Top Influencer Lists Are Great, And Not So Great.

Top lists are a great idea.

They are great for bringing traffic to your website, for creating debate and for generating relationships with the people in the lists (who love being in them).

So, SAP made a smart move when it came out with the “Top 52 #HumanResources Twitter Influencers” recently.

But what’s the value of the list to the B2B content marketers who read it? That’s what’s not so great.

The value of the list is low even though there’s significant potential business value to reaching Twitter (and other social) influencers.

The value of the list is low even though it’s at minimum a decent list, containing leading HR figures on Twitter such as Laurie Reuttimann and Naomi Bloom. The value would be low even if it were a fantastic list, correctly identifying each of the top 52 influencers at the time it was created.

Why is the value low?

First of all, HR is an extremely broad space, and that broadness limits the usefulness of any single list. Producing a list for HR instead of for its subcategories (health and wellness, comp & benefits, rewards and recognition, HR technology, leadership, employment law, training, compliance, organizational development, recruiting, outsourcing, etc.) is like producing a list for sports instead of baseball, basketball, football, etc. It's a good place to start and includes some great people to consider following, but most marketers are focused on a particular subcategory or two, so many of the people on the HR list won’t be appropriate for them.

You really want to dive deeper into more specific niches to maximize the business benefits. Even better is sharpening the focus further and identifying Twitter influencers by topic. The more specific the subject of your list, the more valuable the results.

Secondly, and more importantly, the concept of influencer lists is suspect. Influencer lists become out-of-date quickly, sometimes as soon as they are created. We've found that the top influencers for a given topic change from month to month and sometimes from day to day.

Also, by definition, top influencer lists are limiting — especially a list that is restricted to one particular social channel. Whether they list 10 people or 100, they always miss someone who has significant influence online. As an example, our SocialEars HR software monitors the online conversations for thousands of influencers across all aspects of human resources — journalists, analysts, consultants, recruiters, solution providers, HR and benefits professionals and others — including everyone on the SAP list.  And on any given week this audience is responsible for tens of thousands of HR-related conversations on everything from absenteeism policies to PPACA to workforce planning. It’s virtually impossible for any single top HR list to capture the key influencers across HR. If you focus on a list of top influencers, you’ll miss out on the chance to engage with many other social influencers who could have value to you.

So, if using Twitter influencer lists is not an ideal strategy, then what would work better?

First, don’t limit your analysis to Twitter, as there’s only so much information you can extract from 140 characters. Instead, you want to listen to the conversations on a broader array of social media networks, and analyze the blogs and news articles, the content being shared, the comments, etc. And then you want to ask questions like:

• Who are the best experts on my subject?
• What are the trending topics affecting my business?
• Who are the most influential authors on my subject?
• What content related to my topic is the most shared?

The answers to these questions will help your business discover and engage the people who can most guarantee your success. Engagement can include a whole host of actions — liking, following, connecting, sharing, commenting, inviting, etc. — that help you to build thought leadership, visibility and interest in your brand. 

Each question will generate a different list.

And — due to social media and the proliferation of content — the lists change daily.

That’s why it’s not so simple as one static list. Those days are over.

For more about listening and analyzing social media conversations, see a related blog post, Fake Shakespeare — Why It Matters In Social Media.

Using conversation analysis software, like SocialEars HR, you can see trending topics (e.g., video interviewing) in the HR industry and get lists of the most popular content being shared and the top influencers who are engaged in the topic.

Post written by HRmarketer / SocialEars HR team member Eric Anderson.

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