6 Criteria for Identifying Social Influence

What makes up social influence and how can you identify your industry’s influencers?

Building social influence can be extremely valuable. When people see you as a thought leader, your brand, personal and Social Equity all spike. But sometimes, leveraging other industry influencers can be just as powerful. But how can we identify social influence for a particular industry?

Though every definition of social influence might be unique – after all, influence is a pretty subjective concept – there are some criteria that, on social, are clear signs of an influencer. When determining the social influencers in your industry, keep a few of these aspects in mind.

1. Following

Virtually any marketer would tell you that it’s all about quality over quantity when it comes to an audience, and that, for the most part, is true. That said, quantity is important, too.

Your industry’s influencers will surely have a strong following. You don’t become an influencer when only a handful of people are interested in what you have to say. But keep in mind that black hat techniques are not all that penalized in the world of social (yet) as they are in search. So verify the quality of an apparent influencer’s large following by ensuring that audience members include other industry peers, and that engagement is consistent.

Speaking of which…

2. Engagement

People should be regularly sharing and talking about the content that an influencer posts. Keep in mind that engagement does not have to be measured in the tens of thousands of shares, tweets and comments. So long as engagement is consistent and relatively strong, you might just have an influencer on your hands.

Again, however, it is important to ensure that the quality of the engagement is positive as well. Note the audience members engaging with the content. Are they relevant to the conversation or industry? Are they employees of this ‘influencer’? If so, you might not be dealing with an individual as influential as they might want to be.

3. Message Consistency

True influence generally means thought leadership. Thought leadership often means that you start conversations that no one else has had and stick to your guns.

The message and rhetoric of an influencer should be consistent and sound. Going back and forth on a point is not a sign of a great thought leader. Sometimes an influencer might face criticism, and have to defend their point of view. That’s all well and good so long as they stick by the message that created the social influence they have.

4. Respect of Best Practices

True influence means understanding the platforms on which one is most active. This translates into a mutual respect for an audience and the adherence to a network or platform’s best practices.

If an ‘influencer’ on Facebook has a poorly designed page and shares nothing but spammy links, but happens to have generated a following, you might want to consider looking for thought leaders elsewhere. Best practices are in place because the industry has spoken and the majority has expressed their wants. True influencers understand that and abide by those guidelines.

5. Up-to-Date

When a major change, breakthrough, deal or update is announced in your industry, your influencers should be among the first to comment, discuss or simply bring up the news.

Having influence means keeping your ear to the ground and being first-to-market on social platforms when there is something important to discuss. This does not mean that an influencer should be breaking the news, but they should be aware of it and, depending on the industry, have an opinion or an analysis of what that means for the industry as a whole.

6. Practitioner of Own Advice

If you are reading an email marketing influencer’s blog and they tell you to keep your subject lines clear and concise, then proceed to send you emails with spammy, cryptic subject lines, you are likely not dealing with a thought leader.

Building influence means that you have done the leg work and found what works in your industry. Therefore, an influencer should be practicing what he or she preaches.

What criteria helps you determine social influence in your industry? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!

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