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Influencer Intelligence: Using Data to Understand the Influencer Community

Understanding the influencer community starts with influencer intelligence which will uncover the trends that are driving business forward.

By: Michael Brito

Category: Influencer Marketing

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 of time before content creators get their own bachelor’s degree in influencer marketing.

Image of TikTok influencer community

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 an influencer 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. Socia 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 their engagement rates, topics of interest, audience, and social channel affinities.

Influencer intelligence identifies, analyzes, and acts on information about influential individuals within a given domain. This information can be used to 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 has been associated with celebrity partnerships. However, the rise of social media has made it possible to track and analyze the influence of just about anyone who uses social media. As a result, influencer intelligence has become an essential tool for understanding a target audience or a group of consumers.

There are a few different 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 about their 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 what method you use, the goal is to assess an influencer’s ability to drive marketing results.

Digital Transformation: 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 a social media 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 Alexa.com (RIP) to do an organic search analysis or “share of organic search” to see which companies were ranking in Google for the term Digital Transformation.

In each of those three analyses, several companies were referenced. However, one company stood out more than 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 social media content.

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 of “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 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 talking about the same things that influencers talked about–creating web pages, mobile experiences, videos, social content, and even earned media. This is really what drove their digital transformation 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.

Use research before your 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 though 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 there were a few speakers talking about influencer marketing. One speaker was talking about an experience she had in 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 10 or so products valued at about $100.

Others chimed in to talk about similar experiences when they’ve 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. It’s 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 of the social data points 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 why 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.

You will need more than a free influencer marketing research tool to really make an impact.

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