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Rethinking social media and influence: A Q-and-A with Technorati Media’s Charles Black

5 min read

Social Media

This blog series, featuring interviews with speakers from the SES Conference & Expo, scheduled Aug. 15 to 19 in San Francisco,  is brought to you by Incisive Media.

The following Q-and-A is with Technorati Media President and Chief Strategy Officer Charles Black. 

Is automation (in whole or in part) a reasonable solution to the problem of social media scalability?

Absolutely — automation, and more importantly, distribution. One of the biggest challenges in social media is that it can require a tremendous amount of resources to start these conversations, engage, and react or effect change when needed. So you have all of this incredible value happening, but many times it’s happening in some small corner of the Web.

Are there apps, clients or other Web tools you’d recommend to users looking to make their social networking more efficient and effective?

There’s a wealth of tools out there: Seesmic, TweetDeck, HootSuite, that are fantastic in terms of bringing efficiency to social media efforts.

We’re most interested in bringing scale.

We are working with a number of clients on Social Rich Media ads. We’re putting everything from blogosphere feeds; clients’ own social media streams from their own blogs, Facebook and Twitter; and apps to video and image galleries — you get the idea — and we’re serving them to their target audiences all over the Internet. They’re performing very well, anywhere from 2 times to 10 times our clients’ standard media, whether our client’s goals are to gain a wider audience for their conversations, or to bring more people to their conversations. Interestingly, we’re finding that harnessing social media efforts in this way can drive other goals such as direct response.

What’s the best strategy for identifying and targeting influencers? How do you get the attention of figures who can increase the reach of your message?

There are as many approaches and methodologies to influencing and targeting as there are definitions of “influencer.” Semantics notwithstanding, at Technorati, we have massive reach in the blogosphere — where the influencers (by anyone’s definition) are most concentrated.

Reach at scale into pools of influence is great, but alone it is not enough. How do you ascertain quality and depth of influence? Our approach is to assess the blog landscape overall and in key verticals and then allow the influencer ecosystem to illuminate influence categories and depth of influence.

The Technorati Authority is driven primarily by the opinions of other influencers. In other words, we utilize peer review heavily — after all, who better to know whose authority is real and respected? This creates a vital and constantly evolving mass of highly engaged thought leaders and also creates gravity for other influencers into our universe. Finally, we have a team that keeps their eyes open and ears to the ground so we can, and do, reach out to taste makers on a regular basis.

Do you favor targeting a few of biggest names in your field? A huge number of mildly influential people? What approach gets the best results?

Both. The top bloggers have huge followings, but the middle segment (often called the mid-tail, or the magic middle — for good reason) will typically have a closer relationship with their audiences, so while the reach is smaller the influence is greater. The biggest names are on everyone’s list, some of our bloggers tell us they receive 500 to 1000 pitches a day, so it can be challenging for a brand to break through amidst all of the noise. Some of the most successful approaches we see are from brands that build relationships with up-and-coming bloggers, and amplify that content via social networks and media distribution.

How do you approach the question of measuring social media success? What tools and processes can companies use to make that process a little easier?

We might be the only partner on a particular campaign, or we might be one of several. For this reason, as standard practice, we track everything. Every single interaction and share that happens in our Social Rich Media ads is captured. On the blogger outreach side, we track both blogosphere coverage and social sharing.

On the tools side, there are a lot of services out there, both free and paid (qualitative measurement on a large scale is a tougher challenge), and the most important thing is what happens after the measurement. For example, we worked with a client on reviews of a technology product. Generally, our bloggers will send a product back rather than publish a negative review. In this case, several very well known technology bloggers sent back the product with very detailed feedback. So does a client view that campaign as a failure, or as valuable strategic feedback they can take back to their product designers?

On the process side, many of our campaigns involve custom social rich media, blogger outreach and display media. So we may start with the media agency, but the creative agency and the PR agency will be heavily involved. The most successful campaigns we see are those with the most cohesion among all of the different teams working with a brand.

Image Credit: Kativ, via iStock Photo