4 Ways Context Impacts Online Influence… and why you should care

Remember the bird who couldn’t find his mother? He even went to such lengths as to engage with a power shovel in hopes it was his dear mom. I venture to say the way most people approach influencers is not too far removed from the path of this lost bird.

Online influence is complex. It’s defined by a person’s ability to create content that attracts and engages an audience.

It’s not uncommon to hear, “I need a list of top mommy bloggers.” But this approach is inherently flawed because it fails to take expertise into consideration.

You can’t build a meaningful relationship or expect any sort of real impact by working off a bucket list of “mommy bloggers” or “tech influencers”.

To get to the holy grail of earned, influencer-driven media, you need to discover the people who have authentic influence in the topics you care about. The most important factor in determining who is influential to you: context.

If content is king, context is emperor

Context can be broken down into four elements: Topic, Intent, Location and Timing.

How you define your area of interest. A broad topic would be cloud computing, digital marketing or personal finance. The topic can be narrowed with additional keywords, social topics and qualifiers: digital marketing for restaurant owners.

What you want to do with influencer data or how you plan to engage with influencers. The underlying reason you are interested in influential people defines the context. Reasons can include wanting to: build close relationships, invite high profile people to an event, sell a product, become influential yourself, etc.

Where the person is present. This can be geography (city, state, country), industry, position (within an organization), publishing platform, etc.

When you look for influencers. Someone who is influential today may not have been considered influential one year prior. An influencer can change domains and no longer have the same weight one year later.

Just how important is context?

To determine the importance of context in discovering relevant online influencers, we used Traackr to look closely at groups of influencers to see how much crossover there is among lists created on very similar topics.

When you run a custom influencer list on Traackr, we do a deep search to find the all of the people on the web producing content on the conversation you care about. The people we find are scored based on three criteria: reach, resonance and relevance.

  • Reach: What’s the size of their audience?
  • Resonance: How much does their audience engage with their content?
  • Relevance: How closely does their original content match the keywords that define your topic?

Far from simple social scoring, this approach ensures we find people (and only people) who are truly involved in the subject AND have the ability to be heard. Turns out: the way you define your conversation matters a lot.

We compared similar influencer lists created on Traackr to see how many influencers appeared on multiple lists and determine the effect of context on influencer identification.

We used two popular subjects: Digital Marketing and Personal Finance. In both cases, we looked at data from actual Traackr users. The data points we assessed were:

  • Keyword cross-over between lists
  • Number of influencers appearing on multiple lists

A few examples:

We looked at four personal finance influencer identification and monitoring projects by Traackr users. All of the lists were anchored on the keyword phrase “personal finance”. On average, the lists shared 36% of the exact same keywords — the rest being made up of variations and qualifiers that give context to the project’s objectives. The result is only 22% of the influencers found appear on two lists and very few (5%) appear on all four lists.

The same analysis was run on a set of four digital marketing influencer lists. This time digital marketing was the anchor word and the lists shared on average 33% of the exact same keywords. Only 20% of the influencers appeared on two lists, 7% were on three lists and only 5% made it all four lists.


The context of your project will have a huge impact on your influencer strategy. Depending on your business objectives, marketing goals, timeline and desired outcomes, the people you need to engage will be very different.

Influencer marketing is playing a bigger role in B2B and B2C online strategies. The temptation is to want a laundry list of names to add to a mailing list. The reality is that influencers are people who have a reason (usually a passion) for caring about a topic that may be relevant to you.

These people earn their influence the same way businesses need to earn the trust and collaboration of an influencer. The quickest way to the heart of any influencer is to be relevant, engaging and add value to their work. Bottom line: to succeed in online influencer relations, you first need to discover the right people.

If you remember three things, let it be these:

  • Influence is highly tied to context
  • Your intent has a huge impact on your definition of influencer
  • Many marketers are going after the wrong people
  • Bonus 4th: If the bird found his mother… you can find the right influencers!

Want to learn more about how to define online topics and create online influencer lists? Download the Guide to Influencer Marketing for tips on creating and leveraging influencer lists in your digital marketing efforts.