By Neva Mwiti, Senior Account Director
I recently stumbled across an interesting concept the other day: digital clutter, and was then amazed by the number of self-confessed victims of digital clutter mania - the unfortunate souls plagued with a digital proliferation of emails, web pages, banner ads, Facebook updates, blogs, news, media, Instagram pics and Pinterest pins.
The fact is, we’re all victims of the online marketing blitz – thousands of daily digital messages each trying to grab our e-attention.
Add to that the commoditisation of online services, retail and products, coupled with speed to market and rapidly evolving technologies and you’re left with an influx of products and services all competing for market share and brand recognition. And to be honest, very few of these have cut through as customers become paralysed by too many choices.
How do brands market their unique value in the digital space? And further to that, how do they grow their digital influence?
Why is digital brand influence important?
Beyond your cool logo and great products, your brand influence is the measure of how much a consumer knows about your product and your company and which subsequently leads to how much they trust you in the marketplace and therefore are more likely to purchase your product/service.
Influence = (Personal Brand * Knowledge * Trust)
Understanding and defining your company’s unique value and influence is critical to meeting your business objectives.
Influence plays a major role in today’s highly digitised marketplaces and one of the most glaring issues with the entire web world revolves around ROI – return on investment. This has been the case for a long time, but the truth is there is a substantial return on investment, but it is not as direct as other ventures.
You have to view brand building online as a means to receive a larger reward than most advertising. What influence does is supply your brand with direct channels to your primary and even your secondary audiences. As opposed to just publishing into the digital ether, you can speak directly into your audience’s ear from a trusted voice.
If done right this will affect your bottom line in the long term more than most traditional communication tactics.
How can you increase your digital brand influence?
1. Create content worth sharing. Influencers are those who create high-quality content that is shared and spread throughout many networks. What’s high-quality content? That will vary based on your network and audience. If you have an audience full of devoted foodies a picture of what you’re eating for dinner may be just the ticket, but that same picture to an audience focused on business would likely fall on deaf ears (so to speak). My suggestion is to experiment with different types of posts and topics to see what resonates the most with your audience i.e. generates the most retweets, likes, etc.
2. Start discussions. One of the factors that drives up your influence is the conversations and discussions surrounding you and your content. If a friend or follower posts something you like or want to know more about, start a discussion about it. Don’t just put out content and then disappear – wait for any responses from your network and engage with them. Try occasionally asking a question of you network and it’ll foster a closer connection with your audience.
3. Connect your networks. When you reach out and connect your networks with others online, that ‘distributes’ your influence further. So get your Facebook and Google pages talking to your Twitter profile and then share and link your own profiles with other similar networks and groups online. This is especially true for Twitter where you can join existing ‘interest’ lists or start one of your own.
Who’s role is it to manage digital brand influence?
Stephanie Agresta, EVP, Managing Director of Social Media, Weber Shandwick says, ”It’s up to brand managers, marketers, and communications professionals to use influence tools to learn more about the social landscapes and the people who affect their markets. As the findings here point out, brands cannot think episodically about influence or influencers. This is not a campaign based discipline. While tools are helpful, the practice of IRM (Influencer Relationship Management) is about ongoing engagement and community building. Today, that can happen at scale.”
“If you’re a company who’s spending employee dollars, spending employee time, paying agencies, if you’re actively engaged [online] and it’s costing your business money, it’s irresponsible not to measure some aspect of that time spent and of that money spent,” says Eric Peterson, founder of Twitalyzer, a Twitter analytics start-up .
Quantitatively measuring a brand’s online influence is a relatively new idea, but it may be one of the most important developments in online marketing since Google AdWords. Understanding how your company interacts with its online community, and knowing which tools are effective in the ultra-specific world of the Internet, is crucial for driving your brand’s overall success.
How is digital brand influence measured?
