms, help to identify those users that are the most active within the social networks, and award them a specific social score, depending on what metrics they use. They gauge these users’ activity and their level of commitment on the main networks (Twitter and Facebook) and work out the influencers’ social capital.

The amount of influence exerted within the social networks has now become part of any marketing strategy devised by professionals and companies. Today, they have access to more than thirty different applications on the Web. This new market has evolved very rapidly and the current leaders are continually competing against one another, by incorporating new platforms into their metrics and by offering new functionalities. And, if the trend continues, then we shall be seeing a number of other, serious players, with a more contextual approach, emerging in 2013.

Whether one likes it or not, within the new brand-name and professionals’ business environment of the social networks, the level of influence is absolutely essential in deciding any new marketing strategy. However, rather than being considered as a necessary evil, the list of influencers that emerge therefrom can prove to be an extremely powerful lever in a more contextual analysis. (read also: The Strategic Impact of TOP Charts, on WindMill Networking)

Understanding who can influence whom, and in what context

Marketing agencies have, however, also caught on that influence in social media is not a popularity competition and is not limited to social capital. So as to benefit fully from the power of recommendations and the viral effect of “word-of-mouth”, one first has to understand who can influence whom, and who can potentially become a new ambassador who will pass on the brand message in his/her networks.

In order to introduce a profitable influencer relationship, the Web professionals and companies have to look at it both from the point of view of the influencer (the expert) and from that of the one being influenced (the new consumer, who will potentially become a new ambassador).

As my mentor, Neal Schaffer, emphasizes (in the preface of my new book*), influence always depends on the context of the relationship between the influencer and the one being influenced: “If certain famous “Mommy bloggers” influence mothers that have just given birth, they themselves can, in turn, be influenced by “new mothers”, or mothers specializing in organic cooking who are prepared to share their recipes.” It doesn’t matter how much expertise and competence an influencer may have in his/her particular field, sooner or later, in some other context, it is he/she who will become the one influenced.  

This influence relationship will depend on several contextual factors, such as the timing when the conversation takes place and the geographical or demographic context in which it will take place. However, in order to fully comprehend the role of each of the players (who is influencing whom), one also has to try and understand what the aims of each of the two parties are and to ascertain the degree of receptivity between the two, vis-à-vis the other. One has to ask oneself just how relevant the message is and in what way it fulfils the expectations of the one being influenced. (read also : Four Ways Context Impacts Online Influence, by Evyenia Wilkins (VP Marketing) on the Traackr blog).

*[“Generation C and the power of Influencer Marketing”] coming out in 2013.

Traackr : Influencer lists put into context

Traackr is one of the new influencer contextual analysis platforms, about which you will be hearing a great deal in 2013. “Traackr was created in 2009 by its founders (the Frenchmen, Pierre-Loïc Assayag and David Chancogne) with the aim of rethinking the way influencers are sought on the Web, concentrating on individuals and their content, rather than on the success of their Web pages”, Nicolas Chabot, VP European Development, explained in an interview that he granted me in December.

“The objective is to be able to identify who are the most important individuals and, therefore, which are the contents that have the greatest impact on specific subjects. Traackr makes it possible to find individuals from all of their public conversations, on the basis of a search by key-words that define the subject matter/the community in question.”

This sophisticated search engine is at the heart of the start-up activities located in San Francisco. “This unique search engine makes it possible for communication and marketing professionals to identify, get-to-know and monitor the main opinion leaders on the social Web, those that one would designate as influencers in their sectors. It makes it possible for them to implement their influencer marketing campaigns on the Web, concretely and easily, by having direct access to the most relevant content published by experts in their community. The way it operates, the tool incorporates as many blogs as it does social networks,” explains Nicolas Chabot.

In order to evaluate the impact of the influencers that emerge from the search results, the company has twinned it with an algorithm which creates a classification on the basis of the three main pillars of influence in social networks: reach, resonance and, in particular, relevance of the message. (read also: The Pillars of Influence and How To Activate Cause and Effect, from Brian Solis, of the Altimeter Group).

