Influencer Intelligence: Using Data to Understand the Influencer Community

The influencer community is exploding and shows no signs of slowing down. In 2022, Duke University launched a class for students who want to pursue influencer marketing on TikTok as a career. The demand is there and growing. It’s only a matter before content creators get their bachelor’s degree in influencer marketing.

It’s clear that millennials and Gen Z’ers not only trust influencers before purchasing products, but they want the same level of clout and payday as the ones they follow. In 2019, a study from Morning Consult showed that 86% of Gen Z and millennials would post content for money, and 54% would become influencers if they had the opportunity.

This is where influencer intelligence and research come into play. By analyzing various influencer communities and tracking their performance, you can understand which ones are most likely to provide business impact on your influencer marketing programs. This is critical on so many levels.

There are hundreds of thousands of influencers on social media. So it’s critical that you make intelligent, data-driven decisions on which ones to collaborate with for your programs. The influencer community can be broken down in so many different ways. Here’s one way to look at the influencer landscape:

  1. Generational influencers (Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and yes, Boomers too)
  2. Consumer influencers (fashion, retail, beauty, skincare, sneakers, sports)
  3. Industry influencers (healthcare, manufacturing, telecommunications, and other niche industries)
  4. Technology influencers (5G, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Science)
  5. DE&I influencers (cultural, Hispanic, Black, Asian, LGBTQ, accessibility)
  6. Social media platform-specific influencers (TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram)

The list goes on.

Using rigorous influencer intelligence and analytics can help you separate real influencers from those who pretend to be more influential than they are. It can also help you track an influencer’s performance over time once you determine which influencers you want to include in your campaign.

What is Influencer Intelligence?

Influencer intelligence is using research to identify influencers and then analyzing their behavior. This includes engagement rates, topics of interest, audience, and social channel affinities.

Influencer intelligence identifies, analyzes, and acts on information about influential individuals within a domain. This information can support or inform decision-making about various business issues, including marketing strategy, campaigns, product development, or day-to-day influencer engagement.

Early on, influencer intelligence was associated with celebrity partnerships. However, the rise of social media has made it possible to track and analyze the influence of just about anyone using it. As a result, influencer intelligence has become an essential tool for understanding a target audience or a group of consumers.

There are various ways to get information about content creators and the larger influencer community. Here are a few examples:

  • Social media: This is the most common source for influencer research. You can track an influencer’s social media activity–posts, comments, likes, shares, total followers, follower growth, and engagement rate.
  • Media mentions: Another way to track the impact of an influencer is by analyzing the reach and impact of the media outlets that reference the influencer.
  • Survey analysis: You can also survey people’s perceptions of an influencer. This can help understand how an audience perceives an influencer, mainly used before high-value celebrities.
  • Search data: You can also track how often an influencer is being searched for on the internet. This can help understand the interest level of an influencer based on the content they are posting.

These are just a few ways to discover content creators. No matter your method, the goal is to assess an influencer’s ability to drive marketing results.

An Influencer Intelligence Example

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of the word digital transformation. Every company uses it. They all want to be associated with it. And they all want to own the term across all their marketing channels. Interestingly, COVID-19 has accelerated this need to transform the way businesses are deploying digital transformation, so it’s become a core focus again over the last three years.

About a year ago, I did some digital transformation research to understand which brands were being mentioned the most in that context, top influencers, the audience, and more.

  • First, I started with social media data analysis and pulled insights from all the platforms, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
  • Second, I used one of our tools to identify the top influencers mentioned and talk about digital transformation.
  • Third, I researched every news article that mentioned Digital Transformation for the last five years.

I extracted which companies were being referenced the most from each from the audience, social media, and the news.

I also used (RIP) to do an organic search analysis or “share of organic search” to see which companies ranked in Google for the term Digital Transformation.

In each of those three analyses, several companies were referenced. However, one company stood out more than the others. I won’t mention their name, but they are headquartered near Seattle.

So then I went to the web archives to cross-reference old web pages to see if these companies themselves were using Digital Transformation in their web content and content marketing strategy.

I investigated the influencer community to see who has been talking about digital transformation for 15+ years. And after about 3 hours on Google and Twitter, I found several mentions and references to “digital and business transformation” dating back to 2006.

It’s hard to tell who exactly was first. Still, it’s clear bet it was top of mind for the influencer community–journalists, analysts, and technologists talking about this evolution in business.

What’s the Point of this Influencer Research?

So the question you may have is, why is this even important? Well, let me tell you. Throughout all the research, it’s clear that these companies were tracking and listening to the influencer community.

