Part 1: Discovering Topic Influence, and Why It Matters

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[NOTE: This is part 1 of a multi-part series. You can see Part 2 here.]

Every marketer’s ultimate goal is plain enough: Prompt a potential customer or client to an open, a click, or a step down the sales funnel. You must push using content marketing with quality content. Or you must pull using lead nurturing. Either way, it takes a force. And in today’s hyper-connected world that force is increasingly taking the form of the impact one person has on another in a kind of chain reaction.

It’s called influence.

InfluenceMuch is being written about influence — how to measure it, assert it, and affect it. Influence isn’t a predictable science. There’s too much of human nature involved. But we’re getting there. We know, for example, that “going viral” could be a source of influence, but influence isn’t the same as popularity. An expert specialist can wield an enormous amount of influence based on their authority, credibility, and trust within a small but vital community.

No matter who they are or where they exist, influencers are critically important. Why? They amplify messages. Now that we live in a global village and the world is flat, their voices are being heard in innumerable niche markets that, though tiny, are still worth a king’s ransom.

So more and more marketers are asking themselves: Who are the real influencers in my particular market? Where can we find them? How do we know which ones are more influential than others.

Our mission at SocialEars is to help answer those questions and to enable you to do better influencer marketing. We gather and measure massive amounts of social media data in real-time. The value we provide isn’t just in identifying key influencers, but in identifying influencers in our customer’s focus area as they define it. 

The definition of influence is the power or ability to affect someone’s beliefs or actions, a person or thing with such ability or power, the power arising out of status, contacts, or wealth and the power to produce a physical change.
— Michael Cohn, The Importance of Social Influence on Businesses – 2011

Specifically we want to:

  • Provide insight on what makes an influencer important to you and your customers
  • Identify the right influencers so that you can build an audience
  • Leverage those influencers and your new audience to drive traffic to your website
In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll discuss topic influence, and why it’s important to find the right influencers.


Oprah InterviewOprah’s Book Club has as much if not more impact on reader’s book purchases as the New York Times Bestseller List.  But there’s a major difference.  The N.Y. Times reports actual sales, which has a latent effect on the purchase rate.  Oprah influences people in her audience who go out and then buy a book. She’s at the beginning of a message. Envy the author when she is. An Oprah endorsement can send an obscure book to soaring sales. Her impact has even earned its own name. It’s the Oprah effect.[4] Al Greco, a Fordham University marketing professor, estimated the total sales of the 69 “Oprah editions” at over 55 million copies.[1]– Wikipedia


While it’s true that an influencer causes people to change their behavior in some way, there is a very important aspect often overlooked by marketing professionals:  an influencer only has influence on a specific topic.

For example, every year Time Magazine publishes a list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.  The usual suspects are on that list.  When celebrities such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney make that list a lot of people’s heads turn.  The Time Magazine list by its very nature needs to be broad.  Even though it’s separated into five sections, it isn’t topic specific.  Hence, the list isn’t very valuable except as something that sells more Time magazines.

Authority is most commonly used to describe this aspect of influence.  That authority needs to align with the topic at hand.  While Oprah has a lot of influence in the book purchasing process, she has none in, say, the metals used in a jet engine turbine.  She won’t get surgeons to adopt robotics.

Here’s the first important tip regarding influencers: When

you’re trying to identify someone who can affect
buying behavior, make sure they
have authority in your customer’s topic area.

In Part 2 we’ll take a look at how a topic-specific Top-25 list temporarily filled this need, and how modern influence analysis tools are successfully being used today.

[NOTE: This is part 1 of a multi-part series. You can see Part 2 here.

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