by Katie Delahaye Paine
The sheer size of the social web makes it very difficult to figure out just who is talking about you and what they are saying. It’s not just about which media matter, it’s which blogs, channels, people, thought leaders, and analysts. So below I describe my 2-step process you can use to determine the most important sites and influencers for your business. First, let's talk about the bigger picture.
90% of what you find is noise.
It may seem to be a very cool thing to be able to tap into the entire social media universe to hear what people are saying about you. But I can tell you that after listening for anything more than a day or two you will either have decided that the vast majority of what you are hearing is irrelevant to your business, or there’s so much that you are overwhelmed. Having listened to customer conversations for our clients for over 14 years (yes, my company, now called KDPaine & Partners, started monitoring newsgroups back in 1996) I can pretty much guarantee that 90% of what you find is noise.
So how do you sort out the noise from what is meaningful? There are two paths you can take.
- Option 1, Use a computer. Collect everything and use a computer to sort out what is meaningful and figure out what the most important sources are. And then only read those.
- Option 2, Use human beings. Determine what media really matter yourself, and then read those.
Most people take Door Number 1 as the easy way out. But I’ll be a contrarian and explain why we almost always use and recommend Door Number 2.
The problem with using computers is that they’re not inherently very bright. They are like toddlers that are very excited to discover lots of new things and have to be taught what is important and what isn’t. And, unless you are very patient, and have pretty deep pockets, someone has to spend a good amount of time teaching whatever program you’re using to get it right. That typically takes anywhere from six months to a year.
In the mean time, the computer will routinely bring in mentions of completely unrelated topics. Type in “SAS,” for example when looking for the analytical firm, and you’ll get anything from the Scandinavian Airline to San Antonio Shoes. When were analyzing all of HP’s social media, half the mentions were of horse power. Just Imagine trying to collect all the mentions of “Sun” or “Oracle.”
So yes, over time, computers can be taught to identify your brand correctly. But then you still have the problem of sorting stories into what is relevant for PR, Marketing, Customer Service, Accounting, etc. And then there’s the question of tonality – most systems get the positive, negative or neutral thing right only about 50% of the time.
Which is why, if you are getting anything less than 2500 mentions a month, I strongly urge you to use human beings. And, if that’s too many, only read and analyze posts on those sites that really matter.
Which, of course, requires you to have a system in place to determine “what sites really matter.”
So what sites do really matter?
The first point you need to understand is that “what matters” is very specific to your target audiences. NPR’s Planet Money Blog may be hugely influential to business, but if you’re selling video games to teenagers the teendiariesblog would be far more important. If you are a consumer goods company selling toilet paper, product management may need to focus on mommy bloggers, while corporate communications might be far more concerned with environmentalaction.org. And, while we’re all used to having handy dandy lists fed to us by the likes of Cision and Burrelles, those lists are so frequently off target that you’re more apt to get blocked and damned for spamming than placing a good story.
So here’s what we recommend:
KDPaine's 2-step search-and-verify process for determining what sites and influencers really matter.
Step 1: Search for those blogs that mention you or your marketplace most frequently.
If you are already using a listening tool like SM2, Sysomos or Radian 6, it very probably has an algorithm built in that purports to determine “key influencers.” In reality, it’s just counting up the number of times people write about your brand or your marketplace, but, still, it’s not a bad place to start. If you’re using Google Alerts, you can just feed the most relevant articles into an Excel spreadsheet.
The important thing is to look for more than just your brand. Make sure you are searching for the competition, and the entire market space that you are in or want to be in.
You’ll need three to six months of data to start. Capture the source of a mention and the number of times that source has written about your brand and/or the competition or the market space you are in.
If you’re using Google News or some other free source you’ll need to do searches on a regular basis. Once a day, you can use Google Feed Fetcher or just manually collect everything that Google finds about you and put it into an Excel spreadsheet:
- Delete the duplicates and anything that is irrelevant.
- Put the date in the first column, the source in the next, the author in the third, and note the subject in the fourth column.
- Then note number of comments for each one.
Keep tracking your mentions this way for at least three and ideally six months.
Step #2: Verify that the blogs and bloggers are actually important.
At the end of six months you’ll have a list of those blogs that mention you or your marketplace most frequently. Take the top 100 who have mentioned you most frequently and run each through Blog Grader and Twitalyzer and rank them in order of their scores. This is an indicator of the reach of the individual blogger.
Now calculate the Conversation Index for each one, that’s the ratio of comments to posts. Rank them from highest (the most comments per post) to lowest (the least comments per post).
Now add the three ranks together and sort them from high to low. Get online and check the top 50 to verify that they really are relevant to your brand and your market or your client.
Now you’ve got a list that is truly yours -- and truly valuable. Keep it that way by repeating this process on a quarterly basis.