Social Media Gold–Finding Your Key Influencers

A couple of weeks ago, someone asked how we could pinpoint the key people to extend our social media network. That is a good question. A smaller network of effective influencers is far more powerful than a thousand followers who add little social media value. What is social media value? Well, these are the members of your social grid who participate actively and add good content to the Internet community. We are going to talk about the different kinds of influencers in a moment. Find these key individuals, and there are no limits to your digital reach. These influencers are platform-building GOLD and your most valuable asset.

So how do you find the key influencers?

Well, there are a number of ways to pinpoint your major influencers, but it is tricky. Why? Because unlike direct marketing or old-fashioned PR, the goal of social media is to influence entire groups of people. We aren’t just targeting one individual, but the individual and his/her surrounding community. That is one of the reasons that, unlike direct marketing, the overall effectiveness of social media is not as easy to measure. There are some SIM (Social Influence Marketing) metrics that one can run, and companies that can help you locate your referent influencers, but I don’t know that they are all that helpful for authors wanting to build a platform.

Yeah, you are going to have to do some work.

Writers are different than companies doing social media. That was the impetus behind me writing a book for authors. Not all tools that work well in the corporate world cross over.

Unlike Honda or Victoria’s Secret, most of us are a one-man operation. We don’t have a marketing department, and we also have a different kind of product. The CEO of Honda is not responsible for making every car that comes off the assembly line. Yet, until we become brand names and too big to handle all our own writing, we are responsible for the material that hits the bookstore shelves.

We cannot outsource our social media content (blogs, articles, excerpts, commentary, group activity, etc.) like, say, Bud Light or Geiko.

The plain fact of the matter is that the more you participate in social media, the better the results. And when I say participate, that means strategized participation (mixed with fun) with clear end goals. I talk about how to do this in my upcoming book, We Are Not Alone—Writers and Social Media… or something to that effect. Title could change slightly. Publisher wouldn’t let me call it, Stop Sending Me Farm Animals and Go Build Your Platform before I Send You a Digital Kick in the Butt.

But basically, you do need to have a plan. In order to have a plan, you must understand the players if you hope to identify those who can maximize your influence, thereby minimizing the time you spend on social media. Not all users are created equally. They are divided into categories that correspond with the influence they exact of their surrounding networks.

Expert Influencer—is just what it says. These are the authorities in a certain subject, and people look to these experts for information, advice, and guidance. The experts are heavyweights when it comes to influencing the decisions of those in their networks. Expert influencers usually have a picture of themselves as their icon. They also generally have huge following that number in the thousands or tens of thousands, depending on the platform. Also, a quick glance to their website (which is usually denoted in the bio) will give you a clear picture that this person is an expert in her field. Oprah. Enough said.

Referent Influencer—is in the person’s social network and exercises influence. Referent influencers are a little trickier to figure out. They generally have a fairly large following, but not always. Quality and quantity are not the same thing.

So how do you figure out the referent influencers? Well, you have to participate so you can pay attention. For the most part the referent influencers are highly active on social media and thus usually have a larger following than the casual user, but maybe not as large as the expert. Yet, it is their level of meaningful activity that makes them essential to have in your network. They post a lot of times a day and are well-known, liked, and respected for good content. People around them trust them for good stuff. These are the people you miss when they take a day off.

In my opinion, the referent influencer is the most valuable. Why? First, it is easier to get close to them and befriend them and gain their support. If you write a blog about parenting (as part of your NF book platform), what are the odds of becoming part of Oprah’s inner circle? Referent influencers are far more approachable.

Secondly, referent influencers are genuine and personal and thus exercise tremendous authority. I think that people tend to trust these types influencers almost as much the experts, if not more. Why? Well, human nature. We like things from the proverbial mouth of the horse. We can’t really be sure Oprah picks her Books of the Month for herself. Likely she has gatekeepers who narrow the field. But, Suzy Lit-Girl, freelance writer and respected book reviewer who posts every week and has 3000 over people in her immediate network (including big authors and publishing houses) is easier to win to your side. It is a much easier feat to get Suzy Lit-Girl to repost your blog or your book’s review than it is to make it on to Oprah’s radar (let alone get a plug). Additionally, those who follow Suzy view her as an authority and listen to her much like an expert, even though, by strict definition, she isn’t.

Thirdly, there are far more referent influencers than expert influencers. A lot more. There are a lot more Suzy Lit-Girls to befriend than Oprahs.

*** Many referent influencers are considered experts in certain subject areas. Pay attention.

Positional Influencer—is often in the person’s inner circle. Friends, family, spouses are all examples of positional influencers. Yes, whether most of us admit it or not, our mothers’ opinions still influence us.

