Not all brand influencers are created equal, say the folks at Awareness, a social marketing software provider in its recent report 3 Keys to Influence: Understanding and Leveraging Influence. Most companies can use the report to guide them through the sticky maze of online social influencers and learn how to identify and leverage their clout.

Grow Your Social Capital

The secret, it seems, is about identifying those who can drive a brand’s social capital. Social capital can make or break you. According to the report, “Brands with larger social capital also have higher valuations, which ultimately delivers value to customers and partners, as well as shareholders.” Getting there, however is not always easy, but companies can harness influence in two ways to increase social capital: By leveraging influence from external sources, such as domain experts, and from internal sources, such as the brand’s existing customers and partners.


External Engagement

Sounds easy enough, but how do you identify external influencers? There’s no shortage of platforms to help you determine who’s influencing your content, your online presence or friends and followers. Frankly, it doesn’t matter so much which platform you use, as long as you’re consistent and define the parameters clearly. Once they’ve been identified, follow them and get to know them. Think about how your company or brand can add value to the conversation. Then, jump in, engage, share, ask for feedback and cultivate a relationship.

If it sounds a little calculated, it is -- but hopefully these steps are already integrated into how you already operate as a human being. It seems obvious, but too often companies forget to add a human touch to their engagement. So, if you need an eight-step plan to follow, who are we to judge? (Okay, we’re judging a little).

Customer Engagement

Then there are the people who actually engage with your product. They’re called customers. And the experience you provide them with can affect your social capital. Though the act of buying is hardly passive, some customers will be more engaged in the process than others. Social listening platforms can help you identify those who are talking about your brand, their experiences and recommending your product to others.

Once identified, foster meaningful relationships with your top brand users and brand marketers. Awareness recommends rewarding your brand advocates for doing what they do best and creating marketing campaigns that drive each segment to do more of what they already do for you.

Quality, Not Quantity

While the report outlines the necessary steps to identify influencers and how to leverage their brand advocacy, it also warns not to lose sight of relevance.

...very often marketers pursue what they perceive as the highest visibility and widest reaching influencer. Marketers should be driven by relevance: Your influencers need to be relevant to the conversation brands are interested in having."

This is probably the most important bit of advice. As we know, brands are often seduced by the number of fans and followers they collect, rather than the quality of the community they are working to cultivate. Think about the actions you want your influencers to take on your behalf. If you want them to talk about you, give them something to talk about. At the end of the day, it's amazing how intertwined customer influence, community management and content strategy are with each other. You can’t have one without the other.