“As opposed to Klout or Kred, for example, the Traackr tool is not a social game. It is rather a means towards the three criteria: reach, resonance and relevance, which make it possible for us to classify the individuals that we find. The score for relevance (relevance in as far as it relates to the research carried out) is weighted because we are convinced that influence is deeply contextual,” maintains Nicolas Chabot.

An improved interface and a wealth of new applications

Up until last autumn, the Traackr search engine only took English content into account. Now, since January, the tool incorporates French content (and influencers), as well. In the course of the year, Traackr intends to develop other European markets, including Germany. The development team is currently upgrading on a geolocation functionality which will also make it possible to better target influencers by country and major cities of the world, more easily.

From the dashboard, the user is able to access the influencer’s detailed profile and to connect directly to one or the other of the influencer’s accounts on the social networks. At the same time, he/she can review the key-words and add new influencers who will complete and improve the list. He/she can also filter influencers’ conversations by key-words and sort the “A-list” according to one or the other of the three measurement criteria (reach, resonance, relevance), in order to obtain new lists. In the final analysis, the user also benefits from advanced functionalities that make it possible to obtain detailed graphic reports for each list.

Even if the “A-list” of influencers that emerge from the results of the Traackr search engine come at a cost, they nevertheless offer several functionalities that make the investment worthwhile. Traackr is proving to be a very flexible tool for Web professionals, in whatever sector they may be.

TOP 25 – Generation C: A personalised list of influencers

I suggest that you have a look at the personalised list of influencers that I drew up with the Traackr tool, in order to test its capabilities. It is an initial list of social media influencers who write and blog regularly on the subject of the new generation of trendy consumers – the Generation C prosumers.

Since my original aim was to find other influencers on the subject, I deliberately removed myself from the list. I also excluded bloggers who continually relay the same content or those who publish intermittently on the subject, using curation tools, such as Paper.li or Scoop.it. And, finally, other bloggers whose content relevance only crops up from one, single key-word in the original search list.

Here then is the list: TOP 25 – Génération C. I was particularly pleased to find Neal heading the list, as well as several other bloggers who bear an influence on what I think of Generation C, on it.

I would therefore like to invite you, in turn, to comment on it and to suggest new key-words that would help to improve it. Tell us what do you think about this list of influencers. Is there someone who is missing? Share us your suggestions for new entries.

I would also like to thank Liane Blanchette, Evy Wilkins and Nicolas Chabot, of Traackr, who have kindly helped me to refine this list.

Raymond Morin
Raymond Morin contributes a monthly column on Social Media Influence. Raymond is a francophone author and speaker who has 20 years experience acting as a senior strategic consultant and coach for organizations, SMBs and independent professionals. Author of the books «Culture Web à la portée des PME» (2001) and «Comment entreprendre le virage 2.0» (2010), he has also contributed to several magazines and bloggers platforms over the years. His upcoming new book in French, entitled «Generation C et l’influence des consommateurs branchés», is prefaced by Neal Schaffer, and will be also published in English and Spanish during the next year. +Raymond Morin
Raymond Morin

@RaymondMorinV2

Consultant Médias sociaux Blogueur : Maximize Social Business, Curatti (eng.)/Le Planificateur, Virage 2.0 (fr.) Auteur : Comment entreprendre le virage 2.0
La 1ère bande-annonce du film de Joe Wright : Pan, avec Hugh Jackman dans le rôle du Capitaine Crochet http://t.co/ohFLVe5lQs via @YouTube - 3 hours ago
Raymond Morin
Social Media Marketing World

Comments

  1. says

    I guess I’m a little surprised the top people on the list have so few followers…less than a million combined doesn’t seem like much but what do I know…

    MrEnergyCzar

  2. says

    I never researched Klout until fairly recently. I have not even bothered to sign up for any of these social measuring programs. I do think that Klout is too easy to game. People can just swap klout with each other and then it is a game of who can trade more than anything else. So that is not a true measure of influence. Looking at the content that individuals creates seems to be a better approach to me. This is why Google is working on Author Rank and similar programs. Certainly looking at the size of the network, shares, and comments and other content should all be included in coming up with a score. In the end it is just an arbitrary score. But, someone will find a way to do it better.

