May 14 2010
Total read time: 4 minutes
Recently, Augie Ray and Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research released a new study on “peer influence analysis” – a systematic, data-driven way to determine who the influencers are for a particular brand, and understand the social channels in which they are active.
They used technographic profiles to slice users by social activity, in order to determine “Mass Connectors” and “Mass Mavens” (with appropriate hat tip to Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point). What they found was that just 16% of internet users account for 80% of social influence – which might include content creation, impressions, virality, and other factors.
Their first conclusion is an obvious one: you can gain much more efficiency from your media spend if you focus on this audience – because they naturally pass things along, and others look to them for information. So, one impression to this targeted group is worth more than many impressions to the negative group.
This requires a bottom up approach to campaign planning. Instead of looking for a demo target, and blasting eyeballs, you hand select individual sites that you know perform well against your target. It’s more work to plan, but each media dollar goes much further.
But, the implications go far beyond that. After the report came out, I had a conversation with Augie about how much of White Horse’s social media work already conforms to this concept – especially the TIME Methodology for social seeding that I created. And Augie mentioned an interesting corollary: peer influencers have different information needs than normal users. They want to go much deeper, have a more profound understanding of the organization and products, and have earned the right to access to information that others might not get or care about.
This affects the content priorities of the website tremendously. Currently, the content inventory and prioritization of information needs is informed by personas that are created based on “most common user types.” But, peer influencers are not common at all, yet their information needs are perhaps the most important of any user group.
Peer influencers want video interviews with your back end engineers. They want reams of technical documentation translated into their native language, and downloadable as a PDF. They are already subscribing to your press release RSS feed. They need access to a protected area of the site where they can escalate their issues or concerns above the standard customer service channels.
Much like Animal Farm, all customers are equal, but some are more equal than others. Providing information for this audience has a huge downstream effect.
This is impossible to do on an individual basis. Even though they are a small fraction of the total online population, they are still millions of people. They need better systems, attuned to their needs. It needs to be in plain site, easy for them to find.
And, unfortunately, the traffic numbers alone will never make the business case for undertaking the effort of creating this content. It will be a trickle. But, social media monitoring can bridge that gap – if you can show a correlation between content released on the site, and conversations happening off-site, that’s a strong association.
So, go forth, and make friends with the peer influencer. Fight for them internally. And they’ll fight for you externally.