The Word of Mouth Marketing Association, or WOMMA, defines an influencer as "a person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace." As WOMMA puts it, "when a marketer identifies, seeks out, and engages with influencers in support of a business objective" the results can help sway consumer opinion and behavior in ways that traditional advertising can't. To find the influencers who can benefit your business efforts, start with the right tools.
In an age of social-media interactions, traditional marketing and advertising methods may not offer your business the cost-effective reach you need to influence consumers to choose your brand. As companies struggle to find productive ways to interact with their target markets through social media without looking unauthentic, influencer marketing has emerged as a way to leverage new communication channels. To use the methods, start by finding the influencers who are relevant to your marketing needs.
In a digital age, influencers' reach largely extends through online media. To find influencers whose ability to sway others' opinions, you'll need a budget for paid access to cross-platform monitoring services or a combination of free tools and approaches to measure influence in multiple venues.
Among the free tools, you can find ways to search for bloggers by subject matter, measure Twitter influence through the impact of individuals' tweets, search for individuals whose tweets use specific keywords, and add in conventional search engines to look for discussions about your brand. Because social media updates second by second with new posts and opinions, use real-time search tools to find current discussions that involve influencers who can be meaningful to your marketing efforts. Use the search tools built in to specific social-media platforms, such as the subject matter search on Twitter -- or third-party tools like Monittor -- to find people who are talking about your brand or your market segment.
Along with finding out who's talking about your subject matter, you also need to evaluate how influential an influencer is. The raw measure of influence -- the number of connections or followers an individual has -- may not equate to the extent of her influence over the people you want to reach. Various websites such as Klout and Kred offer indices that they claim measure influencers' reach, scoring not just on the basis of how many people follow them but on how importantly connected their followers are.
Like the social-media platforms themselves, the tools for finding and grading influencers ebb and flow in usefulness and availability. When you're ready to make a move into influencer marketing, look for the best available tool set through which to maximize your efforts. Use the basic tools of online search to find the tools that work the best for you. You may discover that the hot search site you planned to use has moved to a paid usage model, serves only its own clients or has closed down altogether.