How to Identify Online Influencers

This is a post by Nicolas Chabot (@nicochabs), VP EMEA for Traackr, the influencer marketing platform. You can hear him in discussion with Tom Messett, Head of Digital...

This is a post by Nicolas Chabot (@nicochabs), VP EMEA for Traackr, the influencer marketing platform. You can hear him in discussion with Tom Messett, Head of Digital Marketing & Advocacy for Nokia and Lisa Moretti, Senior Social Strategist for Fleishman-Hillard, in our free Influencer Marketing webinar on Wednesday 15th May.


I’ve met with many PR and digital marketing agencies on both sides of the channel over the last six months and seen how most marketers approach influencer identification. I’ve seen two standard approaches:

1)     The Traditionalists

When you ask a Traditionalist how they identify influencers today, they often say: “We know our influencers already. We have built lists over time of people we work with. If we need to find new influencers we ask our existing contacts for advice.” End of discussion.

The problem with the traditional contact list approach is that agencies repeatedly engage with the same individuals because they have a relationship with them and it’s easy. There is little attention paid to the context of the project and the relevance one individual has to their client’s message. I’ve hardly ever seen anyone using this approach support their choices with metrics or any hard data.
In a way it is very efficient: identification is immediate, engagement is easy, as relationships between these “influencers” and the agency are long-running. But  it restricts the ability to scale an influencer program and expand the reach to new communities and new people who are incredibly relevant to the brand.
It’s basically the age-old static media databases where everyone gets “tagged” into their speciality with no way to discover new people, topics and networks.

2)    The Analysts

The Analyst takes influencer discovery to a more complex level. I’m impressed by the amount of time and effort some agencies invest in influencer identification; building huge spreadsheets to bring together a variety of datasets. They often source data from social listening tools and Google searches – SEO measures, social scoring and Twitter analysis tools also get brought into the recipe.

The more advanced agencies have even built documented processes for manual influencer identification and KPIs to structure such searches. Influencer searching has probably been one of the greatest creators of jobs for PR interns in the past 2 years!

Yet a few big problems remain. Manual influencer discovery is ridden with hidden costs and huge time sinks. Updating metrics gets too complicated and never really happens. You never quite know if you’ve found the right people because it’s impossible to manually search the entire web. And perhaps one of the greatest obstacles is that little time and resource remain for qualitative validation.

The most innovative brands and agencies understand how important it is to solve these problems and find a streamlined way to identify people who can move the needle for their businesses and or clients. They are asking tough questions like:

  1. What is your process for finding influencers?
  2. What measurements do you use, and why?
  3. How can you reassure us that these are the right people?

Influencer marketing is still quite a new practice and it starts by properly identifying the right people to engage in your campaigns. I’ll be discussing how the best brands are discovering the right people for their campaigns in Our Social Times’ free webinar next Wednesday. I hope you can join us.

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1 comment

  1. Alexandre Bourlier Reply

    Great post. I’ll attend your webinar with pleasure.

    Our application (SentiMonitor) is capable of finding top influencers on a given topic, ranked by several criterias (number of posts, of retweets, of followers and soon by virality).

    Let me know if you would be interested in doing a case-study together finding top influencers on the topic of your choice.

    All the best,