One of the most common questions I hear is how to identify social media influencers. In particular, people want to figure out who are the most important sources of influence in a given market. So over the next few issues, I’ll outline some tactics you can use to do this.
These are strategies that work for me, but they are by no means the only ones you can use. Please let me know what works for you by posting your comments on this article’s permanent page. I’ll include your recommendations in the conversation as we go along.
For the purposes of demonstration, let’s assume that you’re marketing a resort destination in Quebec, Canada. You need to identify people who are interested in Canadian travel and who have an audience of regular readers or viewers. These people may turn up several different venues, including blogs, video- or photo-sharing sites and social networks like Facebook. Let’s start with the bloggers, and specifically with blog search.
Advanced search is your friend
Most people go to Google when they want to find something on the Internet, but there are plenty of other options to consider. In addition, there are capabilities buried within Google and other search engines that most people don’t know about. These can save you lots of time. For example, you can cut down the time you spend waiting for results pages to load simply by registering with a search engine and specifying in your preferences that you want to display 50 or 100 results per page instead of 10.
Don’t forget about the vast universe of search engines that aren’t Google. Wikipedia has a pretty good list of these. One of my favorites is Dogpile, which is a meta search engine. Meta search aggregates results from multiple search engines. Many search engines use Google, Ask, MSN or Yahoo! as their core technology, adding value on top. The results you get from these engines won’t differ appreciably from those of their technology providers, but the added features can be useful.
You should also know about the power of advanced search. Most search engines have an option to specify all kinds of search conditions and results options. Google’s advanced search page, for example, lets you specify sites that originate in a particular region or pages that were first found within the past day, week, month and so on.
This latter capability is particularly useful because you often want to strike while the iron is hot. If you can identify someone who is writing frequently about a topic, chances are that person or organization will be more interested in hearing from you.
There are gems buried in other search engines, too. Excite advanced search, for example, lets you specify a date range for when a Web page first appeared. Yahoo has Search Assist, which suggests alternative search terms that might get you closer to what you’re looking for. Ask.com has a similar feature and can also give you thumbnail previews right in the search results.
For mining the blogosphere, the options expand. There are dozens of blog-specific search engines (you can find a good list here), but the most popular ones are Technorati, Google Blog Search, IceRocket, Blogdigger, Blogpulse and Bloglines. Zuula is a new meta search engine that just does blog search.
These alternative engines each have unique features. Blogdigger, for example, can organize results by date and has an option to find only multimedia results like video and podcasts. IceRocket searches MySpace.com. Opinmind has a “Sentimeter” that calculates a rating baseded upon the relative number of positive and negative opinions it finds. It’s limited, but can be useful if you have a big brand.
So we’re at the end of our first chapter and we haven’t even entered a search term yet! We’ll get to that next week. In the meantime, please post your own suggestions at this article’s permanent address here.