  3. says

    Context and local flavor is very import I agree fully. No matter how strong my influence is within the China and or tech communities means nothing if the brand is targeted elsewhere.That is why I have always tried to where many hats.

  4. says

    Nice experiment. The more sophisticated influence measurement tools like Traackr and Appinions are so exciting! (And unfortunately completely out of my league – so I’m stuck with Klout, lol)

    Regarding keywords you could try to add singulars where right now the list has only plurals. I don’t know how Traackr handles this, but Google, for example, delivers significantly more results for “User Generated Content” compared to “Users Generated Content.”

    Some authors have placed Gen C primarily in the ‘Millennials’ demographics, so it’s a related keyword, as might be gen x, gen y, and gen z. But using those as keyword in this search might lead astray. I haven’t used any of those tools, but my guess is a smaller, tighter keyword list will give the best results.

  5. says

    I think one person you are missing on the list is Mari Smith. She’s everywhere with tens of thousands in her tribe. This is a great overview of Gen C which I had not heard about before this. Would social media thought leader be a term to flush out others? Appreciate the comparison of the influence tools.

  6. says

    An interesting effort, but I would like to understand the theoretical/research underpinnings of the theory. At first I thought this might be tougher to game than Klout or Kred; then your own list was created with exclusions of folks you estimated might have ‘gamed’ their ranking. Lots of data, but still limited understanding.

  7. Jason Wagner says

    Very interesting and compelling points. I find myself mostly agreeing, so, ah – thanks for the read.

    • says

      I agree with your point DES Daughter, if this is a paid option and not picking up everyone and only signed up members, it would not be a true reflection of what is actually happening.

      I agree with Patricia Weber; Mari Smith, Jeff Bullas, Kim Garst and Chris Brogan to name a few appear to be missing.

      Keywords selected may possibly not be encompassing quite what you are requiring.

  8. says

    The keyword list – well, professionals in this sector know these keywords, but I would suggest there’s a group of people searching for “social media experts” yes, ugh, but true. And what about phrases used in the original Klout groups, like “thought leader” and one or two others that don’t come to mind right now? “Social media professionals” or “best of…” could also attract.That way you have some influence over the less professionally engaged groups of people who could use the list as a reference.

  9. says

    Creating targets for potential outreach using social media is a great strategy, but finding a group of B-listers will sometimes be more effective as they are more willing to interact with a new arrival or brand. The top people will be watching, that is how they ended up being on top, so when you start interacting with the thought leaders they will be much more receptive to one’s opinions and viewpoints.

    That being said, creating a targeted approach is a powerful way to market a new brand.

  10. says

    I must admit that I find that a lot of this sort of stuff goes straight over my head. It’s a bit like quantum physics, whereby rules seem to get reversed as the scale increases.

    There is also the fact that much of the data is unsubstantiated and inaccurate. e.g. Web-site membership numbers are apparently based on registered e-mails – regardless of whether the people have abandoned them, or created fake profiles, lie about their ages, jobs and other personal details. Even if they are dead their ‘membership’ still counts.

    I think that some knowledge is better than nothing but I also think that too much knowledge can be dangerous.

    Finally – very few surveys are correctly structured and therefore those results when used as data will skew the work of those who use them to ‘forecast’.

  11. says

    Interesting article. One of the problems I think that anyone will face in trying to measure online influence is that it is a moving target, The elements that make up ‘engagement’ are wildly different today than they were even 2 years ago. How then, are we supposed to create a system to measure something that will be fundamentally different before we get around to measuring it? I think the answer (for marketers anyway) will probably not come in the form of another black-box score (ala Klout) rather in a series of measurements that help to illustrate the various aspects of online engagement.

