Moving beyond "popularity" - how Intel identifies real brand influencers

Sarah Shearman

Many brands are confusing "popularity" with "influence", according to Ekaterina Walter, senior social media strategist at Intel, the microchip manufacturer. Moreover, she said during a panel discussion about "The secret dangers of online influence marketing" at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, the volume of data now available to marketers means they are struggling to identify true brand advocates.

Walter exposed weaknesses in the popular word-of-mouth marketing model of incentivising "influencers" with perks to spread a brand's message. This trend is attributable, at least in part, to the rise of online tools promising to identify such influential web users, leading brands to target people boasting a high number of followers, rather than to look for genuine advocacy.

"We get so mixed up with the data out there that we tend to define influence based on the tools that are currently in existence, like Klout and PeerPerks," she said. For its part, Intel approaches the issue of advocacy by using listening tools to look at a summary of both online and offline data.