While the concept of steering marketing communications towards a small number of influential networkers isn’t new, the idea of quantifying and using online influence has only truly taken flight recently. As social networks continue to grow rapidly, so has interest in influence. Global companies are realizing the importance of targeting high profile bloggers, journalists and celebrities, and have increasingly sought to reach out to these influencers for word-of-mouth (or “like”) endorsements.
Local is a natural extension of this this idea, as brands increasingly look to target influencers based on their geography.
Klout, which launched in 2008 with the idea of empowering all influencers to benefit from their networks, was in the news last week with the announcement of its own version of brand pages called Brand “Squads.” Klout calls these pages a “way of giving influencers a place to be recognized and have a direct impact on the brands they care about most.” And while influencers get excited for their potential to be recognized by top brands, social media marketers also have plenty of reasons to be excited for this cool new tool. Klout’s new Brand Squads will showcase the top 10 influencers of that brand. These are the people who most frequently talk about that brand on their own social networks. You also have the ability to see the top 100 influencers.
So what do you do with these people? If you have a list of brand loyalists, you have a list of people who are willing to provide you with feedback about your business — people who genuinely care about your growth because it has an impact on their life. Make them feel like an integral member of your community, and ask them to write reviews, be beta testers on new product rollouts, and refer you to others that might like to use your products or services. If you can identify these influencers by geography, they can be converted into brand advocates who can potentially drive new customers to your locations.
To help on that front Klout is also releasing a new mobile iPhone app, via their two-month old acquisition of Blockboard, a company that had been working on geo-location-based social network. An Android app is also in the works.
Another player in the game is Kred, which launched in 2011. Rather than measuring users on scores, it ranks according to ‘influence’ (when others retweet, reply or follow you) and ‘outreach level’ (when users reply, retweet or follow a new person or list).
So how does it differ to Klout? Well, unlike Klout, Kred provides a breakdown of your activity and updates your Kred score in real-time, rather than daily. Additionally, Kred lets users add offline ‘real world achievements’ that add points to your score depending on factors such as size of company, timescales and certificates. Similarly to Klout, Kred also uses a +Kred system for you to reward your peers.
Kred also places users in communities based on twitter bios and the hashtags and keywords from users’ posts. Each community receives a Kred score and Kred users that have shown particular leadership in their community are named ‘Kred Leaders’. Kred markets to brands by providing them with a list of Twitter users who are most influential in these communities.
Last week the company announced the Kred API, which allows marketers and others to find influential people based on their data mine of hundreds of billions of social media conversations from Twitter, Facebook posts, and 40 million blogs forums and other sources. The data is indexed and filtered to allow discovery of people discussing any topic by their keywords, hashtags, bio, interactions, location or community.
With this feature, brands can pinpoint influential people on any subject or within communities connected by shared interests or affinities. As well, location-based data can be returned for any keyword, hashtag or @name.
Traackr is another tool that let you indentify influencers in a particular field through something called Alpha Lists. This is a great way to segment influencers based on a particular topic of interest. Yesterday, Traackr announced a geo-targeting search feature that enables you to segment these Alpha List influencers by country. While it only supports Canada, the US and UK, the company plans on quickly rolling out other countries and even city segmentation. Full disclosure, the location-based marketing A-List (as seen below) is curated by me and shows the concept nicely.
It’s clear that for brands there is an ever-increasing array of tools available to help us find the true local advocate. We must remember, however, that influence is not only the ability to drive awareness and get recognition, but also a function of credibility, expertise and the ability to convince people to make decisions. In many situations, salespeople are the most important influencers of decisions, but they may not have any presence in social media.
Like most things, the answer is situational. For consumer companies with mass audiences, the factors measured by Klout, Kred and Traackr are probably pretty good indicators of a person’s ability to create awareness. For B2B companies, you need to look entirely outside of those areas. Analysts, media, peers, resellers, government officials, regulators and even academics can be far more influential than anyone in social media.
Asif R. Khan is a veteran tech start-up, business development and marketing entrepreneur currently serving the community as founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (The LBMA). Weekly podcaster at This Week In Location Based Marketing every Monday. Can be found at @AsifRKhan @TheLBMA on Twitter.