07/09/10

By Jonny Bentwood

There is a great misunderstanding that just because someone is popular it makes them influential. This couldn’t be further from the truth on Twitter. When it comes down to making sure your message is heard and ensuring that it spreads amongst your target audience, you have to engage with the right people at the right time with the right message.

For example, if my aim was to promote healthy eating, you might think that engaging with Jamie Oliver would be a great starting point. However the difficulty in managing this would be huge — not only would he be difficult to get in front of, but if you managed and could afford it, he may not wish to endorse you at all.

What would be more prudent is to understand who are the people that influence Jamie. Using tools like TweetLevel or Onalytica it is possible to identify which individuals create the ideas that Jamie amplifies. Careful research shows that even though the Naked Chef has a great and loud voice, virtually everything he says comes verbatim from the National Obesity forum. Understanding this ‘topology of influence’ in that there are different kinds of influentials — including idea starters and amplifiers is crucial to engagement.

Once you have identified your idea starters or amplifiers you will now need to understand their behaviour characteristics - by doing this correctly you are far more likely to have a positive relationship with them. An idea starter likes to walk a journey with you, sharing ideas for mutual benefit. An amplifier meanwhile wishes to maintain their rich flow of content — giving them pre-packaged information that is easy to reproduce is crucial for them.

I personally follow a four step process for engaging on twitter. Just as you wouldn’t walk into a crowded restaurant, stand on table and start shouting your news at everyone, why would you do this on Twitter? The key to success is following the process below:

Now that you have taken the time to be part of the community it is time to engage with your influencers. Engage (not broadcast) at the right time, about the right topics and in the right manner.

Following these steps will not guarantee you success, but I am sure it will not work if you simply jump in and hope that the right people will start talking about you.

@jonnybentwood

Jonny is a director at Edelman, the largest PR firm in the world. He is the creator of TweetLevel and is regularly quoted on Reuters, CNN, Sky News. He blogs at Technobabble 2.0 about social media and influence relations.

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