By Mike Nelson The primary challenge of successful social media is being able to listen and communicate with the broader community. This requires knowing who your community is, and where to find them online. To do this, engaging top influencers is essential, but how do you find them? Generate top keywords Think about how the community likely identifies itself online. For example, if you are searching for the “polar bear community,” write down a list of keywords related to the community’s interests. Additionally, consider the breadth of the community’s focus. If the target community is exclusively people interested in polar bears, the search will be focused; if a broader community is needed – e.g. environmentalists or people concerned about endangered species – keywords should encompass its broader interests. Label keywords as primary or secondary, based on relevance; if representing an automobile company, primary keywords would be what the company does – company name or automobiles. Secondary keywords would be what the company makes – hybrid cars or station wagons. General search Conduct a Google search of the keywords:
- Using an advanced search, scan the top 100 results of primary keywords and 30 results of secondary keywords.
- Track blogs, social networks, multimedia, and other social media sites.
- Conduct a secondary search by coupling the keyword + company name, and search the top 30 results.
- Track the number of results and top themes found within them; new themes that arise should also be added to the list of keywords.
Top blogs and bloggers There are many tools available to search for influential blogs and bloggers. Several especially useful tools include:
- Technorati and S.Technorati: Track search results of blogs and blog posts, looking for influencers that are repeatedly top sources of information. Ask yourself if the blogger is part of the target community, or if this is a random post on the topic: A climate change blogger may mention polar bears in a post, but that doesn’t mean they are active members within the polar bear community. Further, don’t let the Technorati Authority or ranking play too large of a factor. A top influencer in the polar bear community may only have an Authority of 50; whereas in a large, broad community – auto enthusiasts – top influencers would expectedly have over 1,000 Authority.
- Google Blogs: Is particularly useful for finding the volume of conversation occurring on particular search terms. It is also a useful for finding posts within a period of time.
- socialmention: socialmention allows searches across blogs, microblogs, bookmarks, comments, events, images, news, video, audio, and Q&A. This social search engine searches for unique posts across Technorati, Google, Yahoo! WordPress, Wikio, Twitter, YouTube, Delicious and other social sites and search engines. It also provides a Social Rank within every category of media for the keyword search, and an overall grade across all categories. Rankings are out of 100, and are based on level of activity. Moreover, the frequency of new media related to the search term is also presented, letting you know of the latest video, blog post or tweet was added to the social web, and how often content is added. The tag cloud, linking to other popular related keywords, is also a useful feature.
- Delicious: Search for popular posts regarding the keywords. Track top taggers, and top tags based on the keywords. It is useful to search top tags to better assess a specific keywords popularity compared to the broader conversation.
- daylife: Is useful to find topics, photos, and articles by keyword. In particular, daylife provides top quotes on the search term, and it highlights themes of articles that mention the searched keyword. For example, top topics of articles that mention “polar bears” include the Environmental Protection Agency, Barack Obama and others.
- AllTop, the online magazine rack, is useful to find an assortment of top blogs by category. If there are no categories in AllTop for a particular keyword – polar bears – expand the search to include broader terms that would encompass the original keyword – Green.
Visit the blogs Many top influencers have blogrolls. Read through this list of blogs, visit those that appear to fit within your community’s interests, and add relevant blogs to the growing influencer list. Often, these new blogs have blogrolls of their own. Spending the time navigating through blogrolls and top blogs will begin appearing repeatedly; these are often the community’s top influencers. Another tip is to keep an eye out for the blogger’s Twitter handle while visiting their blog. Influencers usually share blog posts from within the community on Twitter too, introducing you to other community influencers. Message boards and forums Message boards and forums are primary meeting places for some communities. Developers frequently use forums to discuss code, ask questions and offer suggestions. BoardReader and Board Tracker are useful tools for tracking conversations happening within forums. They aggregate discussions across all forums and message boards under one site. Search social media sites Using the list of keywords, conduct searches on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and LinkedIn. Use TwitterGrader.com’s search feature and Twitter Search to find top Twitterers in the community. Additionally, YouTube and Flickr both offer easy Google Searches that make finding content by search term easy. Throughout your search, don’t simply track the top influencers, consider what they are saying. Listen to the conversation that is happening, and consider ways of adding your own thoughts and opinions. Once you have listened, begin nurturing relationships with these influencers through thoughtful and continuous engagement.