9C2E7D0E-C88C-499B-A3F7-49E5B82A7B63.jpgE-marketer shared some research today from Synovate on behalf of the forum-based ad network PostRelease that details the “influencer” behavior of Internet users.

The research was on a base of 1000 adults, divided fairly evenly between men and women. These respondents were high-influencers, with 68% playing some kind of role in a purchasing decision.

BF82EB36-B3B6-4586-AFAD-A707892E8C5F.jpgThe number of active influencers in any group is pretty consistent from survey to survey. For instance, Forrester’s Groundswell ladder of social behavior shows pretty much the same breakdown of people who are creating content online.

Understanding how to talk about and influence the activity of these Internet users becomes a key factor in creating successful online social marketing programs.

Fortunately, a lot of work has been done over the last 20 years to understand the dynamics of Word of Mouth, which is ultimately the science of getting into the conversation of social influencers.

One firm with good insight into how influencers behave and how they are influenced  is Keller Fay Group. Over the past five years, Keller Fay has maintained TalkTrack, a series of ongoing interviews with consumers to create a proprietary database of influence trends and word of mouth.

keller fay 2.jpgkeller fay 3.jpgIn a recent conference paper, Keller Fay shared some observations about the catalyzing power of these key influencers.

Many consumers are having one or more conversation every day about brands, products and purchasing decision, the research shows. Those conversations range from what restaurant to go to to what TV show to watch to what kind of products to get for your home.

What makes Influencers different is the FREQUENCY and VOLUME of those conversations. The Keller Fay research shows that Conversation Catalysts are having 80% more conversations and mentioning twice as many brands as the average person.

While these facts have been true about Word of Mouth for a long time, the big shift over the last year has been the change in the impact of online versus offline influence. Traditionally, word-of-mouth conversations off-line have had much more effect than online. However, the surge of real-time dialogue, of swarm-sourcing and of increased interaction on social platforms appears to be bringing the impact of online word-of-mouth more into line with that of off-line. (To review a good presentation comparing the impact of the two click here.)

Last year, a group of researchers explored in detail the role of influencers, which they called Hubs, in increasing product adoption on social networks. You can find the paper here. Their conclusion was the people who served as Social Hubs were characterized by their early adoption of new information and technologies and their ability to influence early adoption by other people. The number of social connections that these individuals had were not the key determinant to their impact; it was the type of connections and their credibility with the Community.

Why does this matter? In exploring how to leverage social media tools for small and mid-sized local businesses, I have focused on the concept of starting by building Communities of Interest. The concept is that your Community of Interest will be invested in sharing information about your product or service with their social network.

In order to make that Community of Interest most powerful, you’ll want to be able to identify which of your connections are Influencers, are at the center of Social Hubs that can activate adoption of products and services.

One way to do this is to look at the dialogue amongst your connections and their connections. The more influence-type dialogue there is between people, the more likely they are to have the opportunity to have outsized impact on your Community of Interest. In order to leverage that, you would focus some of your own social networking on these catalysts. As the authors of the paper on Social Hubs have proven, this influence has a provable and favorable effect on your company profits.

To get more insight into practical applications of Word of Mouth, visit the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

Below is the paper from Feller Kay from which the slides above were drawn.