Virtually everyone on social media is a positional influencer to someone else. Positional influencers can be very valuable to a writer, especially in certain genres. For instance, I imagine that most 4-year-olds don’t drive down to Barnes & Noble, slap down a credit card and buy a stack of kid’s books. But moms do. If you happen to write for children, middle grade, teens, or any group that typically would not be the purchaser of the book, then you must target the positional influencers or risk losing a huge percentage of your potential consumers.

This goes back to what we discussed a couple of weeks ago about profiling the reader as part of your social media campaign. But one would also be wise to profile the purchaser.

Ideally, you will recruit the referent and expert influencers who hold sway over the positional influencers. Recruit SuperCarpool_Mom (referent influencer) and @ParentingMagazine to your side and the moms will listen.

*** The key to doing social media well, resides in recruiting and mobilizing the all types of influencers, particularly the referent and expert influencers.

At the end of the day, be good to anyone who is being good to you. Networks are hard to build, and we need as much help as we can get from our social community. So if others help “raise your barn,” (repost your posts) make sure you pitch in with theirs. It is just good manners.

I might qualify, I advise being kind and reciprocating because it is the right thing to do. But, we do have to deal with
reality. We only have so much time. Yes, we need to be good to as many as we can, but we need to be mindful to pay attention to those with greater reach and influence if we hope to have time left over to write great books.

Happy writing! Until next time…

By the way! If you loved this blog and just want MORE? My book, “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” is now available. Buy one today and take charge of your writing career! My book is designed specifically for writers. I want to change your habits, not your personality. Harness that same creative energy used for writing and use it to build your platform.

For more ways to grow from writer to published author, I highly recommend Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writer Book and Workshops, the inspiration behind this Warrior Writer blog series. Sign up today at Bob teaches all over the country, but he also runs Warrior Writer classes on-line, so don’t wait. Take charge of your destiny today.


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    • Bob Mayer on May 4, 2010 at 5:28 pm
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    I think it goes to having a niche as a writer. My new WIP is Civil War Historical Fiction featuring West Point graduates. Right there I have several niches I am beginning to explore even before the book is done. There are many, many groups focused on the Civil War. West Point has it’s Association of Graduates and also chapters in every area. Being specific is better in today’s market than being broad.

    1. Yes, but in that niche one needs to find the people who have the greatest influence. An avid historical fiction fan who has a reputation for good posts is just as valuable of an asset as another well-known historical writer…maybe even more so because this person represents the “readers/lovers of historical fiction.”

    • Terrell Mims on May 5, 2010 at 12:30 am
    • Reply

    Good blog. I am so pumped about building by network, but I am waiting. I don’t want to have zeal without knowledge and give myself a digital kick in the butt. Finish that book so I can read it!

  1. I found you via twitter. This is excellent advice. I do find Twitter to be very addictive, however. Have you found yourself thinking of the circle of people you tweet with regularly as “friends,” only to realize that you know them only as their usernames (“Oh, I miss ‘Klondikebabe;’haven’t seen her tweets in awhile..)and actually have NEXT TO ZERO familiarity with them and wouldn’t know them if you fell on them? I think this is totally beside your point, but very interesting to me. molly

    1. Actually, if you are a writer wanting to use social media to build a platform, the only acceptable handle is the name you intend to have on the cover of your book. But, yes, I do get attached to people via screen names. The problem is, though, if you are a writer, I cannot walk into a B&N and ask for “Klondikebabe’s” newly released book, “Dogs of Alaska” even if she has spent the past 8 months on Twitter getting me excited about her book.

      Thanks, Molly for taking the time to comment.

  2. Interesting post. I agree that it is the quality/effectiveness of your network vs the quantity of names/followers in it.

    I’ve built my following slowly and organically and I can now feel its strength. This will undoubtedly help me as I launch my next book.

    Regarding a “handle” for a published author: I have been writing professionally for more than 15 years (mostly periodical work until recently) and loved having the handle “wizard of words” connected to my work. It’s always been on my website, my biz cards, my stationery, etc. and most people have told me it is memorable and distinctive. I brought that persona forward with me into the blogosphere and Twitter. Not sure if it was the right thing to do, but my name is also highly visible, so I don’t think it’s hurt me.

    1. Doreen, the problem is that there really is no way to quantify how much it has hurt you, but I guarantee you it has…namely with those people you could have converted to fans and readers. Every time you post on twitter you are what we call in sales, “top of mind.” I will go ahead and blog about this today to answer your question. Don’t be discouraged, but I do feel that you must fix this problem or you are making far more work for yourself. Your name MUST be up with your handle. If you have already done this, then no problem (but you aren’t, then, using solely a handle). I strongly prefer using the name that will appear on your books, but I’ll explain why today in the blog. Thanks for the comment, :D.

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