Post-Google Deal, Wildfire Hints at Importance of Influencers

By Whitney Phaneuf , written on August 6, 2012

From The News Desk

Call them what you'd like, "Influencer," "Advocate," "Superfan," every brand is after the ones who'll most benefit its word-of-mouth marketing. Last week Wildfire Interactive was acquired by Google; today the company released a report that outlines the value of a true fan. Is this a sign the social SaaS platform, which streamlined the manual process of companies running promotional campaigns and gaining fans, will be moving into the big data opportunity in social influencer search?

"There hasn't been a scalable way to capture and use information about the 'fans' you're engaging with on Facebook, Twitter and other social channels," Wildfire co-founder Victoria Ransom wrote in a recent AdAge guest post "The End of the Facebook 'Fan' As We Know It." "This will require new technologies that enable marketers to develop rich data profiles of the consumers they're interacting with on social networks."

Wildfire's new study doesn't tell brands how to find superfans, but it makes a compelling case for their impact. Based on 10,000 Facebook campaigns that ran over the past nine months, Wildfire determined the most active campaigns were driven by what it calls an advocate. An advocate is a user whose online sharing of content results in someone new engaging with a campaign. It's the new "engagement" that's worth a lot, and Wildfire claims for every 10 advocates who share, 13 entirely new people will interact with the brand by clicking a link, entering a contest, etc.

Determining exactly who these advocates will be, well, that's still anyone's game. Influencer measurement sites such as Klout, Kred and PeerIndex have all been working on this identification problem, but no one system has prevailed. Most companies have scored influence by the numbers, from amount of friends/followers to level of activity such as retweets, and been criticized for missing relevance. Klout, in particular, has been dismissed for being too dependent on data from Twitter and missing a lot of other meaningful conversations on the Web.

A little-known San Francisco startup has been turning a profit selling influncer search to PR and marketing companies. Traackr ranks influencers based on deep and narrow keyword searches pulling from every corner of the Web, going beyond social profiles and into blogs/comments to determine relevance. Under Google's wing, Wildfire could similarly leverage Google's algorithms.

"With a system of record for social data, brands would be continuously aggregating, organizing and updating consumer data from across multiple sources -- everything from ad clicks and comments to public profile data on Facebook, LinkedIn and other networks. Based on these detailed profiles, marketers could then target content to consumers' specific interests," Ransom wrote in AdAge.

Wildfire built a platform for brands to scale social communication. The next logical step is helping brands identify and nourish relationships with the fans who truly give a damn and can influence others with their passion.