Members Speak Out: Social Influence as a Key Component of the Paid, Owned and Earned Media Equation
“Social Influence” is a hot topic. There is no shortage of opinions on what ‘influence’ actually means and no shortage of companies who seek to analyze influential prospects and customers for business gain. But one thing the industry does seem to agree on is that influencer monitoring and measuring is here to stay as a key component of the paid, owned and earned media equation.
Scott Milener, SVP Social Strategy from Kred, a social media analytics company created by PeopleBrowsr, recently spoke with the IAB Social Media Committee about this topic. “A social influencer is someone who inspires action from others in their community,” Milener said, adding “We’re accustomed to thinking of top influencers as being celebrities or media outlets. Social analytics gives us an opportunity to move beyond that group to find people that have high influence in small close networks connected by interests, passions and affiliations. These people are exponential in value to non-influencers and can have a profound impact on the opinions of their peers and followers.” A top goal is to “achieve virality by getting influencers to organically and virally spread messages or links.” Milener stressed the importance of valuing influencers by “rewarding, incentivizing and treating them as if they were top journalists.” This engagement with influencers drives brand-related conversations.
We followed up with three IAB member companies present at the meeting to see what role social influence plays in their business’ paid, owned and earned media equation, how it is measured and how they see this evolving in the future.
Social Influence is the ability to activate participatory eagerness across one’s social and interest graphs. In the context of social media influence should not solely be defined in terms of conversations and community size, the core tenets of social media, but also in terms of interest based actions which fuel the interest graph. The interest graph is a more powerful mechanism than the social graph when it comes to driving social influence. The influence of the social butterfly is dying. This is because attention is about context. If you want attention you have to provide content that intersects your audience’s path to consumption. In the future, Social Influencers will have more powerful interest graphs than social graphs. Either way, measuring this type of influence in terms of business gain is straightforward, but in order to measure it successfully you must have pre-defined goals. In its most simplified form at Condé Nast, from an acquisition stand point, we are typically measuring referral traffic to our websites, which means Omniture and Google Analytics are predominantly used to measure the success of social influencer programs. In its broadest sense marketing programs have three main pillars: Acquisition, Engagement, and Conversion, and ultimately what to measure and how to measure it depends on your business goals.
At Unruly, our core business is social video distribution and measurement of video sharing across the web. We define social influence not only by the size and precision of a particular influencers’ social graph, but also by the amount of sharing that they drive of our clients’ video content…and by the amount of meaningful conversation around that content that ensues. We also measure the quality of the engagement that these influencers can stimulate including video dwell time, play rates and the volume and tone of subsequent conversation. In Unruly’s view, these are all legitimate criteria for measuring influence. We measure the power of this influence for brands every day. In fact, we published a white paper earlier this year that demonstrates the exponential value of recommendation across social media and how that can translate into ROI for marketers. At Unruly, we see social influence growing in importance for brand marketers over the long haul. The real power of digital media is its ability to facilitate a feedback loop. As marketers grow more comfortable with having an ongoing conversation with their consumers, more and better influencers will emerge. The democratization of the web means that anyone can be a publisher…with the widening and deepening of social platforms, it’s a natural progression that anyone can become an influencer as well!
At Disqus, we strive to create engaging communities and to elevate the quality of discussions. In June we rebuilt our platform specifically to more fully capture and incorporate social influence signals from our large user base (800 million monthly uniques, 300 million monthly active users). For instance, Disqus displays the best comments at the top of the discussion thread based in large part on community voting and user reputation scores. Another example is the social discovery of content via our Discovery box whereby users receive personalized content recommendations based on what they (and users similar to them) have read and engaged with across Disqus-enabled sites. We are also excited about the monetization opportunities around social discovery because it allows advertisers to natively enter the conversation while also being complementary to the user experience. In the future, social influence will take an ever-expanding role in everything we do. Why? Because doing so drives tangible results. For example, traffic that is referred by Disqus social discovery performs much better than other referral sources…on average 2X the page views and 3X the time on site versus other referrers. Our success depends upon capitalizing on the richness of our data, a key component of which is social influence.
This blog series focuses on key areas of interest within the realm of paid, owned and earned media and taps into the expertise of IAB Social Media Committee members to share insights and best practices. What’s your take on social influence? Join in the conversation by commenting here or posting comments and/or questions using #IABPOEM.
About the Author
Susan Borst is the Director, Industry Initiatives at the IAB focusing on Social Media, B2B and Games. She can be reached on Twitter @susanborst.