When we think of influencers and influencer marketing chances are our thoughts head straight to tapping in to the audience of big name celebrities or subject-matter bloggers with phenomenal reach. But with public sector communications those people aren’t necessarily who you need to share your messages to get the right outcome for your organisation.

‘Average users, small meaningful networks’

A recent study by the University of Vermont looked at how Twitter was used by people in the aftermath of natural disasters – they looked at use around hurricanes, tornados and flooding. Across all types of disaster they found:

  • users with a small network (100-200 followers) turned to the platform more
  • users with a small, local network (local to where the disaster was happening) were best placed to share information and inform those in the are affected, out-tweeting ‘classic’ influencers (celebrities, high follow count users)
  • usage of the platform peaked ahead of the disaster for something with warning (hurricanes), but in real-time or recovery for less expected disasters (tornadoes and floods).

Some of these findings may seem obvious but the really interesting point for public sector communicators is that you don’t need to be courting big name celebrities to get the results you need – sometimes those influencers are much closer to home and have follower counts you might otherwise dismiss as too small to bother with. Those folk – the ones with a handful followers – may be exactly who you need to engage to get the best results whether you’re in an emergency situation or your day-to-day.

“Reach the people that count before you count the people you reach”

The information about when people are using the platform dependent on type of emergency is also useful – perhaps a reminder to time messages right for the audience you want to reach, and help you plan on how to optimise use of the platform when an emergency hits.

The work done on keywords in the two weeks surrounding disasters is especially helpful in planning too – do you have content to support these topics, have you co-ordinated with partners to make sure the right information on the things worrying people is available?

Build your network of influence in the good times

But how do you find the local influencers to trust and build a relationship with? Whether you’re building a network for day-to-day or as prep for an emergency start by looking to your traditional contacts.

The local media is still influential – more so online than perhaps in other channels – and they can be a trusted voice through which to put out information as well as to gather it in. Other organisations too – whether you’re in local government, the NHS, education, emergency services or another area you’re unlikely to be working completely on your own. Even if you’re the only organisation involved in a situation, or you’re the lead, being set up with other organisations whose audiences cross with yours helps you get that word out.

Beyond this you need to think differently – the average person can be as big an ally as an organisation and may be trusted more in some situations. Without being creepy and stalking local people you can map out those who have a small, engaged network. This might be a Facebook Group with an Admin you can approach to share your messages, it may be a person on Twitter who is listed as living in your local area.

Prepping in peace time is always best so mapping some of these groups in advance is great but individuals may only become obvious during an emergency situation when they themselves turn to social media more. Thinking about how to reach out to these people in that situation and make sure they’re sharing the right information is something you can plan for though, and is time well spent.

Influencer is about who you reach, not how many

Public sector organisations may struggle to engage celebrity influencers who match their causes but influence isn’t the sole domain of those with mega follower lists. Influence isn’t about how many, but who engages, and average users with small meaningful audiences can work just as well – even better intact – than those with huge but more passive and diverse followings.

Map the places and people who matter in your local area and engage them genuinely to have a ready made army of advocates when an emergency lands and you need to quickly get the right information to the right people.

Work with me

If you’d like to find out how I might be able to help you build a map of local influences and create communications which connect book in for a free, no obligation, 15-min phone call to talk through your current challenge or get in touch in one of the other ways. Want to find out more about who I’ve worked with recently? Head this way.

Original source – Sarah Lay

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