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The three segments of social media influencer

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 27th July 2010

Those of you that have read Forrester’s book Groundswell will recognise the process of splitting social media users into different segments depending on their activities. And if you are familiar with traditional PR, you’ll appreciate the process of identifying and targeting ‘influencers’ to effectively get your message out to a wide, but targeted audience.

Well, today, Gartner has made an attempt to meld these two ideas together with the announcement of its User Survey 2010. Gartner suggests that around one fifth of the social media users are ‘key influencers’ that in turn affect the decisions of 74% of the population.

Key influencers: salesmen, connectors and mavens

Gartner defines these influencers as: salesmen, connectors and mavens. The analyst firm also compares these roles very closely to similar roles that exist in an offline environment:

Salesmen have an ability to persuade people to purchase or act in a certain way. While users in this demographic aren’t actually commercial in their actions, they do have the ability to persuade others to take action.

Connectors can be split into two groups: heavy and light. They become the bridging function between two or more groups of people. They have lots of contacts in different niches and even in different social networks and can therefore make important connections between the two.

Mavens are experts in a certain field, giving advice and answering questions. They become almost guru like in the way people flock to them. They therefore become ‘trusted’ sources and can influence and persuade people to purchase in a certain way. Again, as with salesmen, their actions aren’t commercial, but still have an effect on purchasing decisions.

Gartner looked at 4,000 consumers in ten markets and identified six different roles in total. In addition to the three above, the firm also defines users as seekers – the ones asking for information, the self-sufficient – those who prefer to find answers themselves, and the unclassified – those who don’t fit any defined role.

How is this useful?

The key for marketers is to use these user profiles to identify certain influencers and their ‘type’, then create campaigns or content that meets their needs. Salesmen, for example, will need very different resources and content to connectors or mavens and different strategies will work better to inspire and engage with them.