Selecting Online Influencers? Here’s 10 Things to Consider…

This post is the second of three looking at online influencers. The first listed some great free tools that help identify influential people, however this post is the next step – 10 things to consider when selecting online influencers. For reference, the third will  look at the engagement process.

I will start by saying that there are several considerations when it comes to selecting influencers and each approach will be tailored, depending on the campaign. However, I’m sure that these tips will serve as a good introduction to the practice of selecting online influencers. In addition, this post makes the assumption that you have selected a decent number of blogs, but are looking for ways to refine the list.

1. Are they open to being approached?
This is the most important part of the list. You must see if the influencer is open to being approached. Most bloggers will have a social policy stating if they are open to being approached. If it’s a ‘no’, there is absolutely no point in engaging with the person. Indeed, it may result in you being called out for bad practice. However, there is a grey area; if an infleuncer publishes their email address are they inviting communication from PRs? There is much debate, but no definitive answer to this question, except that further research will be required.

2. Google Chrome SEO plugin
When selecting influencers we evaluate people using a variety of criteria The Google Chrome SEO plugin is a fantastic tool that gives you a wealth of data about any blog or website in a matter of seconds, helping you to make that decision more quickly. It provides Google and Alexa Page Rank, competitive analysis, keyword research, backlink checks and a whole host of SEO information. Whilst, this plugin does not profess to answer the question of influence, it does provide a lot of useful metrics, especially page rank by two respected sources which really helps inform your decision-making process.

3. Keyword search
This is more of a due diligence tip, than a technical one. Nonetheless, when you are selecting an online influencer, it is vitally important to scour their blog and social media platforms for the name of your client and associated issues. Most blogs normally contain a search facility, but Ctrl+F allows you to search a site as will using Boolean Logic to search Google. This is not full proof, but will enable you to understand if the influencer has publicly shown a like or dislike your client or their industry. This manual search is important and should not be overlooked..
Tip – check out this great blog post about searching the web more effectively.

4. Inbound links
The number of inbound links to a blog or website a is a good way to gain an understanding of how influential somebody may be, as this shows the number of times they have been referenced or cited. I’ll reiterate, you only gain an understanding, rather than a firm answer. Nonetheless, it is a valuable part of the selection process. A simple Google search with links:www.yoururl.com will tell you how many inbound links a website has.

5. Where are they based?
It may seem obvious, but the influencer’s location has to be central to your thinking, especially if their  attendance is required at an offline event. Whilst, this may seem pretty straightforward,it can be troublesome as some influencers do not reveal their location. If this is the case, you can use the Whois domain tool to view the name and contact details of the influencer. In addition, Twitter and Linked In can be used to identify where people are based.

6. What social media platforms do they use?
It is really important to look at what platforms the influencer is active on. Somebody who is active across a range of platforms will really help amplify your message. Too often agencies may target influencers who are active on a narrow range of platforms, For instance people who blog and tweet, but there is often a rich source of influencers ready to be tapped into on Flickr, messageboards, forums, Linked In, as well as more niche communities.

7. How connected is the influencer?
Once you have understood what social media platforms the influencer uses, it is a shrewd move to research how connected they are. By this I mean the number of friends they have on Facebook, Twitter followers, Linked In connections, Flickr friends etc. This gives some indication of the likely reach and amplification of your  message.

8. Research
As part of your due dilligence and making sure that your approach is correctly targeted, it is important to spend time reading the influencer’s previous posts. I’m using the example of a blogger here, but it can be equally applied to a photo album, Twitter or Facebook account. At Edelman Digital we say it takes one hour to search and fully approve one blog, so it is a time consuming process. The importance of doing your research cannot be underestimated and it should be considered an investment in a positive outcome.

9. How frequently do they post?
When deciding whether or not you should select a particular influencer it is important to consider how frequently they create content. Sometimes you may find great blogs which appear to tick all the boxes, but you quickly note that they have not posted new content for several months. In addition, some influencers use platforms like Posterous to generate content every day which can mean coverage can have a short lifespan.

10. Do people engage with the content?
It is important to asses if people engage with the content that the influencer produces. For instance, you may discover niche blogs or websites with low Google and Alexa rankings due to the obscure topic of the content, but have high levels of engagement, such as comments, impressions, likes, retweets. This is important to consider as higher levels of engagement will lead to greater amplification of your message.

I’m confident that this list of considerations will act as a good starting point to select online influencers and help you to make more informed decisions. Nonetheless, I recognise this list is far from definitive, so I would be interested to hear what considerations you think are important.

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