Influencers: What They Are and How to Use Them

At Campus Sonar, influencers are an important part of the social listening conversation because they create a connection between audience and content. More and more, people are turning to social media to help make decisions. In fact, a recent Edelman study found that 53% of people view "a person like yourself" as a credible technical or academic expert.

What Are Influencers?

Social media has changed marketing, and people's personal opinions have become much more important. So much so that some people even make their living influencing social media—spreading messages and promoting products. These are social media influencers, people who have access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach. Mark Schaefer dives deeper into the impact and importance of influencer marketing, which can be a great way to spread your school's message, build your brand, or promote fundraising. But how do you find viable influencers?

Finding Influencers

Whether you use social listening software or manually search social media sites for mentions and hashtags related to your school, you'll likely run across two main types of influencers:

  • Those who post about your university often but may not necessarily have a large following. These are often the school's students, employees, or athletics fans.
  • Those who only post about your university once or twice but have a larger following, so their posts reach a bigger audience.

You can leverage both of these types of influencers to impact the conversation about your school by determining if they could be strategic influencers who can create authentic advocacy for your campus. Social listening software has proprietary algorithms to determine the level of influence based on factors such as reach and amount of social media followers, but it's not foolproof. Although painstaking, a little internet sleuthing can go a long way to determine influence.

Connect the Dots

Once you have a list of potential strategic influencers, these steps can help you decide if they have a legitimate connection to your school. (Warning: Watch out for rabbit holes!)

  1. Review the user's page and profile. Often profiles explicitly list their connection to your university (e.g., employee, student, athlete, fan, etc.).
  2. Search the internet for information about the person.
    • Google the person's name along with the name of the university; occasionally search results will make the connection obvious (e.g., LinkedIn, an article about the person, etc.).
    • Search for the user on your school's website.
  3. Look for context clues in their post about your school or on the rest of their page.
    • Does the post include a photo with anyone else tagged? If so, looking at the tagged person's profile and page may give you some insight into their connection to your school.
    • In a recent search, a woman's Twitter profile mentioned that she is a mother, and all of her tweets/retweets related to the school were about the baseball team. We checked the school's baseball roster and found a player with the same last name as the woman. A little more digging into her Twitter page confirmed my suspicion that her son was on the school's baseball team.

Celebrity ≠ Influencer

Once you determine there's a legitimate connection to your university, decide if they're a viable influencer or not. Let's say a famous actor with over one million Twitter followers is speaking on your campus and tweets about it; does that make them a strategic influencer? Maybe, but likely not. The influencers that will have the most impact are those who:

  • Are reachable. Do they have a real connection to the university or someone who can connect you to them? Someone whose family member is a student or employee at the university would be more reachable than someone making an appearance on campus.
  • Have a vested interest in your school, such as alumni. Perhaps your university has a celebrity alumnus with a large Twitter following, but often those with a more modest number of followers (1,000 – 5,000) are more reachable and a more viable influencer, since they're likely to be more connected to their followers.

Now What?

Now that you've found viable connections to your school, start leveraging these influencers to impact your social media and brand strategies. And if you want help locating social media influencers for your school, get in touch with Campus Sonar.

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