Lee Odden

Customer & Influencer Research in Social Media

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, Social Media

“If you don’t eat your meat you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat!” Pink Floyd, The Wall.

That quote from Another Brick in the Wall reminds me of the cart horse situation with social media and influencer marketing:  If you don’t know your customers you can’t engage them. How can you ever hope to engage your customers if you don’t understand who they are?

There are so many questions from marketers and agencies alike about how best to grow businesses through online channels.  Questions are particularly popular when it comes to best practices for social tools. “Always do this” and “always do that” is what most marketers have been bombarded with for as long as there have been conferences to attend and email newsletters to subscribe to.

Inevitably, many of the most pressing questions about social media come down to understanding who you’re trying to reach. For example, some common questions I hear a lot at conferences:

Q: Should we blog or focus on Twitter? Is Facebook or LinkedIn a better fit? Foursquare or Gowalla? (Or other shiny object)

A: Find where your customers spend their time and spend your time there too.

Q: What type of social content should we create? How often? Where?

A: Study your customers as they create, consume and share content.  Then you’ll know the what, how, when and where. They why has to come from your organization.

Q: What  is the most overrated social media site?

A: The one your customers aren’t using.

So much time is spent on tactics without a good understanding of goals, audience and how to measure success with social media programs.  As we discuss Roadmapping social participation with companies, audience research is one of the key areas of importance. As I mention above, how can you reach and engage customers if you don’t understand them?

Let’s say you’ve used a social media monitoring tool like SM2 to identify who is talking about your brand and topics of importance to your prospects and customers. Within this analysis, you’ve noticed that there’s alot of activity on Twitter.

A logical next step might be to further investigate influential Twitter users.  If a paid tool like Radian6 or SM2 don’t fit your budget you can try free tools Trackur or Social Mention to gain some insight into content types, commentary and sharing/publishing platforms.

Other tools you might use to identify influentials on Twitter include directories like wefollow.

Under the tag, “SEO” you can see that Matt Cutts is the most influential.  Since reaching out directly to a popular person on Twitter, especially a Google employee, might not be prudent, it can be helpful to learn more about that individual and who they are influenced by as well as who they influence.

Using the site Klout, you can see a Twitter influence score (78 is pretty high) and other information including predictions on who is most influenced by Matt and more interestingly, who may be an influencer of Matt Cutts.

There are other tools that show communities surrounding an individual such as Top Twitter Friends.

As for understanding what kind of content someone likes on Twitter, you can look at retweets and @ responses. You can also look at what kind of content and what user tweets get favorited most,. Favstar is a tool that does just that.

In this example, Favstar shows which Tweets Matt Cutts has favorited. The types of content and users can be noted for guidance with future outreach.

I mentioned free social media monitoring tools above including Social Mention. Below is a screengrab that shows how much information you can get from Social Mention with options to download into Excel friendly formats.

Other Twitter user analysis tools worth looking at include Twitter Analyzer and Twitalyzer.

The basic tools I’ve shared here are just that, basic. They’re good for poking around and getting familiar with discovery of social content and influencers.  However, it would take a more robust tool set (which is what Agencies and larger companies do) to scale monitoring over many topics, influencers and conversations.

Other customer social media research tactics include:

  • Survey your existing customers for social preferences and behaviors
  • Review web analytics for social media sources and behaviors
  • Tap into Compete, Quantcast, Alexa  information on specific social sites
  • Leverage profile information provided by advertising staff on social sites themselves

In combination with directly observed and experienced customer behaviors and preferences, general site data can compliment understanding of customer social content needs.  What are some tactics and tools you’ve found useful for researching customers on the social web?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Thanks for your nice resourceful post!

