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New Influencer Study Initial Findings Shared


Adoption Strong but Companies Struggle to Identify Influentials.

As more companies adopt social media, they struggle to find effective metrics for deciding who are the most influential players.  This is among the initial findings of a study, "New Media, New Influencers and Implications for the PR Profession," presented today at the Society for New Communications Research Symposium in Boston, MA. (www.sncr.org/symposium). The study was funded by the Institute for Public Relations and Wieck Media (www.wieck.com).
Nearly 300 public relations, corporate and marketing communications professionals experienced in social media participated in a survey focused on how influence patterns are changing and how communications professionals are addressing those changes. In addition, several case studies have been collected.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that social media tools are becoming more valuable to their activities as more customers and influencers use them. Twenty-seven percent reported that social media is a core element of their communications strategy. Only 3 percent stated that social media has little or no value to their communications initiatives. Respondents believe that social media is most effective for the following sectors: arts, entertainment and recreation; communications; computer hardware; and education.
"Blogs, podcasts, and social networks are changing the way we think about media and influence," said Jen McClure, executive director of the Society. "We wanted to learn what criteria communications professionals use to define new influencers; how social media is being used to communicate with these influentials; and how to measure the effects of such efforts. The ultimate goal of the study is to offer a set of recommendations to the PR profession."
Respondents reported that the most effective tools for their social media initiatives are currently:

Online video
Social networks
The top three criteria for determining the relevance and potential influence of a blogger or podcaster are:

Quality of content on the blog or podcast
Relevance of content to the company or brand
Search engine rankings
Surprising to the researchers was the fact that criteria that measured online engagement for blogs and podcasts were among the least important to the respondents.
However, for online communities and social networks, the top three criteria for evaluating influence do reflect the importance of online engagement:

Participation level
Frequency of posting by the community member
Name recognition of the individual
Fifty-one percent of respondents are formally measuring the effects of their social media initiatives.  The metrics they value most are enhancement of relationships with key audiences, enhancement of reputation, customer awareness of program and comments/posts relevant to organization/products. Close to the bottom of the list was traditional media coverage.
"The respondents are admittedly power users, but their thinking on new media and influencers will be instructive to all communications professionals," said McClure. Detailed results of the study will be published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of New Communications Research and a full report will be made available via the Society and the Institute for Public Relations in early 2008.