How Digital Influencers Can Help Your Business

Every day, 55 million Facebook statuses are updated. The stream of information on the internet is staggeringly fast. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has stated that every two days, the amount of information published online is equivalent to everything created between the dawn of time and 2003 – 5 extrabytes of data. The internet has fundamentally changed the way consumers discover information and connect, and one of the most significant ways is the rising concept of digital influence.

Author and Social Media Expert Mark Schaefer has highlighted the fact that degrees and social status matter far less to a person’s share of voice than they did a few decades ago – instead of classic credentials, anyone can theoretically become a thought leader in a niche with continual effort. Given the fact that consumers still care more about recommendations from humans than branded content, your company’s best bet for coming into the center stage is connecting your content marketing strategy with digital influencers.

What Are Digital Influencers?

Simply defined, individuals with online influence are “digital tastemakers.” Through social media or content marketing strategy, influencers act as an impetus to their audience and define future trends. Altimeter Group analyst Brian Solis has categorized three primary categories within the concept:

  • reach (total social followers)
  • resonance (frequency of publishing)
  • relevance (authority).

Image Courtesy of Altimeter Group

One of the best real-life examples of the power of digital influence comes from one of last summer’s catchiest pop hits, Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me, Maybe? Pop Star Justin Bieber shared a link to a cover of the song via his Twitter account, which immediately escalated the song to the #1 spot on the charts for 9 consecutive weeks, and inspired countless other covers. While most companies can only dream of being exposed to Bieber’s 38 million-strong follower base, the song’s overnight success illustrates the power of people with an engaged audience.

How to Find Key Influencers

There’s no single metric that defines digital influence, and even complex algorithms to measure the impact of an individual’s online presence can miss the mark. As Solis has pointed out, ‘influence is…not computed by a standard formula.” Using quantifiable measures in addition to total social media followers is critical, especially given the fact that “likes” and followers can so easily be purchased.

One of the best, free tools for discovering influence is HypeAuditor, a free social network which uses 50 different factors to determine resonance, true reach and relevance, as well as the categories in which individuals are defining tastes. Comprehensive research of Klout can be performed with Buzztalk’s paid tool.

How to Communicate with Influencers

In many cases, a digital influencer’s “tribe” of followers is a critical component of their income. In virtually every instance, their engaged following is hard-won, and far more easily lost, as we see almost daily in backlash against celebrity’s actions on Twitter or Facebook. As ScienceDirect points out, the difference between a key influencer’s following, and that of an average person’s is the ability to scale close relationships.

Many of the most-prominent social media influencers and bloggers receive dozens, if not hundreds, of PR pitches a day, and it’s critical to frame your requests in a way that outlines clear benefit. Here are some tips to ensure your request stands out:

  • Research Influencers Carefully: Just because an individual has a highly-engaged social media following doesn’t mean their audience will care about your product. Ensure your content and solutions are a strong fit for their personal brand.
  • Pitch Thoughtfully: Individuals who receive a large volume of PR pitches can smell a copied-and-pasted request a mile away. Personalize your emails, Tweets, or messages.
  • Define Why: What can an influencer get out of promoting your product or service? How will it benefit their audience? Are you willing to offer compensation, or free product? Clearly, and briefly, define the “why” of your request.

The example below demonstrates an example of a pitch done the wrong way: it’s impersonal, and poorly-edited.

Image Courtesy of SpinSucks

Simply Tweeting at Bieber won’t offer much benefit to your business. Not only is there a high chance your message will be ignored, unless your product appeals to the demographics of his follower base, your company wouldn’t receive much benefit either. The key to leveraging the new power of digital influencers is identifying the people who are setting trends in your niche. Approach them carefully after research, and your product or service could be catapulted into view of just the right audience.

Is your business currently leveraging digital influencers for more exposure? How do you identify and connect with high-profile social media users?