MIPAA presentation part three: the challenges and opportunities of evaluating influence

mipaa_logoThis is the third part of a talk I was to give to members of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) through an invite from Heather Yaxley, on improving Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for marcoms materials; monitoring and engaging in social media; and the challenges and opportunities of evaluating influence.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it owing to the snow (remember that?), so I published parts one and two online instead.  You can see the presentation at Slideshare and as a Google Presentation.

What is influence?

The term ‘influence’ sounds pernicious, but essentially it involves behaviour change. If you’ve influenced someone, you’ve either caused them – or helped them – to start doing something they were unable previously to do, or to stop doing something they’d rather not have been doing.

So the whole issue of influence depends on you, what you’re saying, who you’re saying it to, and their preoccupations:

  • It’s difficult to influence anyone when they don’t know you. This is why you need to spend time listening to people and learning about them. Eventually, if you do things right, they’ll start listening and learning back. They’ll trust you – and in fact, perhaps ‘trust’ is a better word here than influence. It could be that in the social media world, trust is the new currency of influence.
  • You also need to be talking about what they want to hear, in the way they want to hear it. Again, this is why you need to listen and learn. You need to be relevant not only in what you’re talking about, but how you say it. You need to learn the cultures of the communities you want to influence. So you’re an expert on apples? Won’t go down too well in a pears forum.
  • Your audience is important. If I had 100 subscribers and you had 1000, then it’s quite possible to say you’re ten times more influential than I am. Then again, if all my subscribers were CEOs of FTSE-250 companies, you could say I’m more influential.
  • Your audience’s preoccupations are as important as their occupations. I would only be influential among my subscribers if I talked about share prices, IPOs and liquidity. If your subscribers are all football nuts, and you talk about football, then you’re more influential.

So influence is a difficult thing to measure, given that you need to track people’s movements before and after you’ve interacted with them. You can track this sort of thing if, as I’ve said before, you have several thousand pounds, cute algorithms and a server farm or two handy. But if you don’t, and you want to get an insight into who your influencers are as an in-house exercise, then you can very roughly equate popularity with influence. Someone who is read by 1,000 people in the areas you’ve identified through your keyword analysis and searches, is probably less influential than someone read by 10,000 .

So, to wrap up….

If you’ve been through  parts one and two, you’ll see how identifying your keywords, improving your SEO and finding and ranking your influencers is a great marketing exercise. You get the chance to understand your brand. Simply going through keywords gives you a nice resource that you can, and should, periodically revisit and reuse.

Even if you don’t engage, you really should be monitoring to get an idea of what people are saying about you, your company, your brands, people, products and services, and those of your competitors.

If you do engage and contribute, you could ultimately start being seen as an influential member of your community – and that’s when people start coming to ask the questions. This I would say is the very best you can do: to make yourself the ‘go to’ resource and/or the first hit for your key issues in search engines. These are objectives you can achieve, given time and good relationships.

Just by being asked by Heather to give my talk was because, I’d hope, she thought I was fairly influential in this area, but if this is so, it’s just because I stuck around, I helped people, and I tried to become a useful member of the community. And if I can do it, any fool can.

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