Only Connect: Technology & the power of influence
by Bradley Elliott (@BradElliottSA) Did you know that influence in social networks has a shape? That budget has impact on a brand’s reach on social networks but smaller brands can outperform bigger ones, which have more money, if they are smart, if they use the right technology, and if ‘underdog brands’ are differentiated and are creatively clever? These are just some insights from a recent research study conducted by Arthur Goldstuck of World Wide Worx.*
Fifty major SA brands which use social networks to connect with customers and audiences cooperated in this local research by allowing access to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for three months, enabling the collection of 100m pieces of data, generated by 5.25m individuals who’d interacted with them.
The research revealed that social influence has a shape and that this shape changes for every single brand, much like a fingerprint. It is a unique indicator of the power of influence that lives in a brand’s social community. By influence I mean real influence: the ability to affect behaviour. Let’s face it, when brands invest as much money in social as they do, they want to know how much of an impact this will have on what matters — revenue growth.
I’ve been speaking to digital teams across the country and I can tell you that reach currently features heavily in social media reporting. I am not knocking reach but, as a metric, it doesn’t show that which influences online behaviour, the sharing, engaging, interacting, tagging and word of mouth that propels people to do something. That something is to purchase your product, or influence others to do so.
This means that choosing the right technology to manage, analyse and report on social metrics is important. What you want to look for is technology that can identify behavioural data points so that influencer scores are assigned to individuals in audiences who drive influence for a brand. You want to be able to ‘tier’ an ever-changing dynamic — the propensity to drive change in influence in human networks. You want to be able to measure velocity (the speed in which content gets engagement as a result of one particular individual), a much more-powerful and -accurate metric for discerning the power of influence and influencers in branded community on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Think of velocity as influence relativity. It is the metric that determines a brands return on investment in social media channels. Velocity is the speed at which messages travel through human networks (like Facebook), and the rate at which these bits of content are amplified.
Yes, reach is an important element of the influencer equation but it’s only part of the whole picture. Big social spend does buy reach, but what really counts in influence is having the ability to affect behaviour. In social media, this comes in the shape of sharing, engaging, interacting, tagging and gaining word of mouth from those people that you reach.
Good digital technologies will indicate the relative power of people to influence — to share, engage, and promote your message. And when I talk people, I’m not looking at celebrities or experts, but everyday humans who have signed up to receive your brand message. They’re in your community on any given social media because they want to be a part of your brand’s community.
The future of great influencer marketing lies in unlocking a thorough understanding of these communities with influencer algorithms that analyse engagement types and behavioural data points, and uses data to assign influencer scores to those who carry influence for a brand, within their specific social media community. In short, the technology you use needs to discern three things in order to measure the power of influence in your branded social community:
- At what point did an individual join the conversation and what impact did that interaction have on the conversation?
- Did it result in reaching and impacting the right audience through the right channels, and at the right time?
- Which individuals and clusters of people were responsible for this increase in velocity?
There are hundreds, thousands and even sometimes millions of influencers who exist within a brand’s social media community who may be identified with the right technology. They cost nothing and are authentic. You may harness the power of this influence with creativity, strategy and differentiation to help your propel your brand messages and to become brand champions. But you do need the right technology fuelled by smart algorithms to unlock this behaviour changing potential.
*Full disclosure: Continuon’s influencer technology and algorithms were used in this study.
The founder of Continuon and Platinum Seed, Bradley Elliott (@BradElliottSA) is a serial entrepreneur who’s created a number of businesses in the digital and technology sectors. He believes that marketing needs to be reinvented so that it becomes more useful to humans and brands. He’s also a collector of fine whiskey. Bradley contributes the new monthly column, “Only Connect”, which focuses on influencer marketing, to MarkLives.com.
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