There is a lot of debate surrounding how to identify real relevant brand influencers, how to reach them and how to educate them effectively while tracking the effects of their influence. This debate is closely related to the social media ROI debate which has two camps - The first camp believes ROI can be directly measured through analytics while the second camp believes there's hidden intangible brand benefits that can't be directly measured, but represent the true value of social media.
Inbound marketers are in the business of effecting and influencing behavior not character, development or some other intangible touchy-feely item. Those may indeed be secondary or tertiary effects, but they are irrelevant because it is only behavior that can be measured and tracked. Therefore, identifying and tracking influencers has a direct correlation to actions and the results of said actions.
If influencer John Doe makes Jane Doe think twice about buying a widget, but Jane still doesn't buy a widget did John really influence Jane? To an inbound marketer the answer is no, because Jane thinking twice instead of once to take the action of purchasing a widget is immeasurable and intangible.
The idea of tangibility and measurement being the key to success is not new. In fact, Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War over 2,300 years ago that:
Earth gives birth to length.
Length gives birth to volume.
Volume gives birth to counting.
Counting gives birth to weighing.
Weighing gives birth to victory.
In other words, the metrics that we, as inbound marketers, have at our finger tips is the key to identifying influencers, measuring the effectiveness of reaching them, and tracking the effects of their influence. This means that social media influence is and always will be a number. Otherwise, inbound marketers will be stuck in the world of the intangibles with no way of measuring performance, correlation or ROI.
Below is a list of tools that can help inbound marketers identify, effectively reach and track influencers. While this list is certainly not all-encompassing, it provides a first-rate tool-set for inbound marketers.
Social media professionals and inbound marketers that wish to rely on immeasurable intangibles to produce results for their clients won't be around very long. Clients demand results in the form of leads and/or new customers not number of followers or friends. If you have more tools, tips or best practices for identifying, reaching and tracking influencers please leave them below as a comment.
Image of Sun Tzu: polromeu
Thursday, September 29, 2011 @ 1:00 PM EDT
Join Kuno Creative's Chris Knipper (CEO) and John McTigue (EVP) as they present results from our first 30 days experience using the very latest marketing automation tools.