How To Measure Faster and for Less Money: Look at Key Influencers First

diagram of influencer effect

Now that every pundit is a publisher, you need to rethink what you consider top tier media. 

Whether we call them influencers, thought leaders, or, as Malcolm Gladwell might have called them, connectors, organizations of all shapes, sizes, and industries are obsessing over them. Whatever nomenclature you chose, these people are the 50-100 VIPs in your industry whose opinion carries the most weight (or, god forbid, “Klout”).

The issue was important enough for the Conclave on Social Media Measurement Standards to work with WOMMA to define a standard for influence:

“In order to be influential a person must have relevancy, frequency, and reach.”

Read WOMMA’s very helpful paper on the subject here.

How to Find the Real Influencers

Thankfully, given the plethora of people who claim to be “thought leaders,” there are a number of tools out there that can help you identify who the real influencers are (and Klout is not one of them).

My personal favorite is LittleBird, which identifies influencers by their network. Traackr is another one, but in their case they use key words and phrases to identify the people that are talking about you. In both systems the individuals are weighted by the number of network connections they have, as well as the volume and frequency with which they talk about your industry.

All of which is very useful when you’re trying to decide on the best way to get your messages out to the world. What most people don’t realize is that they can also be very useful when setting up a measurement system.

How to Measure Starting With Influencers

But in order to take advantage of the benefits, you will first have to change the way you think about monitoring and measurement.

Most PR people think of monitoring and measurement from the perspective of “I need to capture the universe of stuff being said or written about me.” Although intuitively appealing, this approach is not always the easiest or most efficient, because most of what you will capture is likely to be spam or irrelevant to your target audience.

Instead, why not divide your universe of mentions into “those from people who have significant influence over my stakeholders or customers” and “those from everyone else?” In reality, everyone else is probably just repeating what those influencers are saying anyway. Just look at any monitoring report, and you’ll find endless retweets and syndicated versions of the same story. So why not focus on where all those stories started?

To track their media mentions, most organizations start with a Top Tier media list. But the influencers are the people that are either writing for the Top Tier list or are being quoted in those Top Tier stories. Those are the people whose opinions matter, and that’s what you want to monitor and analyze. In today’s everyone-is-a-publisher era, each one of your key influencers can be regarded, at least in the context of setting up your measurement, as an important media outlet.

Starting with the influencers has a number of benefits:

  1. It’s more meaningful. What your influencers say may well affect public policy as well as consumer opinion.
  2. It’s more cost-effective. Why waste time sifting through a gazillion clips when you can focus on the ones that really impact your organization?
  3. It’s cheaper. It’s a lot more cost effective to read, analyze the writings, and quotes of 50 people than 5,000.
  4. It’s faster. It takes a lot less time to analyze the 50 stories than it does to analyze 5,000.

Here’s how to improve your measurement using influencers, in 5 steps:

  1. Start with your existing top tier media list. Analyze all your coverage for the last 3 months and make a list of who is quoted in each story. Put anyone who was quoted more than twice on the Top Tier list.
  2. If you are already using some influencer identification tool, like Traackr or LittleBird or PeerIndex, use it to find the top 25 most influential in your space. If you have more resources, then find 50. 
  3. If you don’t have an influencer identification tool in place, then sign up for a free trial or a free version of something like Buzzsumo, Topsy, or FollowerWonk. Get the top 25 or 50 and make sure all of them (with all their social identities) are on your new Top Tier list.
  4. If your Top Tier list is now getting too large, take another look at your media coverage. Are there media outlets on the list that have never covered you in the last 6 months? Do they still deserve to be on the list?
  5. Put every reporter or contact that is not influential onto a “non-priority” media list. Rather than analyzing their content, just count the volume to see if it is increasing or decreasing over time. ∞

Paine Publishing provides communications, PR, and social media measurement training. Katie Delahaye Paine, founder of Paine Publishing, provides social media measurement consulting and customized measurement services.

About Author

Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.