More importantly, they were taking action.

They became active participants in the same things influencers talked about–creating web pages, mobile experiences, videos, social content, and even earned media. This is really what drove their digital strategy.

They were incorporating influencer intelligence into their brand storytelling, and 10-15 years later, they are reaping the benefits of doing so.

So once you identify and discover the top influencers, you can learn a lot by just listening:

  1. Conversational trends over time: Track patterns to see if any topics or interests are gaining or declining in popularity.
  2. Real-time: Track real-time conversations around topics and themes, which can fuel influencer relations.
  3. Conversation analysis: Study the context of the conversation. If they are talking about digital transformation, are they talking about technology adoption, scaling in the enterprise, business culture, enterprise security, or all of the above?
  4. Sentiment analysis: Track the sentiment for smaller audiences like a group of influencers is easy. You’ll need to hand-code content and better understand how they feel about a topic.

This is why influencer intelligence is critical. It provides early insights into the topics and trends that are top of mind for an influencer community. Then, if they are truly influential, they shape the market and conversations, shaping relevancy and search behavior.

This type of research and intelligence can inform very tactical programs and influencer marketing:

  • Headlines: Owned and earned media
  • Content & stories: Blogs, communities, and bylines
  • On-page optimization: SEO metadata and HTML content on web pages
  • Paid search: Keywords and phrases that you are bidding on for PPC marketing
  • Titles & descriptions: YouTube videos and other social platforms
  • Executive & employee content
  • Social assets: Post copy, eBook, webinars
  • Digital marketing campaigns and social media programs

What’s interesting about influencer intelligence is that it’s just research. It doesn’t require activating an influencer engagement program. But the key is to use this research to inform what you do have control over.

Using Research Before You Hire Influencers

So, you want to hire influencers? That seems to be the trend these days. Influencer marketing is swarming the headlines and glamorizing all across the media. I wonder how many of these marketers are spending time interrogating the data to ensure that they are hiring the right influencers that will deliver true business impact.

Researching influencers is critical. A few months ago, I was in a Clubhouse room, and a few speakers were talking about influencer marketing. One speaker talked about an experience hiring an influencer with the sole purpose of driving sales. The influencer had several million followers across several social media channels like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok collectively. After a few weeks into the program, the influencer only sold ten products valued at about $100.

Others talked about similar experiences when they had to hire influencers for their marketing programs.

This isn’t an isolated incident.

There have been situations globally where brands have talked about the ineffectiveness of hiring influencers because they didn’t spend enough time upfront researching the influencer. Either that or they are not using the right analytics to measure influence.

Certainly, not all negative experiences can be avoided when brands need to hire influencers, but they can be minimized if data and research are a core part of the program.

There are two ways to think about this. There’s the upfront research and insights needed to identify the right influencers. I call this influencer analytics. There is also real-time optimization of programs based on an influencer marketing program currently in the market.

I have talked about this many times before, but there are four data points you can use to ensure that you are partnering with the right influencer communities. You can weigh each social data point differently based on your objective. – reach, resonance, relevance, and reference.

The reality is that it’s not always an influencer’s fault that people aren’t buying products. You have to ask yourself, “is the experience when someone gets to the checkout optimized to drive conversions.” If not, that could be one reason a particular influencer isn’t performing. If the checkout process is seamless, the UI is simple and easy to navigate and the influencers are still not driving sales, then perhaps you are working with the wrong influencer.

The Best Influencer Marketing Research Tool is Not $24 a/month

Be careful if you are thinking about buying an influencer research tool for $24 a month. You get what you pay for.

The problem with most of these influencer marketing research tools is how they rank the influencers. They use measures like social reach, the number of followers, the Kred influence score, and other surface-level metrics. But these aren’t the things that matter when trying to reach a specific audience with a particular message. More complex research is needed to identify the true influencers in any given market.

Influencer Research Analysis Another Example

I have been in this space for a long time and have started tracking all of the top influencer marketing software tools and applications. I used a combination of a few of them and social media listening software for the below example.

A small part of the below analysis could be done by one of the influencer tools mentioned above. But it wouldn’t be worth spending even $24 a month to get an influencer’s name. There is much more rigor and data analysis to uncover true insights for influencer intelligence.

The first thing I like to do is put together an influencer profile. It’s a snapshot overview of the influencer–who they are, what they talk about, their bio, etc. It gives a holistic view of all the influencer research on one slide.

