Guest post by Dan Zarella, author of “The Social Media Marketing Book,” published by O’Reilly.
When you’re trying to find targets for a social media marketing campaign, you should be looking for two types of people, influencers and audience. Your audience is the people you’re trying to sell to, this is a wide swath of potential users, clients or customers. They may or may not be heavily involved in social media and they may or may not have large followings. Your influencers are the people your audience listens to. They are actively engaged in the social web and can communicate with lots of people. They are the vector for your contagious messages to spread through, to reach your audience you should seed your campaigns to your influencers.
There are two ways of targeting influencers, you can either find the social media sites they frequent the most and attempt to reach them en masse, or you can identify especially influential individuals and engage them one by one. Both methods work well in concert.
Fishing Where the Influential Fish Are
The key to the first, en mass method is “fishing where the fish are.” That is understanding which behaviors typically indicate that someone is a savvy and frequent user of social media and placing your content in the path of those behaviors. I’ve done some research on these behaviors:
The research I did on viral content sharing shows that frequent users of social web technologies like Twitter, blogs, and social news and networking sites tend to share online content with more people, more often than those that do not.
An interesting detail of this data is that while frequent users of Facebook and web forums share content with more people and more often in some aspects, generally they’re not as virulent as the users of less-mainstream technologies (with the exception of blog readers).
This means that if you can locate topic-specific social media sites (for example Sphinn, which is Digg for marketers) and get your content to go popular there you’ll be in front of large groups of relevant influentials. Tools like Alltop or Quantcast’s related sites features can be used to discover relevant sites for reaching influencers.
Finding Individual Influencers
The flipside of the influencer marketing coin is to identify individuals who stand out from the “influential fish” crowd as especially important and approaching them one-on-one to build relationships.
Perhaps the easiest first step in this direction is to find the most influential Twitter users about your niche. Tools like Twitter Grader and Klout both offer very similar user search features which allow you to enter a keyword and find the most powerful users who are related to that topic. Of course my favorite metric for this is “ReTweetability.”
There are also tools for identifying niche influencers on oher social media platforms like Facebook Grader, Technorati, and BoardReader. A number of tools also exist to search across many different platforms at once, like Who’s Talkin’, and Social Mention but these tend to be less effective at identifying who the most influential users are.