Posted on Mashable by Ben Straley (CEO of Meteor Solutions, providing the leading word-of-mouth analytics and optimization platform that enables marketers to measure, manage, and monetize earned media.)

Your brand has 10,000 Twitter followers and 2,000 fans on Facebook. Does that mean your social media marketing efforts are paying off? Maybe not. As the old adage goes, it’s quality, not quantity, that counts.

Recent data that Meteor Solutions collected from across more than 20 brand marketer clients shows that the type of friends, fans and followers a brand amasses on social media sites matters more than the number. On average, approximately 1% of a site’s audience generates 20% of all its traffic through sharing of the brand’s content or site links with others. And these “influencers” drive an even higher share of conversion. These very important Internet users can directly influence 30% or more of overall end actions on brand websites by recommending the brand’s site, products or promotions to friends.

As this data shows, successful social media marketing isn’t simply about amassing thousands of followers, but instead precisely identifying the most influential members of your audience and recognizing them for their value. By directly engaging one influencer with exclusive opportunities, special offers, and unique content, you are indirectly engaging thousands of other people who are part of this influencer’s social sphere.

Sounds pretty enticing, right? But the challenge in crafting a successful marketing program that activates influencers is two-fold. First, you have to use the right data and traffic analysis tools to find out who your most influential followers are. Second, you have to connect with these people in an authentic, “non-salesy” way, and truly build a relationship with them –- because if you overly “sell” to your influencers, you’ll burn a bridge and potentially turn your biggest fans into your worst detractors.

Here are a few concrete tips brands can use to get started marketing with influencers.

Find Out Who Is In Your 1%

The first step in creating a marketing program that activates influencers is to find out who these passionate people are and where they hang out online.  To find out, you need to use a social media analytics tracking and measurement tool that goes beyond ‘listening to the conversation,’ measuring website traffic, clicks on campaign links, or conversions.  They are new social media analytics platforms, such as Radian6 and ObjectiveMarketer, that allow you to pinpoint with precision which individuals are most actively sharing your brand’s links.

Find Out What Your 1% Likes to Share

After you’ve identified these individuals, use your social media analytics platform to dig down into the content they like to share most often. Do they tend to share deals and discounts? Or do they prefer to share links to your branded entertainment content, like YouTube videos, social games and contests, or informational articles? At this stage, you can separate your 1% into groups, such as “shopping mavens” who love to pass along deals and discounts; “experts” who love to share new research, top-10 lists, how-to articles, and other educational content; “gaming gurus” who like to share information about contests and games; or “entertainers” who like to share movie trailers, YouTube clips, and social media apps.

Find Out Where Your 1% Goes to Connect and Share

Now you need to identify which social networks, blogs, forums, and websites your 1% hangs out on, and which methods they use to share your content (e-mail, social updates, tweets, etc.). One thing you’re likely to find out is that while Facebook and Twitter undoubtedly play major roles in the spread of your brand’s content, major social networking sites are not where you’re likely to find and reach your 1%.

Think about it — if you are someone extremely passionate about cars, are you really going to bore and alienate your family and friends on Facebook? Some of them might (and lose friends and followers in the process), but for the rest, they have a blog, post comments on other blogs, and interact with niche communities of like-minded influencers, advocates, and fans.

Finding these sites and communities on the web requires some sleuthing. Aside from digging deep into the traffic data provided by your social media analytics platform, another way to find these niche sites is to follow a number of active “experts” on Twitter in your topic of choice. Ask them where they go to learn about and share the content that matters most to them.

Find Out What Motivates Your 1%

People Image

Do your influencers share content about your brand in pursuit of fame, fortune, or a bit of both? Understanding what motivates your 1% to share is key to finding out what makes them tick, and what types of content they will respond to favorably.

For most people that spend time creating and sharing content, it’s not about fortune, it’s about fame. They share links with friends and their wider social network because it makes them feel important, special, and useful. That doesn’t mean influential people don’t like deals as a rule — they’re just like the rest of us in that regard. But they respond most positively to the attention and recognition they get from sharing useful content and valuable information with others.

For example, we’ve seen on several marketing programs that the percent of incremental unique visitors to a site from shared links more than doubled when the names of the top sharers where posted on an online leader board, and top-sharers were given access to exclusive content.

Make ‘Em Famous’

If your data does indeed show that your influentials are more motivated by fame rather than fortune, then it’s time to recognize and reward them with incentives that are aligned with this motivation.

Use your company’s Twitter and Facebook pages to call out public achievements, like funny or useful YouTube videos on relevant topics posted by your top 1%. Blog about an interesting article, post, or tweet an influential member of your customer base has written, and let them know what you’ve done. And make sure to extend special offers or direct access to top company executives to your influential users. A big part of making these people feel special involves granting insider access to people, deals, or information that is limited to a select few.


By finding and reaching out to your brand’s biggest fans, you’ll get access to thousands of customers for the price of engaging a few. But remember that it’s a two-way street. Early on, engage these folks in a dialog around what they like about your brand and products, why they like it, what they’d like to see improved, and what types of opportunities and offers they’d be most interested in receiving. Give, and you shall receive.