Finding Influencers On Social Bookmark And Network Sites

In the first five parts of this series on finding online influencers , we focused on individuals. But our search isn’t complete until we’ve visited the sites where people share opinions about and vote on the best Web content. These are called social bookmarking and social news sites, and they can give you a glimpse into crowd psychology that no other online service can. As in our previous examples, we’ll pretend that our business is a resort in Quebec, Canada. isn’t the most functional social bookmarking site, but it’s the most popular. Here’s where people save links to web sites that they want to remember and also apply tags to describe them. Tags are a little-understood but very powerful method of describing information. A tag can be any combination of letters and numbers; the choice is up to the user. Many search engines give tags special treatment, meaning that content that has been labeled with a certain tag ranks higher in the results. Tags are very popular with photo sharing sites, but they can be applied to any kind of information.

Social bookmarking sites are kind of like search engines, only the results are selected by the members. The more people who’ve applied a certain tag to a bookmarked page, the more likely it is that that page is relevant to that term. If you search on tag:quebec tag:travel on, for example, you get more than 450 results. Some are obvious, like the official government tourism site. But others may be new, like, a blog about Quebec restaurants, or 1000 Islands, a beautiful photo blog. makes it possible for you to see that 1000 Islands has been bookmarked by more than 350 people, which is a good indicator of influence. The person who runs this site is someone you might want to invite for a photo weekend. Also note that these sites didn’t come up in our search results.

Your trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Facebook, the hottest social network of 2007. Facebook’s adult, professional membership has made it a favorite of marketers and it boasts thousands of groups of all sizes. One group called “Coups de Coeur pour découvrir le Québec” appears to focus on Quebec exclusively. Its membership is small, but it may be worth joining just to keep an eye on discussion topics. You might also want to submit a friend request to the group’s organizer and ask how you can become involved. If you don’t want to jump right in, lurk for a while and see what the members are talking about. When you do enter the conversation, be sure to fully disclose your affiliation. Social network users don’t mind engaging in discussions with marketers, but they don’t like to be deceived.

What’s Next
At this point, you may have spent an afternoon or even entire day navigating social media and accumulated a list of maybe 30 to 40 potential influencers. And you’ve barely scratched the surface. Travel sites like,, RealTraveler,,, Where Are You Now? and all provide gathering places for travelers to share ideas and experiences.

You also haven’t tapped the emerging class of people search engines such as and These tools can build remarkably rich profiles of people based solely on publicly available information. Professional networks like, and also make it possible to learn people’s professional affiliations and even personal contacts.

If you feel like your head is about to explode, don’t despair. The social media landscape is seemingly endless, and new sites launch all the time. No one can keep up with it, and no one should try. If you make it a goal to explore one new network or search engine every day and to identify a couple of new influencers that way, you will make steady progress. You can also give much of this work to junior staff, if you have any, once you learn the ropes. However, I recommend against outsourcing this task entirely. Marketers need to learn the ways and means of social networks if they are going to interact with them. Younger staff members actually may be more adapt at using the tools, but they are less able to think strategically about them.

Now that you’ve got a list in place, initiate the process of reaching out to these critical people. That will be the subject of our seventh and final article in this series next week.

How to Find Influencers on Photo and Video Sites

In the first four parts of this series on finding online influencers, we focused principally on blog search. However, a variety of other social media outlets can point us to people whose preferred medium is photos, video and the spoken word. These people can also be important influencers. It’s just that their chosen media isn’t text.

As in our previous examples, we’ll pretend we’re a mythical resort in Quebec, Canada that’s looking to promote itself through influencer marketing.

Start by heading over to Yahoo’s Flickr, which is one of the largest photo-sharing sites. Type Quebec resort into the search box and select “Tags only.” This returns 272 results. Scroll to the list of photos and look for the photographers whose names come up most often.

One of them is “ash2276,” who’s submitted more than 1,100 photos and who belongs to more than 100 groups. Look at a sample of ash2276’s photos and note the large number of comments. This is someone with a following. Look at the photos tagged “Quebec” (there are 98 of them) and click on some of them. Note the enthusiastic comments. Ash2276 is an accomplished photographer, the kind of person you might want to invite to your resort for a photo weekend.

