Improve Social Media Marketing with Peer Influence AnalysisAll hail social media marketing! These days the eagerness to understand and utilize the concept is so thick it’s tangible. Forrester’s new analytical framework for reaching the biggest social media influencers highlights this trend, and hopes to scale word-of-mouth marketing efforts as well.

Break it Down

After polling over 10,000 consumers, Forrester found the following:

  • The total number of consumer-generated product and service impressions reached more than 500 billion last year
  • Facebook commands a 62% share of influence impressions, MySpace has an 18% share, Twitter is at 10%, and LinkedIn gets 6%. The remaining 3% belongs to other social networks.

These numbers tell us social media marketing is huge, but we already knew that. What’s surprising about this data is Forrester’s claim that relatively few consumers (16%) generate the vast majority (80%) of these impressions.

Deemed Mass Influencers, these social media participants have been split by Forrester into two categories:

  • Mass Connectors: These participants create a great number of impressions about brands and services in social networks, like Twitter and Facebook
  • Mass Mavens: These participants create and share content about products and services in other social channels such as YouTube, blogs, forums, or ratings and review sites.

Peer Influence Analysis

Forrester’s new framework gives insight into the demographics of these so-called Mass Influencers. By targeting them, companies could potentially close in on their most important customers, who would then likely spread the word to their families and friends.

For example: In a report about the framework, author and senior analyst Augie Ray put together a sample outline about a hypothetical HDTV company. The findings include:

• Consumer Electronics Mass Influencers are younger, more affluent and more likely to be male than the average US online participant. This information can be used to target advertising and PR that is more likely to reach the right kind of Mass Influencer for this brand.

• Twitter is an important tool for the Consumer Electronics Mass Connector. Compared to the general US online population, they are four times more likely to read others’ tweets and five times more likely to have a Twitter account and almost ten times more likely to ask for the opinions of their Twitter friends before making a large purchase. This data can help drive Twitter strategies, such as a social loyalty program that rewards owners of the HDTV for tweeting what they are watching along with a branded hashtag.

• The offline influence of the Consumer Electronics Mass Maven is considerable. They are 133% more likely to say that friends and family always or often seek their opinion before making a purchase than the typical US online adult. This data can generate ideas for sparking the Analog Groundswell, such as house parties where owners of this HDTV brand can welcome friends to test out their TVs. The brand can sponsor these parties by offering promotional items or contests for participants and hosts.

The Peer Influence Analysis reportedly provides other data as well, including information about mobile use, social network preference, and the sources consumers used most before making their decision.

Can't Handle the Truth

It sounds like a sweet deal, and targeting the most influential customers is certainly a good move for brands, but when it comes to the overall picture, we can't forget the glitches that are present when we depend entirely on these data.

Speaking from the business-y side of things, Gartner, another big time research firm, recently predicted that only 25% of enterprises will routinely evaluate the information that social media analysis yields. This is because people often don't report sensitive information (e-mail addresses, relationships with other people, locations) accurately. 

Ray's comments on the framework reflected some of the trepidation surrounding data collected from social media outlets: “Right now we understand that marketers invest a great deal in online advertising to create impressions,” said Ray. “There's some question as to how effective it is as a branding medium versus a direct response medium. We hope marketers will recognize the high number of impressions that can be and are generated within social media. In turn this can help to begin to guide budget decisions.”