We live in a time when social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, et al., not only connect us, they become part of our digital lifestyle. But it’s not just about how these networks help us connect and communicate with others. Whether we know it or not, our social activity now contributes to our stature within each network. New services such as Klout and PeerIndex among many others not only measure who you know, what you say, and what you do, they attempt to score or rank your ability to influence those to whom you’re connected. As a result, social network users are now starting to rethink how they connect and communicate to improve their stature within each network. And at the same time, brands are taking notice, as these services also help organisations identify individuals who are both connected and relevant to help expand reach into new media and markets.
Tools to help you measure your digital brand influence
Klout measures more than 35 different variables grouped into three basic areas: True Reach, the size of the engaged audience; Amplification, the likelihood content will be acted upon by others; and Network, the influence level of the engaged audience. Your company’s True Reach, Amplication, and Network combine to create the overall Klout score, which is a number 1 to 100.
If your online presence achieves a score above a certain threshold, you are deemed “influential,” and basically eligible to enjoy the fruits of being an influential person. Klout connects influential members and brands together, so those with high Klout scores may receive a slew of luxurious benefits.
Klout is far from perfect as it can be infinitely complex. However it does help brands improve the quality of their analytics as Klout works on improving its accuracy.
PeerIndex, launched by Azhar in 2009, draws many similarities to Klout. In addition to linking similar social media, PeerIndex also creates three sub-scores (Authority, Activity, and Audience) and one overall score. PeerIndex differs in its approach to best understanding and engaging your social network.
“We’re focusing on social impact and this idea of your topic graph: The subjects that you care about, the extent that those people in your networks care about those subjects, and what you have to say,” Azhar explains. “We show you what you talk about frequently, and the extent to which you resonate with other people on those subjects. We’re giving you a sense of your interest graph and how important you are in those topic communities.”
PeerIndex also offers one of Klout’s key features: Connecting similarly-minded brands and individuals. PeerIndex believes bringing companies and their benefactors closer together can be mutually advantageous.
Twitalyzer avoids focusing on “more narcissistic measures of personal self worth and ego” and collects “hard data” in the form of Impact, Engagement, Velocity, Reach, and several other metrics, which allow you to understand how you use Twitter.
Twitalyzer even allows you to incorporate your Klout and PeerIndex scores, but this tool’s strength is allowing you to assess the power of each individual tweet, telling you which of your trends and topics are most popular.
Other notable features include benchmarks, a way to compare your data with that of influential people you follow on Twitter, as well as subscription plans that offer special features like in-depth analysis, competitive account tracking, phone support, and API access.
Crowdbooster — funded by Y Combinator — also focuses exclusively on Twitter, but its tracking service also lets a user see the full reach of their tweets. It keeps track of your follower growth, top retweeters and your most influential followers. Your tweets are presented on a scatter plot graph, making it easy to view which tweets and topics garnered the most engagement.
Crowdbooster also recommends specific times during the day to tweet, based on the times your most influential followers are most active. To top it off, the program also allows you to schedule reminder notifications to tweet.
Measuring numbers and bringing numbers up isn’t the endgame for this tool. The endgame is talking to your loyal customers and helping out your brand.
Measure your brand’s online influence: Take a long view
Measuring online influence can be useful — and has the potential to reinforce your social media strategy, particularly for growing brands looking to utilise technology to make their jobs easier and more effective.
The fact is research has shown that online consumers are influenced by brand or product recommendations by members of their social network.
Within social networks, being ‘liked’ or ‘promoted’ is also critical, as results show that social networks influence impressions and ultimately the bottom line. For brands, the importance of being ‘liked’ is the generational equivalent of being ‘recommended’ at the backyard BBQ.
However ongoing engagement is what’s key: more than 25% of online followers ’unlike’ or stop ‘following’ a brand or company at any given and the main reasons given for ‘unliking’ is that the consumer simply loses interest.
The lesson is that as a brands you cannot assume that once a consumer befriends your company online that they will be friends for life.
To be successful, brands must work on their virtual relationships long-term as hard as they work on their face-to-face ones.
So get busy!
Tell us how successful your brand influence strategy has been and we’d love to see what more we can do to enhance it.