How Influencers Become More Powerful in Communities

David Berkowitz David Berkowitz, Former Contributor

Marketers appreciate the need to search for, monitor, and interact with influencers. Even with media buying, marketers are increasingly open to buying people rather than pages or publishers. Yet marketers have another opportunity that they don’t often tap into: understanding how influencers relate to each other.

Often, conversations occurring publicly through social channels are happening in their own echo chambers, with people interacting with like-minded individuals. These in turn form clusters, and these clusters are at the heart of how we define communities.

Such communities are particularly evident for any politically charged topic. When there are people online calling for others to #DeleteUber or #BoycottESPN, let alone support or denigrate a politician, then it’s easy to spot the more liberal and conservative communities. The most liberal and conservative groups also tend to have little interaction with each other.

This isn’t just true with politics, or with topics that have natural rivalries such as in sports. A topic such as an advertising product update from Facebook or Google might inspire separate communities among technology press, mainstream media, business journalists, and others. These communities are usually easy to identify, as there will be little overlap among them. Additionally, an update might be especially important for one vertical in particular such as entertainment or retail, and those could form new communities. Any search term that has at least hundreds of people publicly talking about it will have communities forming around them.

Once marketers identify such communities, marketers can monitor them; in Sysomos, this involves saving each community as its own Media List. This allows for two general approaches:

First, marketers can see which topics are bubbling up among that group and look into other trends such as which publishers these are sharing. A community of foodies probably isn’t just talking about food, so marketers can get a glimpse into what else matters to them.

Second, marketers can compare each community to each other and then see what the communities are saying about various topics. What do parents versus healthcare professionals say about the new flu vaccine? What do Red Sox fans versus Yankee fans think of the latest trade? What do environmentalists versus business executives think of the automaker opening up a new plant in the Midwest? What do fans of barbecue versus fans of Mexican food think of a fast food chain’s new brisket taco?

Monitoring social media is often compared to tapping into the world’s largest focus group. By using communities, marketers can strike a balance, honing that focus group to a much more specific sample, but expanding beyond a few of the most prominent voices. Influencers will always matter, and they matter even more when you can see how they relate – and don’t relate – to each other.