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Influencers, Optimization, Social Networks

Social Media A to Z Series: I is for Influencer, 10 Characteristics of an Influencer

For a second, let’s put social media aside.  Really, just for a second. Life is built on relationships. Different types of relationships. As a teenager, we knew that there was a group that set the fashion trend. There was a group that knew everything about basketball or hockey. However, within those groups there were one or two among them that lead the whole direction of how that group thought. If they said something was good or bad, that was it. That opinion would spread like wildfire and before you knew it, everyone else agreed and were wearing or buying accordingly. They had huge influence on others.

Fast forward to today. As adults, we experience similar influences though it might be a little more challenging to identify at times. Perhaps a good and recent example is the fashion trend being set by Kate Middleton.  She has huge influence on popular fashion right now. She wears a dress, consumers flock to the store to purchase said dress. When Oprah Winfrey shares her favourite book and next thing you know they are flying off the shelves!  Ok, a Royal and a Celebrity, one could only hope.  Nonetheless, it isn’t any different for the ordinary person. I have a science and change management background. Early in my scientific career, seeking key opinion leaders was key. He, or she, would be the one who would be cited multiple times (this would be shares in social media world); their meetings would always be packed ( so devoted followers in  the social media world) and their work and contributions were considered crucial to one’s own understanding ( now that is influence!)

So lets return to social media. Human behaviour is exactly the same in social media. In social media land, many seek out their favorite bloggers or networks for information; or they may conduct a search using YouTube, Google or Twitter to seek verification or additional context.  We no longer go to a website or a newspress as the sole source to verify information – we seek opinions, reviews, context…. elsewhere. So, with the rise of social media has come the rise of the social media, key opinion leaders aka Influencers. I have recently seen the term “ word of mouth powerbrokers” (see related articles below ). It seems fitting in a number of cases. Very powerful. So let’s have a closer look at an influencer.

My research has uncovered 10 key characteristics of an Influencer in social media, namely:

  1. They are topic or interest specific.
  2. They are respected and credible in their field.
  3. They are knowledgeable.
  4. They provide lots of quality content  for their audience.
  5. They set themselves apart from their competition.
  6. They stay on top of what is current.
  7. They answer lots of questions with quality responses.
  8. They asks lots of quality questions.
  9. They are high visibility online.
  10. They have an engaged and devoted following. When they join a site, they immediately gain a following that almost seems effortless.

Consequently, identifying and engaging with your key influencer(s) is very valuable. Influencers can help spread the word whether it is your blog, idea, product or service. They have the ability to drive significant traffic to your site. So depending on the purpose of your blog or what you are trying to do on the internet,  you will want to identify those key influencers and  ideally  have them as part of your audience or have an engaged connection- as they can have a positive impact on your social media presence and business. Now  that we know the importance of influencers, how do we go about finding them?

Here are a few key tips to identifying your key influencers:

  1.  Listen. Listen for all the characteristics listed above and depending on your objectives try to identify who is talking about your company, your blog, your product or service. You can search on Twitter. Furthermore,  there are some great sites that list power users or people on top of their game.  For example  top twitter lists. Sites like, and Tweetfind list can give you an insight to power-users and those that are engaged with their following. Sites like  Google Plus Counter are very informative. They list top players by a multitude of topics. This is shown below together with the stats for Mari Smith, Facebook Guru.
  2. Check credentials. Once you have names conduct a little research on their work  eg books, blogs, articles, interviews, links, citations and references.
  3. Assess if they have a good  level of traffic in their network. They don’t necessarily have to have an extremely high volume however a decent consistent level of traffic
  4. Assess if they have an engaged audience
  5. Take the time to read their blogs
  6. Familiarize yourself with their readers

Armed with this information, join their network and start building that important relationship. Join in the conversation. Participate. Be seen.

Now it is you turn. Perhaps we can make our rolling list of influencers. Can you share any you know of below?

If you enjoyed this post, do share it with your network and/or let me know below. Thank you!

Image from Google Plus Top 100 Hall of Fame.
Cartoon used by permission of the Cartoonist


About Shirley Williams

I have a passion to create, resolve and build.I have had a pretty dynamic career that some say has led to a solid reputation as a visionary, result-driven and passionate leader. I say, simplify the complexity, work WITH people and you have a formula that not only deliver results but forms bonds that will stand the test of time. I have led numerous initiatives with a geographical scope that has included Canada, US, The South Americas,Europe and Australia. My professional career spans Biotechnology, Brand & Generic Pharmaceuticals, IBM Business Consulting Services, Healthcare, Retail, Electronics, more recently Mining and now Social Media. I am a biochemist and have a Master of Scence degree in endocrine pharmacology. I am a certified practitioner and professional in Change Management (Prosci), Project Management (PMP/PMI) and Social Media (OMCP, Online Marketing Certified Professional). So that makes my full title to be: Shirley Williams, MSc. PMP. CMC. OCMP. Having spent many years in the LifeSciences (you can check my career profile on Linkedin ) I have now directed my attention to bridging strategy and goals with social media. Loving it! In fact I am passionate about it. I have also produced and currently host my own internet radio show. My programs to-date have included Rise Of The Patient and Give Startups A Chance. I consider myself as an Experience Enabler. I facilitate and advocate for improved experience from the consumer perspective. Thank you for stopping by to check me out!


20 thoughts on “Social Media A to Z Series: I is for Influencer, 10 Characteristics of an Influencer

  1. Look – I’m hopelessly hooked on your brain. I shared 🙂

    Posted by looksgoodonya | October 16, 2011, 3:18 pm
  2. Thanks for this interesting post Shirley! I have shared it on my various social media today. A successful week.

    Posted by martingysler | October 17, 2011, 5:05 am
  3. Nice article. Its realy good. Many information help me.

    Posted by Akilah | October 18, 2011, 1:44 pm
  4. Hi Shirley, very insightful and interesting article. Makes one think how the world of business is transforming itself. People haven’t changed and same principles apply – but exciting new ‘social media’ tools came into play. One concern – this is so ‘consuming’, since I am trying to keep my life simple! My thought for today that I’ll write in my journal: ‘Align yourself with forces that transform the world, but do so wisely so that you it serves you well and that you’re not consumed by it’. Thank you for sharing! Regards. Faan.

    Posted by Faan Smith | October 31, 2011, 11:01 am
    • Faan,

      Thank you for visiting and providing your feedback. Love the fact that you shared your perspective in your commentary to continue the discussion 🙂

      Your point is well taken. My perspective is to add these tips to your toolkit. Where it makes sense, pull them out. For key initiatives you may want to be very focussed in your search and alignment. Others, not so much but just take note.

      In summary: leverage both your network and align where it makes sense so that you may go forward and succeed….with balance.


      Posted by Shirley Williams | October 31, 2011, 12:03 pm
  5. Social Media A to Z Series: I is for Influencer, 10 Characteristics of an Influencer Social Media Pearls I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem. You are incredible! Thanks! your article about Social Media A to Z Series: I is for Influencer, 10 Characteristics of an Influencer Social Media PearlsBest Regards Justin

    Posted by iiiii | March 16, 2012, 1:49 am


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