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Social Influencer Series | Founder, Evangelist, Influencer Marketing & Research, Marshall Kirkpatrick

Social Influencer Series | Founder, Evangelist, Influencer Marketing & Research, Marshall Kirkpatrick

I met Marshall Kirkpatrick at a Sprinklr hosted event at Battery Ventures in Boston. He was giving a presentation on how a small, niche Robotics company was building an audience of the most influential people globally who were leading the discussion on robotics. What was fascinating is that we weren't just looking at the C-Suite of the world's top robotics companies, we were identifying the most influential people in and around their conversation and creating audiences to engage with.

Think about the power of that. The ability to harness social influence and become part of the conversation. Social data that informs with insights that are actionable.

Marshall Kirkpatrick is the founder of Little Bird, an influencer mapping company that was acquired by Sprinklr is 2016. Since then, Marshall has joined our team and his technology has become part of the fabric that makes up the Sprinklr Customer Experience Platform.


I caught up recently with Marshall about a Sprinklr client of ours in Boston that is leveraging Influencer Mapping.

Here is a snapshot of what he had to say:

What was your obsession with the concept of social influence? What led you to create Little Bird? 

I've always been amazed by the incredible opportunities for learning that social media offers. The Crooked Timber blog blew my mind http://crookedtimber.org/ Blogs, YouTube, Twitter - whatever the channel, people used to say that "freedom of the [printing] press is only for those who can afford to own one." The press has been democratized now and though there's a ton of toxicity and noise, there's also a historically unprecedented opportunity for us to network our minds and eyes and learn. When I was finishing up college about 15 years ago, I started blogging about new developments in web technology, and I found that knowing the most influential people in various parts of the technology industry was one of the best ways to learn about new things first or early and well. So I used data to find out who all the other experts listened to - then I set up systems to make it easy for me to watch many of those people across many parts of the technology industry. I did that as the first writer hired at TechCrunch, among other places. I broke hundreds of news stories that way and eventually companies started hiring me to help them figure out who they should be listening to online. One thing led to another and I ended up starting Little Bird to automate that process of influencer discovery and listening.

Your approach to influencer mapping is quite unique. Can you talk high-level about your approach to influencer mapping?

Almost everyone else finds influencers on a topic by seeing who has used a keyword explicitly in their content and has the largest audience. We do it very differently. We start with a set of people, which can be sourced in a variety of ways (our suggestions, your CRM, etc), and then we ask "who do these people all follow? And who's most followed among their peers?" That's who we want to follow on a given topic. For example, I just ran a Little Bird report on a University in Massachusetts and found hundreds of people and projects around the university, professors, clubs, etc. and I know who among their peers they listen to the most. I'm going to see what those people are talking about in order to find out the most important information about the University this week.

One of our local clients in Boston - Northeastern University - is using Influencer Mapping to identify thought leaders in the conversation around "The Future of Work". Such a niche topic, but such a robust conversation. Can you walk us through how that works? 

Aha! I was trying to be discrete in the answer above, it's totally Northeastern University I had on my mind right now. Northeastern is the best! They're actually interested in building their international thought leadership around the intersection of two topics: globalization and the future of work. How will those two topics intersect? They're able to find out which thought leaders in globalization are most interested in the future of work, which specialists in the future of work are most interested in globalization, who in FoW is not just interested but really influential in globalization circles etc. They can find out which of those people are in Northeastern's orbit already, they can listen to the hottest conversations at that intersection, they can learn from them, engage with them, demonstrate their expertise, and run ad campaigns informed by the data. It's pretty awesome! Any brand could follow that formula to level its global thought leadership on any topic way up. Now that these capabilities are a part of Sprinklr, many more are doing so.

You're working on some exciting product development around "second order effects" to drive a more authentic approach to lead generation. Can you speak to that in laymen's terms? 

Thanks, yes - I'm really excited about this part of what we're doing. The short and simple explanation is this: it's a 3 part strategy that first uses influencer data to know who to listen to and engage with in order to strengthen your strategic communications relationships and optimize your marketing content for relevance (because you're listening to people). Then, once that relevant content has been created for lead generation, you can promote the content with advertising targeted using influencer data. As people get exposed to your content and respond to it, entering your funnel as a lead - the system then takes those people and feeds them back into the graph analysis engine to discover hundreds or thousands of more people who are a lot like your leads. They have many of the same social connections. Those people are a great audience to promote your next piece of content to, since people a lot like them appreciated the first content. So it's all about listening and engaging and being authentic - but it's also about scaling using data. I spend a lot of time each day using and building out that product strategy.

You have worked directly with some of the biggest brands in the world - can you share a favorite use case of how one of these brands has leveraged influencer mapping?

There are so many incredible stories to share. We've helped some of the biggest retailers in the world figure out who to watch online in order to monitor potential risks and opportunities to their supply chain. We helped one of the biggest non-profits in the world figure out which malaria doctors were most-followed by other malaria doctors, so they could make a list of people to reach out to offline. We helped one of the biggest tech companies in the world find influential women and people of color who were producing great content on a futuristic new media platform so their work could be highlighted. It's the intersection of voices from the margins of the network and discovery of new value there that gets me most excited. I use the system myself every day, to track influencer conversations about our target markets, our supply chain, our competitors, our customers, networks of look-alike people very similar to our customers, experts in artificial intelligence and climate change, and more. I've got an automated alert set up for any time one of the top Futurists in the world tweet the word "Portland" - and thanks to that system I'm now interviewing one of them about his new book at the most famous book store in town next year. So many things are possible.

Speed Round: 

Celebratory Cocktail? A nice, cold IPA.

Most proud accomplishment? Successfully if bumpily transitioning through many different stations in life, from being the high school debate champ to hitchhiking around the country to making tofu for a living to blazing new trails in journalism to becoming a startup founder to now being a part of the Sprinklr team. I'm proud of my ability to make brave, principled transitions and learn new things while striving to make the world a fairer place for others. 

Go to Social Channel? Twitter!

Best advice for leveraging social influence? Keep showing up and keep stretching yourself to add value for others- the social web is a network of people led by those who contribute the most. It's an incredibly rich field of opportunity, for individuals and the brands that employ them.

Inspirational #hashtag? Too many hashtags make me feel nauseous but you've just used one here and I'll use one more, so that's not too many. My favorite is probably #foresight. Personally, preparation is a super power (as are logging and debriefing) but socially, we now have an opportunity to build global empathy and turn it toward the future we're creating. That's the most likely way we'll be able to make the future a place people want to live in.

About the interviewer:

Mark Keaney is the Director of Sales for the Northeast @Sprinklr - the world's most complete customer experience management platform for the enterprise. Sprinklr helps the world's largest brands do marketing, advertising, customer care, sales, research and commerce on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and twenty-one other social channels globally, all on one integrated platform.

e: mark.keaney@sprinklr.com or m: (617) 513-2668 or t: @markkeaney2pt0

Social Influencer Series | Keynote Speaker & Content Marketing Strategist, Melanie Deziel

Social Influencer Series | Keynote Speaker & Content Marketing Strategist, Melanie Deziel

Social Influencer Series | AS Roma Head of Digital, Paul Rogers

Social Influencer Series | AS Roma Head of Digital, Paul Rogers