New tools identify social media influencers

William M. “Marty” Kotis III, president and CEO of Restaurant Investors, knows that Dogfish Head is one of the top social media influencers for the topic of beer. Connecting with the micro-brewery to promote a beer dinner at Darryl’s Wood Fired Grill in Greensboro, North Carolina, could be a big boost for his restaurant. He knows all of this thanks to a service called Klout that measures the social media influence of people, businesses and brands. “We are trying to see what they are doing and why they are popular and then we can also try to create a relationship with them,” says Kotis.

Klout is one of several new services that has cropped up to help businesses identify social-media “influencers.” There are millions of social media users, but only a few can be considered major influencers—like the mommy bloggers in our cover story—whose opinions help shape the decisions of many friends and followers. “They have this tremendous ability to socially amplify, very cost-effectively and very efficiently, the brand message or brand content,” says Greg Shove, founder and CEO of Social Chorus, another of the new services.

Klout, a free service, works by assigning a number score to social media users, the higher the score, the more influential they are. “Klout really measures how many people like or re-tweet or share your content,” says Kotis. Darryl’s is listed by Klout as one of the top-10 social media influencers in Greensboro. Kotis looks to see what high-ranking Klout businesses of all kinds are doing. “We follow a lot of other people that we think do a good job and we look at their content,” he says.

Social Chorus connects businesses with top influencers and measures detailed results of campaigns. The company has 15,000 food-related influencers in its database ranging from bloggers to Facebook users. Social Chorus handles the heavy lifting of identifying these influencers. “The real solution is technology, not people. You can’t manage relationships with thousands of superfans or hundreds of bloggers by hand,” says Shove.

The Social Chorus software platform costs $20,000 a year to get started. Social Chorus also works with the idea of social currency, like coupons, opportunities to test new menu items or invitations to exclusive events. VIP incentives can help restaurants connect with social movers and shakers.

Kotis is already planning to invite some of the top influencers in Greensboro to his restaurant to talk about social media in person. He may be ahead of the curve by using Klout, but he believes it will pick up among smaller chains and independents. “It’s good to watch to see how your influence is perceived out there, but I think the best use of it is to reach out to those top influencers,” he says.


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