Influencer marketing and brand advocacy programs are key elements to any successful social media plan. And with word-of-mouth tactics driving 13 percent of consumer sales, it’s no surprise why. As part of identifying your social influencers and brand advocates, it’s important to understand the difference between both groups. The two segments can be categorized using two words: prominence and passion.

Social influencers, in the form of celebrities, bloggers, and industry experts, are most sought-after for access to their large audience base. They boast thousands of followers on a single channel or across multiple platforms and can promise a lot of eyeballs on the business — but they might not personally adore the brand.

Brand advocates, however, are consumers who love a brand, share their praise on their own social channels, and defend a business against negativity. What they lack in prominence, they make up for in passion. This is the group most likely to recommend a product or service to family and friends; they’re highly satisfied and motivated to share their experiences without incentive.

But with millions of users across various social platforms, how do you identify and — more importantly — connect with the right influencers and advocates? Below are four tips and tools to get you started.

Research

Investing time and resources into tried and true research tactics can sometimes provide the best insights. Spend time searching Google, reading blogs and industry publications, and exploring relevant hashtags to see who key digital players are in the field.

When researching, take notes. Top social influencers are inundated with requests to work with marketers on a daily basis. Make a request stand out from the others by approaching a prospect with a deep understanding of who they are, what they do, and what type of content they produce. Come prepared with ideas on how you can work together, what stories you want to help them tell, and how your audiences align.

Followerwonk

A great tool for growing a following, Followerwonk also helps find relevant Twitter users and analyzes Twitter profiles by keyword, allowing for targeted, applicable searches. For example, if you’re a new farm-to-table restaurant opening in Chicago, you can search “Chicago + food + blogger” to find influencers that could act as promotion partners.

Followerwonk

The social authority metric used to rank influencers within the platform takes into account social sharing, content distribution, followers, and more, making it one of the most robust ranking systems available. An added bonus is Followerwonk’s ability to compare competitors’ followers, making it simple to find users who have similar interests and might appreciate hearing from your brand.

Social Listening

As important as it is be active on social media, it can be argued that a brand’s passive role is just as important. Set up a Hootsuite or Tweetdeck account and stay up-to-date on everything that happens in the world of social media.

In addition to pulling in your own notifications, posts, and messages, set up keyword searches to keep an eye on conversations happening about specific topics that are relevant to your brand. These platforms provide a streamlined process for keeping tabs on what’s trending with your current audience and potential fans.

In addition to these tools, be diligent about checking and acknowledging the conversation happening natively on social media sites. Take note of the fans and followers who actively compliment your brand and share news on your behalf.

Topsy

This Twitter search tool provides advanced, real-time insight into which content is shared, how often, and by whom. You can also search specific users’ tweets to see if a potential influencer has mentioned your brand or to find out how often an advocate has tweeted on your behalf.

Topsy

Or, if you want to get a better understanding of your website traffic, you can search a specific URL and see results for everyone who has tweeted out that link and shared the content. Topsy also separates influencers from all results to help you easily identify top content sharers.

You can also utilize the influencer search bar. Add in a word or phrase on your topic, “small business” for example, and click search. Topsy will auto-populate the top Twitter users with “small business” interests.

Brand advocates and influencers can bring passion and prominence to your marketing efforts, often helping to drive visible results on social media. No matter how you find the influencers and brand advocates, successful programs can be built on shared interests, similar values, and smart content.

Top image: Young black woman using phone in coffee shop by Peter Bernik