Identifying The Right Influencer For Strategic Intelligence, according to Ian Smith


In this post of IAN SMITH, we can see a method to identifying the right influencer on social media based on a separation in five categories.

We propose to you to discover these five categories.

The challenge behind using social media influencers for competitive intelligence research is that there can be many influencers for a given industry or topic thanks to the abundance social networks.

In order to  identify  the right influencer for your intelligence needs, it is best to sort all influencers based on Lisa Barone’s “5 Types of Influencers On The Web”.  Table 1 presents the 5 categories along with their respective descriptions.

Table 1: The 5 Types of Influencers On The Web (Source: Lisa Barone)

Although these labels can be used for content marketing purposes, they can be a tremendous help to online researchers seeking to follow the best influencers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and or Google Plus.  Below is a quick discussion on:

  • How each influencer has an implication on the strategic intelligence research process
  • How each influencer can be identified

The Social Butterflies

Implication on the strategic intelligence research process: Since social butterflies “knows” everyone, they could be a good person to connect with hoping that he or she can introduce you to individuals that may have the answers to your questions.

How each influencer can be identified: One can spot social butterflies based on the big number of followers on Twitter and connections on LinkedIn and Google Plus.  In addition, these individuals tend to have organized lists and / circles.

Thought Leaders

Implication on the strategic intelligence research process: Thought leaders are regularly asked to speak at industry conferences and are positioned as a source for validated information.   Thought leaders can  be an invaluable source for industry analysis via the content  that they share in their respective networks. (i.e. links to articles, comments made in discussion groups on LinkedIn and on their own Google Plus page, etc.)

How each influencer can be identified: These individuals can be identified based on their presence on the  social web via personal branded blogs, podcasts, presentations and or white paper on document sharing platforms such as Slideshare. Frequent status updates with dates of upcoming events when they are appearing is another good indicator.


Implication on the strategic intelligence research process: Trendsetters are usually the individuals that are the “first in the know” and will highlight something different happening in the industry.  As the label suggest, this group of influencers can be helpful in forecasting or uncovering trends in a sector.

How each influencer can be identified: To pinpoint these people on social media,  one has to track if they have  a blog or publish articles  to comment new things within the industry and they are not too shy to share their thoughts.

The Reporters

Implication on the strategic intelligence research process: This group of social media influence can play a huge role in a strategic intelligence gathering function.  Along with the traditional media news sources, “The Reporters” can provide information in real-time via their own content curation process and the appetite to publish on large scale what they have or know.  In addition, they can be open to be interviewed in-person or via the phone to share their insights for hard to find information.

How each influencer can be identified: Reporters are behind industry blogs, Twitter feeds and can be seen or heard through traditional media outlets.   Their social media presence details are usually available on blog posts, articles and mentioned on broadcasts (i.e., television or radio.)

The Everyday Customer

Implication on the strategic intelligence research process: The Everyday Customer  influencer  can be real asset to competitive intelligence researchers.   By tracking what is being said by these individuals, one will be able to capture opinions on competitors based on good or bad experiences with a product or service.

How each influencer can be identified: These individuals tend to stand out on social media especially via personal blogs, Facebook Page wall postings / comments and Twitter feeds to highlight their affinity for a brand or a dislike for a company.

It is important to note that the five types of influencers used in a competitive intelligence researching context are not mutually exclusive.  Some influencers may qualify to be in more than one category.  For example, a conference speaker  scheduled to present on future sector trends can be a source of information as a thought leader – trendsetter influencer.

In order to use social media influencers for strategic intelligence efficiently, consider the following four  steps:

  1. Know what you are looking for either on an ad hoc or on-going basis
  2. Search and identify the appropriate influencers based on your needs
  3. Group the influencers on the basis of the “type of influencer” (as discussed above). Create lists and circles for each group
  4. Engage with the influencers by leaving a comment on their posts, retweets their content and “Liking” what the posts in their respective networks

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