Flickr has over a half million groups, and while some are small or inactive, others are very large. Search for groups about Quebec and you get about 1,800 results. Most aren’t about Quebec specifically, but if you sort by group size and scroll down, you come across a group called “Canadian Beauty” with nearly 1,800 members, another called “Photo Quebec” with 144 members and a group titled simply “Quebec” with 483 members. Wade into the discussion forums and photo galleries for these groups and look for user names that appear frequently. These are also potential influencers.

Of course, there are plenty of other photo sharing sites on the Web, including Snapfish, Shutterfly, Photobucket and Kodak Gallery. They all have different features and nuances, but they all do basically enable people to categorize and share their photos.

Video and Audio Connections

We’re not done yet. Go to YouTube, the premier video-sharing site, and type Quebec resort into the search box. You’ll get 29 results. Looking at the user names, you note that “zenwaiter” has posted several videos. Click through to his profile and you read, “In the winter I travel all over Quebec…and I shoot video clips.” He even has a link to his website,

Remembering our earlier search techniques, we look up that URL on Technorati and find 131 posts linking to it. Some of these bloggers might be good targets for you. The activity certainly indicates that zenwaiter is a promising influencer.

While we’re looking at multimedia, let’s check out whether there are any good podcasts in this area. Podcasts are Internet audio and video programs that you can download and play on computers or portable media players.

The Who’s Who of podcasting is Apple’s iTunes. Searching on Canada travel podcast, we come up with 150 results, which iTunes lets you sort by popularity. The service will also tell you which programs are explicit or clean, which is something you want to know.

The trick with podcasts is to identify programs that are still active. Many series go dormant after just a few episodes but they aren’t removed from the iTunes directory. The only way to tell, unfortunately, is to click through to descriptions or websites and see when it was last updated.

Podcast Alley lists 200 results for the same query, but they’re in no particular order. You need to look for promising titles and click through to the details page, where Podcast Alley provides a nice summary of popularity and recent episodes.Beware: many podcasts are produced by businesses – even your competitors – and probably aren’t good targets for you. We do quickly find a couple of good candidates, though, including Travelrific and The Travel Advice Show. Most podcasts have accompanying websites, so it’s pretty easy to find contact information.

We’re almost through the process of identifying influencers. Next week, we’ll look at social networks and social bookmarking sites.

Five Fearless Predictions for 2008

It’s been a wild year on the Internet as social media has taken the Web by storm. Some people say this is a bubble waiting to burst, but I think we’re in for another year of innovation, turmoil and strategic posturing. Here are five fearless predictions for 2008:

The year of social search – Google’s great, but it isn’t perfect. Its inherent weaknesses (the inability to search by date, for example) and the explosion of new online content spark interest in a new class of search engines that incorporate user recommendations. Projects like Mahalo and WikiaSearch are early proofs of concept, and new players pile on as prototypes show promise.

A social network privacy backlash – A scandal erupts in 2008 as news headlines tell of people being harassed, stalked and fired because of information revealed in their Facebook accounts. The lurid details are shocking, and politicians quickly move to call for government limitations on social network disclosure policies. The furor prompts Facebook, which is preparing for an IPO, to scramble to revamp its service and tighten its policies. The incident becomes the first great crisis of the Web 2.0 era.

Facebook‘s IPO – Facebook weathers the privacy crisis and stages a successful public offering that values the company at $25 billion and positions it as the number one suitor to Google’s market crown. A power struggle ensues as Facebook immediately leverages its market capital to buy up rivals and solidify its position as the most comprehensive social network. Google continues its acquisition binge (see below).

Blogosphere bustTechnorati reports that worldwide blogging activity is declining for the first time. This sparks a predictable round of tongue-clucking by people who said the whole thing was a fad all along. In fact, the blogosphere is simply entering a normal cycle of maturation in which early tire-kickers fall away. Meanwhile, more corporations launch blogs in 2008 than in any previous year.

Google buys Skype and Second LifeeBay has had enough of Skype and it sells the Internet phone service to Google for a bargain basement price of $750 million. Google is more than happy to make the purchase. It has new technology that delivers ads based upon words spoken in phone conversations. Google also moves to snap up Second Life, which has struggled to find a mission and a business model. Google immediately announces its intention to open up the Second Life program interfaces to support third-party applications and to integrate virtual worlds with its Google Earth and Google Maps products.