Your Guide to Finding and Analyzing the Right Influencers

Posted by Margot Sinclair Savell on July 27, 2017

finding and identifying influencersIn my last blog post, I discussed the value of influencer analytics for companies and brands. As mentioned, influencers are prominent individuals with a respected voice in social media, and the reputation and power to sway others with their opinions.

Influencers represent opportunities to shape perceptions about your corporate and brand reputation. They also might help change the course of a negative remark at an early stage.

Building on that topic, let’s look at more specific, data-driven ways to identify influencers, and then monitor and measure their social media conversations.

Find All the Right People in All the Right Places

The first step to identifying influencers is to analyze the conversations and online coverage about your brand in the last three months. Working with a large volume of chatter could leave you open to error, so it is crucial that data be gathered by using complex search strings to eliminate noise.

These search strings should be built to capture everything important to your company, your brand and your industry – products and solutions, reviews, awards, recognition, recommendations, key messages, best practices, spokespeople and thought leadership efforts (such as studies, surveys or conferences), in addition to industry news, issues, challenges and potential threats.

Your search strings should also contain the URLs of your social channels and your website, plus your social handles (@companyname) and hashtags, so you can see if your content is shared by influencers. Include the names of competitive brands in your search strings, so you can also discover those companies’ influencers.

Once you have activated these search strings through your monitoring tool and gathered all the data, spend some time evaluating the information, so you can determine who are the influencers leading the social media conversations about the topics of interest to you.

Look for people who: 1) are passionate about your brand and your industry, 2) talk frequently about significant subjects, and 3) generate a high level of engagement from their followers.

The size of their social footprint, also known as reach, is valuable; but relevance, frequency and engagement are vital. In addition, influencers should be authentic and generate confidence among their followers. Consider visually mapping their connections to indicate networks of people and the strength of their alliances, based on how often they mention each other. 

Review This Checklist to Help Recognize the Few But Mighty Influencers

Keep this checklist handy to help identify the best influencers for your brand.

  1. Who mentioned your brand the most times in a month? In a quarter?
  2. Who mentioned your messages and the topics most important to you? Of those, who discussed them the most frequently?
  3. What topics generated the highest engagement?
  4. Who talked about your competitive brands most often? Who has strong opinions about them?
  5. Who is most engaged with your social channels and your content?
  6. Who uses your hashtags and social handles?
  7. Who shares links to your news and other content?
  8. Who posts reviews and/or recommendations of your brand, competitive brands and industry issues?
  9. Who has the most engagement with their followers?
  10. Who has the largest social footprint overall, and who has the largest footprint for each channel (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.)?

Enter the checklist answers in a spreadsheet, choose the most pertinent influencers for your marketing program, and keep this data to use as a benchmark for future reporting. Make sure to take the additional step of manual research to confirm that they really are aligned with your brand.

For example, I know a blogger who has been an influencer about social media trends for a decade. But he occasionally posts about other matters. For example, when he experienced problems with one of his home appliances, he ranted about it on his blog several times over a couple of months. To his surprise, he started getting pitches from appliance companies and their PR or marketing agencies. A quick manual check of his blog over time would have revealed that 95% of his posts focused on social media, not small appliances. So beware and do your research!

Build Relationships with Influencers

Once you’ve identified influencers, the next step is to get to know them, and decide how to harness their power. But don’t just jump in and pitch. Listen closely to their dialogue and comment about their interests, before telling them about your brand and messages.

I’ve always thought of social media as a corporate cocktail party. Influential guests will stay only if the repartee is valuable, interesting or entertaining. So, when first engaging online with influencers, act in the same way that you do with strangers at a cocktail party, or at a conference, or any networking event. Proceed with caution; avoid jumping right in and immediately stating your strong opinions.

Building relationships after designating influencers can also be approached through a pay-to-post model and other evolving tactics. This is a subject for marketing and PR professionals to tackle, rather than media analysts.

Monitor and Measure Their Conversations

When your influencer program is underway, monitor the discussions of your influencers daily, to keep track of their interests and be alerted to the potential of a negative exchange. This is also the time to conduct another round of media measurement.

It is a best practice to use your initial analytics as a benchmark, and then each month, compare current conversations against these baseline findings. This will provide you with a roadmap of the outcomes of your program, demonstrating what is working and what isn’t after you have cultivated these strong relationships.

Be sure to review the search strings in your initial evaluation and update them, if necessary, to remove irrelevant remarks. Select your metrics based on your business and communications goals. For more on choosing the right metrics, see my post, Media Metrics that Matter to Business and Brands.

Examine the awareness about your brand, your messages and your industry, keeping in mind the frequency and relevance of posts. Look for engagement, recommendations, reviews and site traffic generated by links from your influencer community.

Analyze the data, and use these findings to adjust your messages, craft content, adjust your strategies, and engage further with your influencers. Of note, the media landscape is constantly changing, so update your influencer list every month or at the very least, quarterly. By consistently monitoring and measuring social conversations, you can showcase success and also react in a timely manner.


Measurement is a continuum, a strategic discipline for influencer marketing, which is ubiquitous in 2017. Formal, standardized and meaningful measurement is the best way to demonstrate the success of your influencer program and help discover ways to further refine your efforts to enhance brand perception, awareness and reputation.

Without influencer analytics, you will have a lack of insight to prove that your influencer campaigns are working. Measurement will also show you why some tactics might not be successful, so you can adjust your strategy and improve its effectiveness over time.

If you would like to learn more about how to identify key influencers for your brand, download our eBook: Identifying the Influencers that Matter.

Margot Sinclair Savell is an award-winning writer who has decades of experience crafting and editing content. During 15 years at agencies such as Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Weber Shandwick, she specialized in strategic counsel for measurement, insights and analytics. In 2016, she was inducted into the PR Measurement Hall of Fame.

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