Connecting the dots: Finding key influencers in content marketing is worth the effort, report suggests

The role of influencers providing the gateway to B2B decision makers and consumers is a key component in a modern content marketing strategy, however the challenge for the marketing and communications professionals is to identify their key influencers in order to build effective influencer engagement programs.

Network map of influencers

Which people and brands have the biggest impact on discussions about content marketing on Twitter? Onalytica looked at 410,454 tweets posted during a 90-day period that included “content marketing" or "contentmarketing."

The key to successful influencer engagement is focused on whether influencers actually change or affect the behavior or actions of ones target audience. This is the acid test of how to differentiate between who is an influencer and who is a key influencer.

The report outlines some of the top influencers in online content marketing, including Robert Rose who is the chief strategy advisor for The Content Marketing Institute. He notes that "the ability we have, as marketers, to move beyond simply describing the value of our products and services, and into creating valuable content-driven experiences, adds an entirely new strategic purpose to marketing."

Pinpointing the right influencer is crucial as focusing on the wrong target or sub-optimal influencers becomes a drain on resources and time. There are many approaches to identifying potential ‘key influencers’ and brands will continue to use them until the market matures or the methods improve. Additionally, a research report confirmed recently that only 13 per cent of adults online create nearly 80 per cent of the content that adults read. Further, the report notes that 6.2 per cent of web users are responsible for 80 per cent of the influence in social media. Hence, influencers are something of a natural choice when it comes to reaching a target audience.

One of the ways in which a marketer can measure influence is to assess an individuals’ potential to drive attention beyond an established or primary network of connections. This ability identifies those influencers who have the largest networks and are therefore likely to exert more influence than others and be more worthwhile cultivating and building a rapport with.

"Nowadays it is much more important than ever, for businesses to have a content marketing strategy. With such a strategy, any business, even one consisting of just one person can become an influencer within their niche — they can become an authority figure on social media, drive thousands of visitors to their website and best of all they can reap the rewards for years to come," noted Steve Cartwright, founder of FX Digital Pty Ltd. "That's the beauty of modern content marketing. I should know. I am an army of one."

A key influencer should be linked to several high profile bloggers, whose content is ideally picked up by prime news media and shared within many forums, communities and social bookmarking sites, the report suggests. Additionally, an influencer with a high social media score may garner a lot of attention for content amongst their Twitter following, but if their networks do not extend deep enough to drive earned media attention than it may not be worth the time and resources it takes to integrate influencer engagement with day-to-day priorities. It is less important to determine how influential someone is to a number than it is to determine who is influential enough to engage with or not. It's critical to set out credible measures of success which are linked to desired outcomes, and start to understand which activities and which influencers are making a real difference.

"Storytelling is the future of content marketing and can simplify the complex and long buying cycles by passing on relevant content to increase conversion - which is the business impact that marketers are looking for," said Gerry Moran, global head of social media at Cognizant.

Look for social scores (number of followers, unique visitors, retweets, link sharing) and those who have shown an interest in the topic, market or brand. Social scoring is a context sensitive measurement that helps determine influence based on the units of attention a social media post generates from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google plus. A social scoring program like Klout measures over 400 factors across nine social networks to create a comprehensive influence score. Other services like InstaBrand pinpoint the geographic locations where influencers are most effective while Influential identifies personality traits of brands and selects influencers with corresponding personas.

Despite the importance of social scoring and ranking, one of the key differences between influencers and marketers is that word of mouth spreads and perhaps by virtue of their "expertise" the influencers word carries more weight. Whether it be a one person business or a multinational corporation, influencers are worth cultivating.

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