With the help of consulting firm DeepMile, Digitas is rolling out a service to help marketers identify and then influence the social-media influencers.
In real-time, Agent209 will attempt to harvest massive amounts of data from online postings, comments and tweets, then identify the most relevant conversations about a brand or topic, along with the influencers driving those conversations.
"This laser-like focus on data and accountability will leapfrog brands in the social media space," said Alec Bokman, senior vice president of strategy and analysis at Digitas. Once Digitas identifies the influencers, marketers should be able to time their messages around specific events, dates and times.
To test out the power of Agent209, Digitas and DeepMile employed the service to track recent events in Egypt. The analysis of 18 days worth of tweets from Egypt correlated directly with the country's uprising, and unveiled two key lessons for markers: "Size doesn't matter," while "Influence does -- and timing is everything," notes Bokman.
The larger the node, the larger the reaction to the influencers' message, while the heavier the line, the more often an action was repeated, the partners found. Another insight: when influencers "spoke," others "acted" by commenting or amplifying the original message through a retweet.
According to research cited by Digitas, the average consumer mentions specific brands more than 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family and co-workers.
In social networking -- whether it related to social unrest or retail branding -- the size of a following and frequency of posting is less relevant than the ability to create conversations, according to Bokman.
"If we can find [influencers] at scale and track their impact, we can collect massive amounts of data in real-time," he said.
In terms of the online U.S. population, 16% are influencers, according to Forrester. Although small in number, they are responsible for 80% of the brand impressions in online social settings.