  2. Thanks for this Resources!

  3. Great article!

  4. Awesome is the word for the post Lee,We are heading towards social business and we have almost everything we want to excel in it, from How-To tools to managing tools to measurement tools.What we do need is something which is very common-sensical that is an understanding of our customers as you have portrayed above.
    Thanks for sharing this post, goes down as one of my Top-Rank favorites…

  5. Great post, Lee. We're getting ready to launch a social media survey to our customers today!

    Along the same lines, I recently heard a killer Twitter research tactic from @cspenn. He suggests spending the extra few minutes on your Twitter searches by using the advanced search to include potential signals of intent as well as a subject. For example, don't just look for the term “social media.” Find “social media” when accompanied by terms like “suggest,” “recommend,” “anyone,” and “help” to find not just conversations about social media, but conversations where someone is looking for the info you provide as well.

  6. “Q: What is the most overrated social media site?

    A: The one your customers aren’t using.”

    Love it!

    Thanks for the Trackur love, appreciate it!

  7. Great post!

    Are there any tools out there that allow you to run your customer email file through to know how many of them have accounts on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter? When setting up personal accounts on Facebook and Twitter they both will link to your email address book to find people you know that are already on the site. That would make a great tool for businesses to know where customers are already at, whether they are talking about them or not. You could also then target emails to those specific customers to let them know your business has a Twitter/Facebook account instead of emailing your entire file. This tool would be great for smaller businesses that don't have enough social media chatter/buzz to be measurable.

  8. Hi Lee, have you had a look at Noteca It’s a great tool for managing online brand and measuring the influence of the authors.

  9. Avatar The Good News says

    Great approach! So many times you see agencies building “packaged programs” for their clients. These programs may be a good “first step” but completely dismiss the point of social media…..reaching your target. Anyone who gets involved needs to understand there are different tools for different clients…everyone doesn't fit into the same box.

  10. Is this like Pink Floyd Day in the SEO industry? Michael Gray paraphrased the same song as you in his article about editorial linking.

  11. Wow this is a great article. Thanks for compiling all of this information!

  12. Lee, I think my favorite quote from this post might be:

    Q: What is the most overrated social media site? A: The one your customers aren’t using.

    Too right! People really need to stop fixating on sites, platforms, et al and look at what their end objectives are. Along the lines of my (too-oft-repeated) measurement warble, it's about measurable objectives that support the bottom line of the business… right?

  13. Hey and thanks for the Radian6 shout! Such great and simple advice re: which tools to use (answer? the ones that make sense for your business).

    Katie Morse
    Community Manager | Radian6

  14. i think you are perfect! In this matter i also suggest Google Adward Keyword tools is Best. Thanks

  15. Avatar RedHotFranchises says

    I found this to be an inspiring quote:

    “Think of social media as a cocktail party about how to create buzz online. “You don’t go to a cocktail party and scream at the top of your lungs, ‘Buy my product.’ What works is you have some meaningful conversation first. And that’s just how social media works.”

    -David Meerman

  16. The best answer of question for many people. thank you for your post.

  17. Research in Social Media is best way thru YOUTUBE

  18. One tool I didn’t notice in the blog, is Visible Technologies tool TruVoice. It is one that we, as an agency, use a lot for our clients, along with R6, and it is one of the best tools for tracking customer sentiment. It is very accurate as every post is scored by a person rather than the automated scoring the other tools available use.

  19. Avatar 24ondemand says

    Useful tips regarding social media

  20. Hi, good day. Wonderful post. You have gained a new subscriber. Pleasee continue this great work and I look forward to more of your great blog posts.

  21. “Find where your customers spend their time and spend your time there too.”
    This will make it on my top internet marketing quotes. I am currently building a tool to help users identify these opportunities, if you have time please check it out and give feedback: http://www.cluepad.com

  22. Avatar amandamaksymiw says

    Great post. I like how you simply describe what types of social media are important. In the end it all boils down to where your customers are. If they aren't there, it's irrelevant.

  23. I have asked myself these questions before, and that is a great answer. Thank you.

  24. Thanks for this sharing this!

  25. You got a pretty good way to explain it, very nice. I will come back to read some more.

  26. Thorough and concise checklist. I agree with the previous comment that it’s nice to see it all in one place for quick reference.

  27. Avatar expediaco says

    Thorough and concise checklist. I agree with the previous comment that it’s nice to see it all in one place for quick reference.

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