The Long Tail of Social Influence

Leveraging The Long Tail of Social Influence for Your Event

Social influencers are a key part of any social media strategy. Social influencers bring reach and advocacy that most brands and events could not achieve on their own. Most social influencer plans focus on working with influencers with a very large reach. Sure other factors are taken into account like how engaged their followers are, what their retweet rate is and their overall personal brand, but often the search for influencers starts out with follower numbers. There is however, another part to social influence, the long tail of social influence.

The Long Familiar Long Tail

The idea of the long tail is one that is familiar to digital marketers. In SEO we talk about long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are keywords that are more specific (and usually longer) than more common ‘head’ keywords. Long tail keywords get less search traffic individually, but often have a higher conversion value and collectively can bring as much if not more search traffic than keywords in the ‘head’ of your keyword traffic graph.

The Long Tail of SEO


The Long Tail is also present in some ecommerce revenue models like Amazon. They stock all books, not just the bit hits and ‘best sellers’. The number of available niche products outnumber the hits by several dramatically. The millions of niches are the long tail. As explained Chris Andersen explained in his book The Long Tail,”People gravitate towards niches because they satisfy narrow interests better, and in one aspect of our life or another we all have some narrow interest (whether we think of it that way or not).” This also applies to social media.

The Long Tail in Social Influence

Long tail social influencers are those that individually have less followers than the ‘big’ social influencers in the head but together can have more followers than any of the big influencers you work with.

Long tail social influencers together have more followers than many of the 'big' influencers.Click To Tweet

Due to their lower number of followers are likely able to engage with more of their followers more often, resulting in a higher or more authentically engaged social following. These social influencers don’t appeal to everyone, so they generally don’t have thousands of followers. They appeal to a small niche, likely an extended network of friends, friends of friends, colleagues and work associates.

I’ve seen this in Sage. Our top 200 colleagues on Twitter collectively have over 290,000 Twitter followers. Individually, many of these colleagues have less than 1000 followers and half of them have less than 500 followers but the point is that their collective influence is quite significant and larger than many of the ‘big hitters’ we might work with.

This is what the long tail of social influence looks like. This graph shows the Twitter following of the top 200 colleagues in Sage on Twitter. What this graph doesn’t show is the extreme head of our social influence – this is the influencers we work with that have over 50,000 followers. They are the extreme head, the big hitters. There is only a handful of them and individually each of them have way more followers than any Sage colleague but none have more followers than the 290,ooo Twitter users that our colleagues reach together.

Long Tail of Social Influence among Sage colleagues

If you want to see this example in action take a look at #SageSummit on Twitter to see the Sage colleague social amplification of the biggest event for small to medium businesses.

Making the Long Tail of Social Influence Work For You

Not everyone has access to a long tail. If your business or event has a lot of employees or a lot of customers and attendees you already have a long tail, even if you’re not using it. Instead (or at least as well) of focusing on the head of social influence – those with thousands of followers, think about your long tail. This is the customer with 300 followers that shares every blog post you publish. This is the colleague that posts a comment on every blog post. This is the event attendee that has been tweeting about the event ever since they bought their ticket. Mark Schaefer calls these alpha influencers.

If you’re a small company just starting out with a small number of employees and customers or just about to launch a new event, you still have an opportunity. You can build your long tail from the start. Turn every customer into an advocate, every employee into an influencer, every event attendee into a promoter and before you know it your own long tail will be working for you.

Turn customers into advocates, employees into influencers & event attendees into promoters.Click To Tweet

How do you leverage social influencers for your business or event? For more tips and advice on Social Media For Events buy Trending: The Complete Guide to Social Media for Events.

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