Maximize Your Social Media Impact–Understanding Influence


Welcome to WANA Wednesday, chock full of tips to rock your social media experience and based off my best selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social MediaOne of the biggest complaints I hear about social media is that writers believe they have no time. I am going to share a little secret. We have plenty of time if we do it properly. The problem is that too many writers are approaching social media like traditional marketing instead of social marketing. When we try to apply traditional marketing tactics, we will be spread too thinly to be effective and, truthfully, can do more harm than good. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading last week’s blog for a clear explanation of the key difference between traditional marketing (market norms) and social marketing (social norms).

Social marketing capitalizes on networking. Embrace the great news. We don’t have to do everything alone!!! Traditional marketing will tempt you to be on every last social media site and make a bazillion “friends,” yet all those “friends” will likely not be too vested in your success. So please trust me. 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?

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 rather 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. Sorry. But I help you make it fun.

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 book, and I am working on a new one. Thinking of calling 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? 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 I discussed a couple months ago about profiling the reader as part of your social media campaign. 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…

Keep Scrolling for the Mash-Up of Awesomeness. My collection of the best of the best materials for writers.

But first the shameless self-promo. If you love this blog and just want MORE? My book, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media  is available in all formats. 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.

Now the Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Best Article on Writing….Possibly EVER

Author Chuck Wendig and the Dos and Don’ts of NaNoWriMo

Best Workshops

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. Bob teaches all over the country, and he also runs Warrior Writer classes on-line, so don’t wait. Take charge of your destiny today. And if Bob happens to be running a novel workshop near you, take advantage. It will be the best career decision you ever make.

Author Candy Havens has a free on-line workshop. Candy brings in all the best to teach you how to be the best writer you can be. Right now I am participating in her Fast Draft Workshop where she guides you through writing a book in 16 Days.

Blogs all Writers Must Subscribe to and Read

Bob Mayer’s Write It Forward. Stay on top of industry changes and learn from a NYT best-selling author.

Genreality. The best in the business gather here three times a week to help you be even MORE awesome.

Writer Unboxed. Essential for every writer.

Book Talk LOADS of great information for writers.

Paranormal Author Jami Gold has been running an excellent series on character development.

Other fantastic author blogs and my personal faves…

Hilarious Blogging Goddess Tawna Fenske

For wonderful writing tips, Jody Hedlund


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  1. Marketing can be frustrating. I used to call it throwing darts into a big black hole and hoping to hit a bulls eye. I think with social media, the odds of that increase. Additionally, you don’t need a bulls eye, but rather enough solid hits, that you can gain traction. One big lesson I learned after reading Kristen’s book is to be consistent. Once you get your social media machine going, it has to keep going. Kristen posts her blog consistently. That brings readers back to it. But when I go to a writer’s page and their last blog entry was two months ago, it indicates to me that they don’t care. Which makes me wonder why I should care.
    As we say: Write It Forward.

  2. Kristen, learn so much from your posts and your book is awesome! Thanks. Liz

  3. Hi Kristen,
    You give me lots to think about. You raise a good point about children and who buys books…Yes our market is the ‘kids’ but the adults are the ones with the money…however increasingly the kids are becoming more online savvy…then you have librarians and teachers etcetc.Feels like you have to market to everyone…lol.
    Thankyou so much for the time you take to write these insightful posts
    New Zealand

    1. Maureen, thanks for commenting. The purpose of this blog is to help you guys pull back and get perspective. Yes, kids are more online savvy, but most likely children aren’t going to be reading blogs or participating on Twitter…but parents, teachers, and other postitional influencers will be. Thus, instead of children’s authors congregating in “writing” groups, a healthy dose of PTA groups or teacher groups is a great idea and likely not as populated by other writers. Now as a children’s author, you can directly interact with the people most likely to buy the book or even recommend it to friends and family who have children.

      I am glad you enjoy the posts and thanks again for taking the time to comment.


  4. Nice picture of Oprah. 🙂 Anyway, I think it’s all about statistics. The more you reach out to people, the more you will gain audience. However, we should be selective with our audience. We should pick out those who would most likely want our products in order to save resources. Say, we are writing books about cars. We should reach out to the audience who loves cars instead of those who do not like it. It would save us some resources and they would probably appreciate it if we do not reach out to them as often.

    1. Exactly. I make friends with everyone, but I write thrillers. Who like thrillers? Military folk. I have a TON of followers who are military. I also happen to come from a military family, so I feel at home with them. But that is why I recemmoned authors blog regularly and blog on topic. Instead of blogging about writing, blog on your subject matter so that you connect with other people interested in your TOPIC. For instance, if you write paranormal romance, write about ghosts and hauntings and ESP. This way you are reaching out and connecting with potential READERS and it also helps keep the writer with a constant flow of fresh material. And, influence people who are big in the supernatural community and the fans will follow.

    • coyhanson on November 13, 2010 at 6:31 pm
    • Reply

    Great post. I recently got your book and am now trying to put your ideas into action. Thanks again for another great post!

    1. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the book. Please let me know if you have any questions. 😀

  5. Very interesting, I have just written some Social Media Training tips on how to connect with key influential people on social media, I thought you might find it interesting.

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