Why Marketers Need to Rethink Influencer Targeting

February 27th, 2015

Why Marketers Need to Rethink Influencer Targeting

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a significant shift in the way brands utilize social media. It’s no longer simply about brand awareness, or even community building, though those elements remain foundationally important.

As companies have built out their social media teams, the tools those teams use mature, and best practices have been honed. Likewise, social marketers are expanding the possibilities of what can be achieved. In fact, social is no longer treated as an exploratory endeavor—it’s a critical component of any marketing program and is expected to drive real value for a business.

Leading the push in this brave new world of quantifiable, and thus accountable, social media has been the renewed emphasis on influencer marketing. Social has laid bare those people (who sometimes are not even people as much as avatar personalities) that have an enormous reach. Millions of followers, thousands of retweets, and, by a little logical squinting, enormous trust and credibility.

In a lot of ways, influencer marketing has just become a numbers game, the equivalent of link-baiting or SEO. And it can be incredibly effective, at least if your concern is racking up retweets and likes.

But should it be?

Measuring What Matters

Likes and retweets are fairly hollow metrics when they aren’t put in context. They may look good in the social media report from a campaign, but are they really impacting the bottom line of your business? Are those retweets actually converting new customers for your company?

That’s not to say that all influencer marketing is a waste. Far from it, actually. In an age where the numbers can be inflated, there is real value in receiving the endorsement from proven, trusted individuals that are speaking to your target audience. It’s just that too much of influencer marketing today is done with the desperation of “spray and pray”: hoping that a highly networked person will amplify your message to customers and essentially do the social marketer’s job for them .

Too much of influencer marketing still places value on quantity over quality, which is counter-intuitive to the idea of influencer marketing to begin with. That kind of thinking neglects the end-goal of marketing and even ignores social media’s primary value.

At its best, social media helps you discover and engage with those influencers in your space who become advocates for your business, because it allows for the kind of matchmaking that is a win-win for customers and companies.

When you do that, your odds of converting those engagements into revenue or ongoing attention increase dramatically. That’s what needs to be measured—the impact of your social efforts on business goals. The most common analytics on social are merely indicators that need to be tied to something bigger.

Targeting for Relevance vs. Revenue

Social media tools are finally evolving to allow marketers to better achieve the kind of meaningful engagement that can scale. You can’t reach out to every potential customer directly, but we can better hone outreach and engagement to those influencers that matter most for our brand. Traditionally, this targeting has been based solely on topical relevance from keywords and follower counts, but that’s not enough anymore.

You have to think about who the ideal person or influencer is for your brand and how they can engage and inspire their audience to enhance your brand. Social followers and likes are now less about quantity and more about quality. In addition, these influencers should be interested in your brand and people you want to engage with. If they like your brands, they will be more interested in engaging with you.

The most effective social outreach is about predicting who will be most likely to engage and who can inspire conversations that convert into results for your business.

From Identification to Prediction

Once you have that relevant influencer cohort identified, you need to be able to predict which of those influencers are likely to engage and what actions will trigger the ideal reactions among their followers. We need to dive a level deeper and understand not just who to reach out to, but how. What messages will they respond to, when are they are most likely act, and what effect will their different types of engagement really have?

Companies like Umbel now provide the kind of granular analytics that can help define your ideal audience that will convert, while platforms like Bottlenose can predictively identify trends rising on social before they break. At Insightpool, the algorithm analyzes over 65 different profile variables that can predict the effects of targeted outreach.

While it might sound crazy, predicting human behavior on social isn’t as farfetched as it may have seemed just a few years ago.

There are a number of indicators for predicting engagement and conversion. For example, some interesting variables that we have discovered include:

  • If someone has customized their background image on Twitter, they are over 20% more likely to reciprocate an engagement. The insight here is that if someone is proactive enough to custom build their profile, they are both invested in the particular social network and computer savvy.
  • If someone’s Twitter description is over 76 characters (about 13 words), they are more likely to reciprocate an engagement. If someone’s twitter description is over 76 characters and they have a link in their description, they are over 30% more likely to reciprocate an engagement.
  • The most active peak on Twitter in the US and Canada occurs at 11:11pm, but by 11:37pm, activity drops back down to Twitter’s average activity rate. Paying attention to tight windows is extremely important for optimizing the reach of your social campaigns, especially at night—which happens to be the most active time on Twitter.

Twitter Peak Time

These type of variables may seem insignificant and even arbitrary, but put together, a powerful pattern begins to emerge. Social elements that are often taken for granted or ignored can provide meaningful insights.

Marketers that understand and leverage this type of data to drive conversion and business results are next in line for the Chief Digital Officer’s office. Just like any other department in an enterprise, if you can demonstrate your impact on the bottom line, you get the keys to the kingdom.

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