Ignore Follower Counts — There's a Better Way to Identify Influencers

If you are a Twitter superstar, say Ashton Kutcher or Oprah Winfrey, this post isn’t for you. (And if you are Justin or Oprah, thanks for visiting our blog. We had no idea you were interested in marketing to HR!) But if you're like the rest of us, trying to get visibility for your content through a variety of tactics, well, listen up, we have some important — and perhaps unusual — suggestions on how to have more success with influencers on Twitter.

First, a one-sentence class in Twitter 101 (we’ll put it in bold to make you take notice):

While sending tweets to your followers is one way of broadcasting your message, it is more effective to have others repeat your message via retweets, replies and sharing the URLs that you tweet. 

The people engaged
with a topic change
frequently. Here is
a look at a few of
the influencers
sharing "Affordable
Care Act" content.
Why? For one thing, just because someone follows you doesn’t actually mean they have any interest in you, or what you have to say. Often, they are just following you for one, entirely selfish reason: they want you to follow them. But if someone on Twitter receives your message through a trusted intermediary whose share indicates “this is worthwhile,” they are more likely to give your content a chance. So the goal is to get influential people to follow you and/or share your messages, and then act as a conduit for your marketing.

This brings up the question of the day: How can you identify the truly influential people on Twitter?

You certainly can’t identify them by follower counts. After all, anyone with money to burn can purchase followers. An obsession with high follower counts has taken over Twitter, but marketers need to give it up. You probably aren’t going to get the attention of Twitter superstars, and even if they do share your message, they probably have little or no credibility with your audience on the topic. Plus, follower counts don’t tell you about who follows them, whether people pay any attention to their Tweets or if the followers have any interest in what you have to say and share. 

What you need to pay attention to is a Twitter user’s influence within a specific marketplace: yours. A user with a few thousand followers, most of whom share a common interest with you, is much more valuable in spreading your marketing message. (Sorry, Oprah and Ashton!) Once you assemble the list of people that have broad visibility in your marketplace, you then want to identify those individuals whose messages have higher-than-average engagement. These are the real influencers.  

We identify these influencers through our HRmarketer Software. You can look at influencers for an industry, a topic within the industry or even a brand. We recently ran the following three queries for influencers for "human resource," "Affordable Care Act" and our brand, HRmarketer, and the results were interesting:

1. Who are the top people mentioned* in tweets linking to articles that contain the phrase “human resource”?

Our report had hundreds of influencers including such familiar names as @blogging4jobs, @TLNT, @JohnSumser and @hrbartender. But we did discover some new names. That's not surprising, as no influencer list is static — there are always new influencers entering the space.

*We’re not looking for the people who tweet the most about HR — any bot can do that. We want people who (a) frequently share content about human resources and (b) whose tweets and social shares get a lot of engagement. Tracking mentions allows you to find the right people.

2. Who are the top people mentioned in tweets linking to content* that contain the phrase “Affordable Care Act”?

We picked a popular topic, "Affordable Care Act,” and found that @TLNT again made the list, as did @hrbartender, @jenbenz, @brycewatch @ezraklein. But we also saw other interesting names such as @KHNews (Kaiser Health News), @nytimes, @wsj, @THCBstaff (The Health Care Blog) and @RWJF (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a public health organization).

By isolating a topic within your marketplace, you can generate a list of influencers who may not have otherwise been identified and may not be HR’s usual Twitter superstars. 

*HRmarketer Software bases the data on the content that is linked to. We do this because there is more value in the content than in the characters in a tweet. For example, even if @TLNT never has the topic "Affordable Care Act" in a tweet (and would therefore be ignored by most social monitoring software), it clearly pushes people to content on health care reform, and should be on an HR “influencer” list on the topic.

3. Who are the top Twitter users mentioned in tweets that link to content that contain your company name?

The final query we ran was to find the people in our target market who frequently share content that mentions our brand, HRmarketer. Sometimes the social shares themselves don’t mention our brand (often, they don’t) but that’s OK — when we do this report, what we’re interested in finding are the people responsible for the most popular social shares that point to content that mentions our brand. These are our “hidden” brand champions.

Our results for this query showed a mix of influencers, companies and a few of our own employees. The list surprised us — people we would not have considered “influencers” by traditional metrics turned out to be quite significant brand champions for our content.

You can benefit a great deal by knowing the influencers in your marketplace and on topics that matter to your business, and by knowing your brand champions.

Obviously, knowing who the influencers are isn't enough. You need to know how to engage with them and work with them. Fortunately, we have another post on that:http://hrmarketer.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-2-types-of-social-influencers.html.

If you want any of these reports run for your business, email us at sales@hrmarketer.com.

Post written by HRmarketer / Fisher VISTA team member Eric Anderson.

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