Twitter and social media in general are difficult to master. Gain a new perspective that will help tremendously to maximize ROI through your social marketing efforts.

In the online marketing world, the axiom for a strong and popular website is and will remain to be relevant, searchable content. However, the addage “Content is King” needs some adjustment for today's Internet.

Consider social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter in particular, there are millions of people tweeting more than 155 million articles, media and other content every day; how can the value of good content be retained in a social maelstrom? The chaos has to be sorted – it must be tamed to extract the “diamonds in the rough.” Those curators, creators and distributors are your social “friends.”

Thus the real question becomes, is relationship king on Twitter (and other social media)? I argue, wholeheartedly, yes!

With this new philosophy in hand, our new focus as social marketers needs to be accessing these important, valuable relationships online. Is content still vitally important? Absolutely, and developing strong online relationships will only be beneficial if you provide your social “friends” with content that is useful to them. (Brafton has reported that internet marketing experts agree on the value of relevant social content.)

What we need to concentrate on is finding our key followers in our sector and converting them into brand and content promoters. A retweet is great, but a retweet from a follower with strong connections and influence is invaluable.

Microsoft's KIN product focused primarily on social media integration in phones.As Microsoft said in an infamous advertising campaign for its (now defunct) KIN product, “You have Friends, 'friends' and FRIENDS.” Each type of friend has a different social value, and the potential for content to be shared varies. For the sake of illustration let's label,

Friends as 'people from your offline life that you're friendly with' – Passerbys
“friends” as 'online social acquaintances' – Connected Influencers
FRIENDS as 'your best offline/online friends'. – Besties

The Personal Point of View

Depending on the strength of your relationship with another person, content he or she presents and shares with you online will carry more or less weight in relevance. If you see a tweet on Twitter from one of your besties, chances are you are much more likely to click and consume the media on the flip side than from a connected influencer or passerby. The continuum of social heft when it comes to relationships seems to be: Besties > Connected Influencers > Passerbys.

The Marketing Point of View

From an outside perspective, it seems clear that we need need to specifically target at least one half of each “bestie” pairing to maximize the ROI of distributing content on Twitter. However, this is near impossible because we only see one side of the story and have no real idea of how deep the relationship goes between two people on social media. Unless we live in a world with perfect information, the next best course of action is to target connected influencers.

So, how do we find influencers? One tool that has made the process easier is Klout, a social intelligence agency based in San Francisco. From their About Us page,

“Klout isn't about figuring out who is on the “A-list.” We believe that every person who creates content has influence. Our mission is to help every individual understand and leverage their influence.”

Based on their method of sorting, people with high Klout score may prove most valuable on social media when it comes to earning retweets and brand recognition. Seek them out, reach out in an honest way and show them why your brand, product or idea is worthy of spreading – the rest will come naturally.

Another method to find strong influencer/follower pairings is to watch the output of tools like http://twitterbffs.com/, “top followers” listings like what is found through mytopfollowersin2010.com, or topic rankings like what can be found on WeFollow. A simple Twitter search of the keywords should return sufficiently relevant results. These methods aren't perfect, but as we learn from usage, social media is by far not an exact science.

The bottom line is to make sure you are targeting Twitter users with a clear voice and followers that are actively engaged in their conversations. The stronger and deeper the social relationships go, the more potential reach and value your tweets will accumulate.

Evan is Head of Creative & Digital at Brafton. He is a visual designer and brand strategist, manages Brafton's external marketing efforts, SEO and PPC initiatives and plays an integral role in product development across the business.