What Makes a Social Influencer?

By Ann Chen

This year, ICBA debuted a first-of-its-kind recognition of community banks that are outstanding social media influencers within our industry. The Top Community Bank Leaders in Social Media list (see pages 34 and 35) features community banks that go above and beyond in their social media efforts by fully incorporating those activities into their institution’s branding, creating useful and engaging content for their customers and communities, and maintaining a meaningful two-way dialogue with their fans and followers.

ICBA also created a second list that features the top individual community banker influencers on Twitter.

What’s a social media influencer, and why should you care? An influencer is someone who has clout in his or her community or amongst his or her followers. Social media influence doesn’t necessarily mean having the most followers or posting messages 20 times a day. While posting messages regularly can build a critical mass of followers, an influencer is someone who is shaping a conversation and serving as a driving force and expert in his or her profession.

Community bankers are influencers in the communities in which they work: They know their local business markets, they interact with many people in their communities, and they are fully involved and engaging with those communities. In a similar fashion, social media influencers are essentially community leaders in the virtual space.

How can you spot a social media influencer? Sometimes you can tell right away by looking at a person’s profile: Is he or she engaging with others? Providing fresh and new content in an area of expertise? Showing a positive persona that seems to be well received?

These are all major attributes of a social media influencer. However, sometimes it takes time to see who’s on top of the conversation and who’s not. The best advice here is to follow as many people in relevant fields of expertise as you can. It will become obvious after some time.

How do you get an influencer to notice your cause? The same way you would in real life. The key to the approach is to follow, re-tweet, mention and repeat. And don’t be too sales-y; that’s an immediate turnoff on social media, just as it is in real life.

So to really appreciate influencers for who they are, simply value their insights and interact with them in a meaningful and genuine way. Do this by finding content that may be relevant to their expertise, and mention them in your posts and tweets, or even ask them, for example, “Did you see this new study on XYZ?”

Social media is all about sharing and being engaged in an information marketplace. Give, and you will receive.

Ann Chen is ICBA’s senior social media specialist.