DISCOVERING YOUR INFLUENCER SERIES: Going Social To Find Your Place

SearchNot all your influencers will be measured with metrics. In fact, you might actually have to just look at the syntax and context of what people write to determine whether they are considered influential. No, these things are not black and white and straight-forward. On the contrary, it’s rather subjective. Sure, you can look at the┬ánumbers┬áthat services like Klout provides you for Twitter or determine someone’s influence based on how many articles that person wrote & is bookmarked on Del.icio.us, but influencers can also be found through other social media channels beyond being highlighted prominently. In fact, you could find some really great influencers just by paying attention to the community.

Be a part of the global team

You would think it would be simple enough to just find people who can help you out just by resigning yourself to Twitter. Why? Because with a larger complex beast like Facebook, YouTube or Flickr, you’re just not really sure how to quantify and qualify what a influencer is. But yes, while it’s a bit more work, trust me when I say that you’ll be rewarded for doing some due diligence. Just because someone is on Twitter does not mean it’s a mutually exclusive relationship. They may not be on Twitter, but may be a member of a Facebook group. Or, they may be a member of both Twitter and Facebook. You just don’t know.

Your Facebook group speaks volumes. Turn it up!

If you happen to be on Facebook, then chances are that you’re probably also part of at least one group. No, not a fan page, but rather those pages that were set up by a community and not company-sponsored. If you’re looking to see who would be the most vocal in your community then you want to find these organic communities. Granted you’re going to have a lot of communities centered around a particular topic or genre, but the best way is to find out who is the most outspoken and can speak intelligently in the forums. That person might be more influential. The key here is not to find the one group with the most members. In fact you’re going to need to do a bit of work and examine the groups that appear to be more relevant. Some groups are more specific than you intended so make sure you do your homework.

Facebook Groups

Above is a good example of what I’m talking about. In past blog posts where I talked about finding your influencers online, I mentioned the “photography” example – let’s stick with that for now. I’m trying to find groups on Facebook that talk about photography. Under the social network’s search bar, I typed the query “photography”. From there, I generated several pages of groups that talked about photography, but not all of them were centered specifically around the art. In the above screenshot, you can see that out of the five groups shown, there are two that specifically say they are involved in photography. What a business should do then is to investigate further to see if this is the right type of group and whether any influencer exist here. Don’t be mislead by the fact that there are only 174 members in a group. Just because there are so few people in a group does NOT mean that the people there are not any less influential than someone in a group with 10,000 members or even 100,000 members. But don’t also assume that you’re going to find an influencer in every group.

Wait, so does that mean we’re back to the beginning? No. It doesn’t. Just because you can’t find an influencer in one group doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist. Look through a series of Facebook groups to see if there’s a common denominator. Is one person frequently posting on multiple groups, answering questions, uploading photos, leading discussions, etc.? If so, then that person may be of interest to talk to. From there you can look at their Facebook profile and see whether “photography” is something of interest to them as a hobby or profession. Look to see what other insights they may have to offer and then you might consider contacting them to see if they’re able to influence the community.

The multimedia community

What kinds of influencers are you looking for? Bloggers? Are you looking for just those that are writing reviews and commentary or are you looking for those that would also offer their insights in other medias like video or photos? Video bloggers are pretty good at being influencers. By looking at other sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, etc., you’ll be able to find not only different communities, but also other people you should cater to. Just because they report on your industry and/or topic in a different media doesn’t mean that they should be ignored. Look at what people are active within forums and discussion boards within these different social networks. Do a search on each site to see what comes up.

YouTube

As you can see in the above screenshot, in YouTube, I decided to do a query on “photography” and up came several results, some talking about digital photography, wedding photography and other topics of interest. If I was releasing a product that was targeted towards wedding photographers, I might look at the third result on this page (“Masters of Wedding Photography”). But again, just because the title of the video supposedly talks about wedding photography doesn’t mean that they automatically qualify as influencers. In fact, it could be one giant link bait and therefore needs to be scrutinized. But if the author stands up to the review, then you should look at the other videos created by the author and find out if they’ve created other similar videos that would make them even more influential.

And while I might only cover YouTube, you can apply this same logic to any of the social networks like MySpace, Flickr, etc. The point is to make sure that you find someone who is really influential through their frequent interaction with the community.

Don’t forget the professionals

Some people might think that LinkedIn is nothing more than just “Monster.com meets social network”, but in fact there’s so much more to it. Just because social networks like Facebook and Twitter are more conversational and the aura around LinkedIn is more professional and job focused, doesn’t mean that you can’t find the people of influence. Quite the contrary, you might be able to find the people you’re looking for.

Did you know that LinkedIn has a groups page? You can create groups relating to practically any type of topic on the site. By joining these groups, you’ll be able to do exactly what you are able to do on Facebook or YouTube – scour through and find the people who are the most engaging and reach out to them.

LinkedIn

But separate from LinkedIn groups, you can basically get a good view at individual people’s “resumes” and get a good gauge as to whether or not they’re worth being considered. What do I mean by this? If you’re looking for “photography” influencers, on LinkedIn, do a search for photography. Leave the type of search left as “people” and see who pops up. If you had done other searches for influencers on other sites like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube or Twitter, you might want to look to see if there’s any similar names that pop up. Granted it’s like doing a search through a whole bunch of resumes, but some keywords that might be included in there might be relevant to your cause. Once you’ve found your influencers, see if they have any external links or relevant experience that caters to your “photography” marketing purposes.

Another option for finding influencers is to search for companies and people following them on LinkedIn. The information that you’ll find there might give you a glimpse at some companies you might want to reach out to when finding people relating to your “photography” influencer hunt. If, for example, you’re promoting a product for Canon camera users, then you might want to reach out to companies that typically review those products or affiliate members to see what they might say. Say you’re in charge of finding people to look at camera straps developed by a third-party company, someone that might be interested would be a professional camera shop whose company is listed on LinkedIn OR if you want maybe get someone at Canon or Nikon to take a look at your product. The point is that you can be really creative in finding your influencers by going to where those people are online.

Socialization online is a good thing to find your influence

Don’t be afraid about going online and using social networks to find the people who can help generate buzz. In fact, it’s probably better than resorting to word of mouth. While I’ve only covered a few services here compared to the dozens of social networks out there, the general premise is the same…look closely at what some people are saying, explore groups, see who really is standing out the most and who is generating the most comments, likes, feedback and favorites. These are really important and can give you a basic starting point on who you need to look at and consider to be an influencer.

In my next post on the Influencer series, we’ll look at social monitoring tools like ScoutLabs, Attensity360, Radian6, etc for how companies can leverage that to build out an influencer database – could it be simpler than going through all these steps?

Photo Credit: wagg66 / sxc.hu

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."