Dec 022011

Image courtesy of Fast Company via Flickr user practicalowl

If you’re in any type of communications role, you know every vertical has influencers. How to automate finding them, scoring them and cultivating them is a rapidly expanding cottage market within the broader social media marketing space.

Marc Benioff of has brought his formidable promotion skills to this space. Salesforce acquired social media monitoring company Radian6 back in May, and now has launched a new service that integrates Radian6 into Salesforce’s CRM software. SocialHub promises to monitor thousands of online conversations and score each commenter, basically identifying the influencers that warrant some kind of response.

BusinessInsider has a pretty slick slide demo here, and here’s good coverage from ZDNet’s Between the Lines blog, with a useful overview of how marketing has changed from message projection to audience engagement.

When determining the need for a response, SocialHub incorporates the person’s Klout score. Steven Vaughan-Nichols of ZDNet takes Klout to task for being very inconsistent and non-transparent in its methodology, but he also acknowledges its influence (pun intended).

Of course reaching the influencers is the intent of every media and analyst list. The process used to be much more manageable – now the term is more amorphous and opinions can be harnessed to the power of the Internet. There’s no doubt that some people are more influential than others, but which metrics correspond in exactly what ways to best measure that influence? That’s the secret sauce these companies are selling.

It’s a far cry from an algorithm, but experience in a particular industry niche is a sure way to know which influencers matter. For example, Strategic employs experienced staff with deep backgrounds in areas like telecom, satellite, security and online advertising. When we bring on a new client, they already know who the influencers are in the space, and have relationships with them.

Plus our clients don’t usually sell to the mass consumer market, which cuts down on the noise level. The most important area of automation we typically focus on is tying our social media efforts into a client’s sales automation platform.

All that said, we constantly evaluate new tools that could bring value for our clients. Currently we’re evaluating a tool called Traackr, which promises to identify influencers based on careful keyword searching. Here’s a good overview on the service from the Social Media Explorer blog.

There’s no doubt that consumer facing brands need help sifting through the daily cacophony of online discourse about their products and services. Salesforce certainly took the SaaS business model to mainstream acceptance, so I’m sure their offering will generate a lot of interest

What social media automation tools are you using to support your organization? Do you anticipate exploring this type of service in 2012? Drop a comment and let me know.

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