Consumer Goods

Marketers, here’s a better way to qualify influencers and key opinion leaders

By Piers Platt, and Sophie Pan

Oct. 27, 2022 | Article | 6-minute read

Marketers, here’s a better way to qualify influencers and key opinion leaders

Can you name these influencers by the descriptions in their Instagram profiles?


“How to travel the world on points and miles.”


“Baseball is more than a game. It’s a lifestyle.”


“Meditation and mindfulness from the world’s best teachers.”


If you can, you’re not alone. B2B and B2C companies alike have been investing heavily in influencer marketing, given it is one of the most efficient marketing channels marketers can use, producing up to 11 times more return than digital advertising and more than five dollars for every dollar spent.


Influencer marketing’s effectiveness hinges on finding the right audiences among the 4.7 billion people active on social platforms during any given day, yet today’s social marketing tools only scratch the surface of what marketing leaders need to know about their potential roster of influencers.

To evaluate influence, marketers should move beyond the basic criteria they use today to a multi-dimensional assessment approach using advanced analytics.

As such, marketers should move beyond the basic criteria they typically use to assess influence and instead use a multi-dimensional approach using advanced analytics. This approach ensures every influencer is relevant, credible, trustworthy and has a highly engaged community of followers.

Why use advanced analytics to evaluate influence

Taking a more data-informed approach to evaluating influence means analyzing multiple dimensions to find the right people creating the right content in the right channels.


Focus on the right people. Many marketers today select influencers based on their follower counts. While reach is among the many criteria for influencer selection, marketers must consider criteria beyond reach to evaluate an influencer’s ability to engage and influence. So if reach is too simplistic, how should you define influence?


For example, let’s say your task is to increase the number of guests who choose your hotel chain in several key markets but also communicate why your brand can help guests better experience the local culture in each market.


Most hotels would start by evaluating travel bloggers who could spread the brand’s message. But that misses a potentially valuable pool of influencers such as individuals who hold high-level positions within travel-related fields, HR executives who select travel partners for their own companies and leaders in travel consortiums such as the Travel Leaders Network or regional governmental travel offices.


You can also look for people who have extensive connections with local cultural institutions such as museums, art galleries and music festivals. Board members at cultural non-profit organizations or journalists who cover arts and entertainment would make good candidates as well.


Influence, in this case, is defined as the ability to positively inform the opinions and preferences of local decision makers and trendsetters. The key here is to find influencers who influence other influencers.


This step can include network mapping, which identifies and visualizes how influencers connect. A well-connected influencer can amplify their impact exponentially by tapping into the reach and influence of other influencers within their network. It’s valuable to know if two of your influencers often co-author articles together or speak at similar conferences, for example.


Focus on the right content. To effectively engage with customers, brands increasingly want authentic, trusted influencers on their side. Vetting the influencer pool for the quality of their content is especially important when six out of every ten people say their default tendency is to distrust information before seeing evidence that it is trustworthy.


To understand how well an influencer’s passion points align with yours, look beyond hashtags and carefully check for quality content in relevance and substance. Advanced techniques such as natural language processing can help you analyze this wealth of underutilized, unstructured data to determine how well the content relates to your brand’s topics, purpose and values.


In our hotel example, the idea is to understand exactly what people in specific markets are talking about when it comes to travel and the local culture scene to form a clear picture of what’s resonating. The outcome of this work is a preliminary list of topics and individuals or entities that over-index in terms of your ideal narrative in each market. Your analysis should include:

  • Topics of interest. Understand what themes, discussions and keywords people are already talking about related to travel and culture and the general sentiment around these topics.
  • Narratives you and your competitors already own. Take time to do a competitive assessment of what’s already been said and how people engage with these narratives.

Focus on the right channels (including offline) to multiply the effect. Typical efforts to find influencers often focus on content creators who spend their time on social networks. Yet too often, these searches neglect pools of traditional key opinion leaders (KOLs) who build influence through their established professional activities, such as publishing, conference speaking or scientific research.


Targeting key opinion leaders adds a significant multiplication effect to your influencer marketing—those with both online and offline influence are at the center of the strongest networks.


Focusing on offline channels is especially important for B2B influencer marketing, where brands often look for influencers with credibility and connections across business and public sectors who may have decision-making power—or the ability to target and persuade those who do.


Profiling each influencer’s online and offline presence may include:

  • Researching and collecting data on the influencer’s real-life affiliations and engagements, such as membership in professional service organizations, service in local government, board positions or leadership roles in academic institutions.
  • Gathering information on relevant offline activities, such as publishing and conference attendance.

Our hotel chain seeking a better influencer program might prioritize travel industry conference speakers or university professors publishing research on how the music in their city is evolving. Then those offline insights are stitched together with the influencers’ online activities to form a holistic picture of their total ability to influence across channels.

The payoff: more—and more effective—influencers for your brand

So, what do you get when you execute this multi-dimensional influencer analysis?


One large U.S. company used this method to dramatically improve the effectiveness of its skin health marketing program. Here’s what they discovered:

  • Eight in ten influencers chosen from an earlier, more traditional analysis didn’t qualify as having any real influence. The new analysis proved that most of the company’s existing partners really aren’t experts on relevant topics to the brand, nor do they have frequent interactions with other healthcare professionals.
  • The analysis surfaced 300 new names of more influential candidates to work with. These widely recognized experts have deep connections with their peers and are driving the types of conversations—both online and offline—that the brand wants to participate in.

Of the new candidates:

  • 38 are “rising stars”— candidates with growing potential to become powerful influencers in the future.
  • Six are power influencers, having a strong digital presence and a history of headlining industry conferences and events. Not only are these doctors heavily engaged with skincare consumers online, they’re also instrumental in shaping the perceptions of their professional peers.

As this brand quickly discovered, finding the right people to deliver the right content in the right channels delivers measurably more impactful influencer campaigns.


If conducting your own multi-dimensional influencer analysis presents a challenge, ask how we can help identify the most relevant influencers to engage your audiences with purpose and optimize your influencer marketing.

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