There’s a lot of talk these days around influencer marketing on social channels. And it’s no wonder–a survey from Burst Media’s 2014 Influencer Marketing’s Benchmark Report found that influencer campaigns earn big returns: $6.85 in earned media value for every $1.00 of paid media. But how much effort does it really take to shift behavior in a crowd? Is brand advocacy a pipe dream for the average marketer or are there strategies for finding enough social media influencers to make a difference?

I recently heard about research by Software Advice that uncovered something surprising—the tipping point for influencing behavior is only 10 percent. However, there’s a caveat. That 10 percent minority has to be passionate and unshakeable in their beliefs in order to shift the majority. Nowhere is this more evident than on social channels, where influencers with a strong group of active followers often drive significant impact.

95% of customers are comfortable with targeted messages in their social feeds

What does that mean to the average marketer? There are really two things they need to concentrate on: 1) finding appropriate social media influencers, and 2) nurturing them to become brand advocates. However, these aren’t always easy tasks. The chart below from the Software Advice research shows that companies are struggling with advocacy-based social media marketing.

For most (62 percent), a top concern is competing for influencer attention with other brands. That’s understandable. Fast-moving technology has most marketers feeling edgy about the competition. Big data is also a hurdle. Almost half of those surveyed (46 percent) cite difficulty identifying and communicating with social media influencers. How do you sift through a sea of information to find suitable advocates in the noisy social environment? And how do you do it quickly before the competition gets to them?


From Software Advice Research 1

The chart also shows that marketers have an equally difficult time predicting influencer behavior, and many are also intimidated by perceptions of privacy concerns. What’s a marketer to do? Current social media marketing strategies that are popular, like posting advertisements, social listening and offering incentives, lack the one thing that could help turn the tide when addressing these challenges—being able to predict behavior.

The Case for Predictive Analytics

Looking through a haystack full of social followers and identifying those who could be your ideal brand advocates, getting their attention and creating relationships with them is a daunting task. However, predictive analytics can help you gain more insights on influencers. It extracts behavioral information from social data to determine patterns that can help predict future trends and outcomes. Vendors offer a variety of solutions to help brands with data analysis, model development, visualization and forecasting.

Predictive analytics looks at keywords used when people post and what sites they visit when they discuss products. What’s really exciting is that it can even make intelligent associations to other things people might be interested in (even if they don’t mention a product name). For instance, a person may not have talked about baby strollers, but they might be in the market for one in the future because they talked about baby formula and pediatricians.

Is this kind of “listening” crossing the “creepy” line? The Software Advice data indicates there is some concern by marketers, but the same research shows that influencers are pretty open to being approached by brands. Only five percent stated they would be somewhat uncomfortable being messaged by a brand.

These kinds of numbers should relieve your mind about the privacy concerns of influencers. Those with established and loyal audiences know how social works, so you shouldn’t feel squeamish about reaching out to them with incentives. Just try not to cross that creepy line. It might only take a passionate ten percent minority to influence a group, but you want to make sure you find the right people and know enough about them to forge relationships built on trust. You want them to stay strong for the long term.

Predictive analytics can be a great tool in your social media marketing strategy. It can narrow the field and help you garner the right advocates for your brand based on their preferences and behavior, saving you many hours of sifting through unstructured data to look for those needles in the haystack. However, it’s not a magic bullet for success. How you approach those influencers individually and sustain your relationship with them is what will tell the tale in the long run.

Build Relationships the Human Way

Social channels give us a rich pool of data that can deliver insights into audiences and their behaviors. As we learn more about the benefits of predictive analytics, we’ll get better at mining that data effectively. But don’t lose sight of the fact that social channels also give us unprecedented opportunities to connect as human beings. Tools can save us time, but when we use the power of individual humans to reach out, converse and share what inspires us, great things can happen. That’s what influencer marketing is all about—scaling the benefits of word-of-mouth advocacy.

Good use of predictive analytics can be a tremendous help to brands looking to use influencer marketing to stay competitive. However, no matter how you find and nurture influencers, it’s important to deepen your connections with them outside of automation. Predictive analytics software can only go so far—it’s up to you to do the human work of relationship building.

Originally posted at The Future Of Customer Engagement, August 24, 2015



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