Doug Haslam

Gischeleman: "To Create With the Mind"

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Finding Influencers and Collecting Data? Tools Help, But It’s Nothing Without Hard Work

Cross-posted from Voce Nation

Recently, I had a discussion with a local (Boston) technology professional about finding influencers via social media. Additionally, I constantly have discussions with clients, colleagues and peers about measurement. Why mention these two facts together? These two topics have a lot more in common than they might seem to on the surface, at least when it comes to the practical applications in social media programs.

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Photo by Martijn vdS on Flickr

First, both “influence” and measurement come with a variety of tools designed to help us find and analyze. These tools, whether they be KloutPeerIndex or Traackr on the influence side, or Radian6SysomosSpredfast and any number of tools on the monitoring/metrics/analytics side, all have their plusses. They all have their minuses too. Are they too unsophisticated or broad, too complicated to use, missing pieces, too expensive, lacking tech support? There’s always something.

Which tool a given program uses isn’t all that important, it turns out. However, let’s assume that having some tools to help you harvest information is necessary. The reality is that most social media professionals have to have at least some familiarity with a variety of the tools, as different clients, or even departments within a company (probably a separate discussion there), use different tools.

OK- we have established that we need tools, but we are limited. That sounds like a nightmare, no?

Well, yes and no. I believe it’s healthy to believe that the “magic bullet” tool that finds the best influencers for any specific program, or covers all your metrics needs, will never exist. It’s also healthy to believe that just about any tool, despite any public criticism, will help you in some way.

Great; so what?  

Even as these tools become simultaneously more sophisticated and easier to use (good luck with that) the need for what I like to call spade work does not go away. The spade work is divided into two categories:

  • Figuring out what to ignore: Good tools mine everything. That’s almost as bad as having nothing, as a large chunk of the work in analyzing info is figuring out what not to include. How do you sort for the things that only affect your goals? How do you find people who are not merely “influential,” but are specifically relevant to your program? How do you filter monitoring data only for the things you need to see- and how do you determine which metrics are the one you need to see? Great tools filter further. Klout does offer some categories of influence, for example, and most monitoring tools allow you to tweak and adjust search terms. However no matter how good or great the tool manual sorting is necessary; not just due to a lack of complete trust in tools (Klout categories, to keep using that example, can yield some head-scratching results, such as the marketing expert who was, hilariously, deemed to be influential about “sheep”), but because every program, every campaign- and every data source- is unique
  • Goals: Actually that should be first, but I’m being counter-intuitive. I was also tempted to write “Program goals” to distinguish from campaign oriented goals, but it is important to find influencers for and measure campaigns as well as the ongoing program. As hinted at in the previous paragraph, your goals determine which of the endless metrics and influencer types you need to focus on, to the exclusion of all else that lacks relevance, beyond the limited extent of any tools.
  • Analysis: The value any social media professional brings to a program is in the analysis- I don’t mean sifting and sorting data, as anyone can learn to do with the tools, but in figuring out what it all means. At the beginning, it’s applying thought to the types of influencers that matter and what criteria count most. In the end, it’s applying meaning to the program data. For example, what does that decline in Facebook Page comments mean? Why were there fewer clicks to the Website from Twitter vs Facebook? How did a surge in blog publishing frequency this month affect subscriber numbers- or even product sales?

Tools are necessary. But making them worthwhile is hard work. Anyone who thinks differently is not using them (or their social media team’s brainpower) to their full capabilities.

One Response to Finding Influencers and Collecting Data? Tools Help, But It’s Nothing Without Hard Work

  1. Hi Doug, have you taken a look at eCairn Conversation? Unlike most other tools that try to oversimplify influencer engagement, we encourage our users to dig deeper using our flexible tool. It’s definitely essential that you set goals before you dive into any application to do analysis or monitoring, doing so otherwise would make research a wild goose chase.

    We also try to eliminate the head-scratching results by removing noise. We do so via an algorithm that lets the community “vet” out the irrelevant/spam blogs and accounts. But as good as our algorithm can get, it still depends on an analytical thinker to make it worthwhile to a brand, just as you said.

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