From the Influencers

Social Influencer Modeling Gains Traction

February 26, 2016

One of the nice things about having a social media strategy is that it’s possible to glean a vast wealth of knowledge about brand recognition, audience reach, campaign engagement metrics, recommendations and more, which can be put back into a feedback loop to improve business processes and outcomes. This becomes especially interesting considering that 92 percent of consumers give more weight to recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.

A white paper released this week from management consulting firm North Highland pointed out that because of this, smart brands are applying “influencer modeling” (IM), which harnesses analytics in ways standard reports don’t, by combining an individual's visibility with shared interests.

The paper discloses that while companies can use readily available tools to capture detailed intelligence to better segment and target potential customers or develop new products or services, the concept of identifying the right influencers at the right time is being lost in the shuffle. Staggeringly, a full 80 percent of companies active in social media do not use associated analytics to direct or inform their customer experience strategy at all.

"If we are to understand human behaviors so that we might impact those behaviors at the moment of choice, we must understand how humans are connected and how they move through their social networks," said Mike Lang, senior director at North Highland's experience design division, Sparks Grove. "Applying social network theory allows us to understand why relationships form and what perpetuates them. This also helps deliver a more human-centered experience."

The IM concept goes beyond simply focusing on what messages to push, to crafting a more engaged approach that asks, "who is saying what matters most and to whom?" Armed with that answer, companies can use the information to guide strategic initiatives such as product launches, positioning and understanding consumer buying behavior.

According to Lang, "The data you need to inform strategy and provide in-depth customer insight is out there, within the highly complex web of social media. Influencer modeling organizes that far-reaching data and puts it to work." 

It’s a message that resonates: 64 percent of marketing executives believe word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing. But, only 6 percent say they’ve mastered it.

For most brands, the truly influential members in a social network make up 3 percent to 5 percent of followers. They are not easy to find and not obvious. The report explained that IM finds them through a series of calculations that look at two unique dimensions of an individual’s impact across a network: influence potential, which looks at the strength of connections through reciprocity, and amplification potential, which considers the degree to which an individual’s messages are viewed as credible, interesting and are passed along to others. The combination of high influence and high amplification  is the sweet spot, those highly valuable individuals who can spread a message broadly with huge potential to be passed further along to others.

Here’s an real-world example of how this kind of modeling can work in action: A global beverage company wanted to better understand who amongst their followers would be most likely to engage with and amplify messaging from the brand. IM identified 980 key influencers from the brand’s 300,000 followers who had high levels of mutual relationships and a proven ability to pass messages along and drive engagement. Once the influencers were identified a key question remained: what do these influencers care about, and what type of brand content would drive the highest word-of-mouth influence?

Using IM, the company was able to identify key themes – Disney, NASCAR and Danica Patrick, CSR and sustainability, for example – which when married to messages about the beverage brand, these were found to most likely to gain viral traction and gain brand exposure for the company.

“The real data is living in the emotional depths to which we have been willing to engage in our social media networks,” the report noted. “It is in the resonance and realness of our relationships there. It is in the trust we place in word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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