It’s a given that marketers want to reach social media influencers – those people who can affect purchasing decisions or brand perception.
The problem is that all too often we pick out the wrong people, the ‘faux influencers’.
I blame the ‘Best Of’ lists and an obsession with follower numbers. There’s also a bias towards Twitter, largely because it’s easy to work with and has an open API.
Getting Twitter followers is easy. You can buy them for a few dollars. You can deploy automated follow-back strategy.
My own research shows that the people who influence outcomes or drive engagement aren’t necessarily the people with the most followers or the highest Klout score.
The real influencers are often well-known amongst a small but important group of people. As Seth Godin said recently to Tim Ferriss, you sometimes need to think small to go big.
There have always been people who game social media to increase their perceived level of influence. They end up getting on Best Of lists. More people follow them, and the cycle continues.
The trick is to drill in to data you get from social listening tools and look closely at the users themselves. It’s not a 15 minute job.
Here are 5 characteristics of a faux influencer.
- Suspiciously high follower numbers. Often they are following a similar number of people too. You have to question why their followerbase is so high. If they’re on TV, for example, there’s a reason for a big audience.
- Klout score in their profile picture. They think it shows that they are important.
- Tweet like crazy. Lots of tweets, peppered with hashtags and lacking in focus. Faux influencers almost exclusively have links in their tweets, rather than a healthy proportion of non-linked content. They’re more likely to put up inspirational quotes and use automated Paper.li tweets.
- Proportionately low engagement. Think about it, if they have 90k followers, why do they only get 3 or 4 likes per tweet? And who’s liking or sharing that content – real influencers and target audiences, or just bots?
- Don’t do the day job. Chat is cheap. What about the day job? Real influencers are involved in the topic area day to day, not just tweeting from the sidelines.
The list above applies to Twitter, but the principles apply to other networks too.
Ultimately, what we’re searching for is authenticity. It’s unlikely that a social media planner will put people that tick all five of those characteristics on an influencer list, but even one or two should be cause for a double-check.
A final thanks to the guys back at the office for the inspiration for this post yesterday, when debating who should and shouldn’t make a list we were compiling for a client.