The influencer profile is similar to a buyer persona, but the information is specific to a real person, in this case, a particular influencer. There is also data and insights into what makes them influential.

Michelle Gomez is not a real person. It’s just the first name that I thought of when I put the analysis together. See below for a real influencer profile and their corresponding information.

There’s a lot of information on these profiles, and it’s important to dissect each piece because each one has a purpose. In the upper left corner are her name, audience size, and her network’s extensive by channel. On the right is her topical relevance. It’s a cluster analysis based on the keywords, phrases, and topics she publishes the most online, whether on social media, blogs, editorial bylines, etc. This tells me what topics are most relevant to her.

You need more than a $99 subscription to an influencer marketing research tool to pull this type of data. But let’s continue with this analysis.

Each box represents volume, so the more significant the box, the larger the conversation volume. She discusses the future workplace, HR, technology, digital transformation, and employee experience. You’ll notice that each box has smaller boxes within each color. These represent subtopics.

Looking at Future Workplace, she talks a lot about the gig economy, remote teams, HR technology, flex, working huddle, room zoom, etc. I analyzed this data before the pandemic, so it makes sense that she would be talking about these topics. Again, these are keywords and phrases she uses on social media.

Moving down to the bottom right corner. These are other influencers that influence Michelle. This data is collected by tracking the content Michelle shares and the individuals she engages with on social media.

Influencer Marketing Research Tool 2022

When I talk about different ways to measure influence, it’s not just about how large their community is or how much engagement they get from their content. I always ask the following question:

Does this influencer get mentioned by any other influencers? The media? Analyst reports? A specific audience?

In this case, the data confirms that she has been mentioned in several HR trade media outlets. I call this data point reference, which tracks whether influencers are “referenced” by other influential audiences.

Right above the media mentions is audience mentions. This is also considered a reference data point. It tracks if a specific audience has mentioned or shared her content over a specified period. This is one of the most important metrics because it validates if a particular influencer is influencing an audience.

Imagine this. You are an HCM vendor and sell your software to HR professionals. They are your audience, your buyers. You build an audience of 8.5K HR professionals ranging from the CHRO, the head of HR, Benefits & Compensation, Recruiters, and leaders of DE&I. You then reference Michele’s social handle or any articles that she’s written over time to see if there is any engagement from your audience research.

Of course, as an HCM vendor, you would probably care less if she’s mentioned randomly by people who follow her. But if she’s mentioned 15,000 times by self-identified HR professionals, that’s a different story.

Now we’re going to transition and look at influencers as a specific group of people versus one influencer profile. There are two visualizations below. The left bar chart represents topically based content sharing by the security influencers. When influencers discuss or share security articles, their go-to media platforms are LinkedIn, Dark Reading, and ZDNet. When they are talking about or sharing content related to artificial intelligence, their go-to media outlets are Forbes, CIO Online, LinkedIn, and DZone.

On the right is a conversation analysis of the top 20 security influencers. When collecting all of the data from each one of their social profiles, we clustered the key phrases and terms and categorized them into topics based on volume. Data security, AI, industry 4.0, automation, and data science are the top themes discussed. This is identical to Michelle’s topical relevance, but in this case, we’re looking at all 20 influencers collectively.

An image of influencer research and their conversations.

This data tells us what topics, trends, and stories are top of mind for the top 20 influencers and where they go online to consume content. If you consider any other influencer marketing research tool on the market today, you will not be able to get more than 5% of what has been shared on this post today. And that 5% is probably just the name of the influencer.

Let’s move on.

We are still tracking the top 20 influencers below, but we are looking at their trending media consumption. From the above example, we already know what topics they’re talking about the most. And in this case, we are looking at that relevancy over 12 months. Are there any topics increasing in relevance? Which ones are decreasing in relevance?

The data tells us that Industry 4.0 is a topic that is trending extremely high among these influencers. Industry 4.0 is this evolution of the digital transformation buzzword that most other influencers and tech audiences have been using over the last decade.

The data also suggests that work’s future has steadily declined since January. This means they’re not using it in any social content they publish online. This also tells me that the future of work isn’t relevant to this audience as it was before.

An image of influencer marketing research trends and analysis.

This analysis helps marketers understand the topics, trends, and stories demanding their audience’s attention. In this case, an audience is a group of influencers or, in many cases, just one influencer. The next logical question that marketers must ask themselves is, “Are we meeting the audience’s demand with our supply of content marketing?” You will need more than a $24 a/month influencer marketing research tool. You’ll need more in-depth influencer analytics to see the true value of your programs.

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Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.