    • says

      Because the algorithms of the likes of Klout etc are hidden from us how can anyone know exactly how relevant their projected score is compared to real life influance?

      I believe that while there are so many of these so called influance measuring tools available each one devalues the other!

  12. langer5635 says

    Interesting article. Being able to parse the proper context can allow organizations to sculpt their social message to their target audience as well as track those having success in a particular sector/niche. Traackr from my limited knowledge seems to allow a break from tools that measure the broad scale influence and seems to be set up to allow a granular view.

  13. says

    I am not sure just how well some of these engines work. For instance , I have gave klout left right and centre, moved up a point and fallen the next day and when I am about to quit it, my klout shoots up 2 points! I say forget the competition and just post great content!

  14. says

    Interesting perspective. Ad agencies were in love with influencers long before social media hit the scene, so finding a reasonable way to track influence is a key priority. As one of the posters above noted, top influencers are not always the most important — reaching a large number of “A-/B+” influencers could end up giving a brand more impact than a campaign aimed at just the top people that everyone tries to reach.

  15. says

    Fascinating topic, it will be interesting to see how this will unfold in the future. In my opinion if you are at all serious about social media then organised feedback is necessary to be successful.

  16. says

    Would think that in some cases social media measure is a popularity contest. Especially where brands and contests intersect such as in the cases on klout.

  17. says

    Popularity and reputation and how they could be measured throughout the internet and especially in social media – this will be one of the biggest competitions in the upcoming years.
    In my opinion algorithms like they are used e.g. to determine relevant search results will become less important. New tools will be launched to help find influencers in millions. However the final decision will stay with the user as a machine will never be able to calculate social relevance.

  18. says

    The concept is interesting and especially the idea of creating a search engine that determines top influencers on topic is a great tool, however I have learned that all top influencers are being influenced by others (smaller fishes) who in general are far more interesting and much more approachable to get something done! Once you can find who for example influences one of the leading Mommy Bloggers… it is easy to get your ideas spread all over. Bottom down never works as well, at the top they just spread and share, the actual creation of content is way down in the ranks! Get to them and you get to playing the game… the top will just do their magic!

  19. says

    Interesting. I am always fascinated with Social Media metrics. I will be interested in seeing how this new metric start up approaches the measurement of influence.

  20. Kelvin Myles says

    Interesting article and interesting list of influencers from Traackr. As a paid solution I’m sure it’s a wonderful tool, however, my feeling is that people would pay more attention to free solutions.

    From my point of view all of the social trackers suffer from the same problem. They reflect publicly available interaction only and require self promotion to do well at – not that there is anything wrong with that of course :)

  21. says

    Well, this article is apparently quite insightful, but as I’ve just started using social media (despite my being online since 1993!) I find that the article discusses a lot of points about which I’ve no knowledge. However, I’m observing that social media scores can easily be gamed and the scores become misleading! Will check the Traackr. Thanks.

  22. says

    Raymond – I really like where you are headed with this article. I have been thinking along similar lines regarding influencers. There will always be a need to weed out influential from noisy.

    Plus as you asked in your article to speak up if you left anyone out, all the metrics and analysis won’t catch everyone. The human element is still necessary to the equation.

    Traackr is an incredibly advanced tool. I want to see how it will be used differently by skilled and informed users vs people who think that tools = talent.

    I also want to see what falls out between media numbers for their own sake vs content. Would their be influencers out there with stronger numbers if they were doing more self-promotion? Is it possible to find them?

  23. says

    I think this was a well thought out article. Totally agree with the big three things measured. Someone earlier referenced it rating those who had signed up – may have missed that being rebutted. Nonetheless, there are some emerging platforms that seem to measure things better than the gamed systems. Time will tell

  24. says

    Wow, this is fascinating stuff! I’m pretty new to the concept of ‘influence’, but have been getting the distinct impression that Klout and Kred are mostly a lot of swapping and clogging up my Twitter feed. :-) Thanks for this article!

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