Spotter’s Richard May discusses how to win over influencers on social media

As any tech-savvy PRO will tell you, social media is driving the industry away from traditional methods of press relations, and pushing towards digital content. This means that people no longer only look to influential print and broadcast press to stay ahead of the game, but take to their mobiles, tablets and computers. As the technology adapts, the traditional rules of marketing, advertising and communications have to be altered to make way for a whole new playing surface.

Problems with marketing

Social media is suspicious of marketing. An optimal click-through-ratio on Facebook currently stands at between 0.1 to 0.16 per cent, and research has shown that a social media user is more likely to summit Mount Everest than deliberately click on a banner advert. This reinforces the current advertising zeitgeist, that consumers are “blind to adverts, deaf to commercials“. Users are as suspicious of promoted tweets, advertorial news posts on Facebook and corporate pinboards on Pinterest , which are also largely overlooked. Like traditional forms of PR, the most effective way of raising a brand’s following or to drive the conversation forward, is to use people with a strong following to advocate your brand or product.

It isn’t just through sheer quantity of social media interactions that a brand’s profile is raised, but by the content of what is being said. Monitoring the sentiment of posts allows PROs to gauge a brand’s reputation, not just the number of times it is mentioned on social media. Monitoring software like Spotter is able to produce a sentiment index score, quantifying how a brand is perceived. The sentiment index is a figure, calculated through advanced algorithms to work out how well a brand is viewed, across social media in a single, tangible number.

It is by keeping an eye on this figure, and how it changes over time, that communications professionals can watch how their customers relationship with their product changes. As social media is so fluid, being able to index sentiment is a huge development over traditional print, which relies on focus groups and surveys to find out how customers viewed a product.

Identifying Influencers

“Big data” may be a buzzphrase among digital companies the world over, however, PROs are a little behind using this cache of free and accessible information. Most conversations on social media are publicly available, and serve incredibly useful for identifying a brand’s target audience. Greater technological advances mean that as agencies monitor social media channels, blogs, forums and websites, influential users can be identified. These are the users with the most significant following, relevant to your clients, who are quoted, retweeted, favourited and promoted by a large group of followers. Imagine them as the friend who everyone listens to, whose opinion is most shared and who has the loudest voice.

The problem with most out-of-the-box social media tools, such as Klout, is that while they provide a ballpark estimate of who carries influence, they cannot drill down into greater detail about who specially holds valuable influence with regards to your clients and their products. Through using more advanced, bespoke tools, digital PROs are able to keep tabs on all key influencers, watch their tone and how content they produce is disseminated through their network of followers.

Using Influencers

Much like the cool kids in the schoolyard, winning over influencers on social media will almost instantly coerce their followers into developing a favourable sentiment towards your brand or product. If an influencer voices favourable reviews, or a liking of your output, this quickly filters through their followers, who may in turn promote the product or service. Unlike using costly and largely ignored advertising on digital channels, companies can use targeted promotion to this group of influencers, to maximise exposure and impact on social media.

Richard May is national sales director, UK & Ireland at Spotter