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Marketing

SparkToro review: finding influencers made easy

SparkToro is a new tool launched by Rand Fishkin and Casey Henry. I was able to get my hands on a press version pre-launch. This post is based on the pre-launch version.

Problem to be solved

Let’s say you’re launching a new product designed for avid knitters.

If you take the traditional digital marketing playbook, you’ll probably choose one or more of the following options:

  • Run Google AdWords ads with keywords related to knitting.
  • Run Facebook ads and try to use Facebook’s tools to target knitters.
  • Upload your customer list of current knitting customers and use Google’s and Facebook’s tools to target them and automatically generated twin audiences.
  • Since you know the knitting scene, you might place some ads on Ravelry, given that’s such a popular site for knitters and they have their own ad tools available.

This is where SparkToro aims to provide another option.

You can use the tool to find out:

  • Which accounts on social media knitters follow
  • Which websites knitters frequent
  • Which podcasts knitters listen to
  • Which YouTube channels knitters follow
  • Get insights about knitters as an audience

With this information on hand, you can appear as a guest on the right podcasts, get the right bloggers to review your product and sponsor the right YouTube channels in order to reach your target audience.

Sounds good, right? Let’s see if the tool can deliver.

Taking SparkToro for a test ride

I used SparkToro to test seven different cases:

  1. I wanted to know where I can reach people who talk about product management.
  2. I wanted to see if there was a difference in people talking about product management vs product launches.
  3. I wanted to know where I can reach people who talk about knitting.
  4. I wanted to know which type of people read the site IwillTeachYouToBeRich.com.
  5. I wanted to know where I can reach parents of twins.
  6. I wanted to understand the difference between people who characterise themselves as founders vs entrepreneurs.
  7. I wanted to know what type of people talk about sketchnotes.

Let’s look at how to do this with SparkToro.

Using SparkToro

There are three ways to use SparkToro:

  1. Audience Intelligence, where you search for information about your audience (more on that soon).
  2. Compare Audiences, where you see differences between two different audiences (same search operators as in 1).
  3. Profile search, where you can find information about audiences that interact with a specific website or social profile.

I’ll walk you through these functions one by one and then look at what I learned from the different test cases.

Audience Intelligence

I started by testing the Audience Intelligence functionality. I used it for use cases 1, 3, 5 and 7.

You can search for audiences base on:

  • what they talk about
  • which words they use in their profiles
  • which social account they follow
  • which websites they visit and which hashtags they use

I couldn’t find a use for the hashtag function, but the rest made sense for me and my test cases.

The results page shows a summary of:

  • how large the audience is
  • how similar or diverse it is
  • how much confidence SparkToro has in the results

The results page also show summaries of findings about:

  • social
  • websites
  • podcasts
  • YouTube
  • audience insights

You can expand and explore each of these sections.

When you expand a section, like Social above, you see all the results and you can filter the results, export the results as a csv or add them to a list in SparkToro.

When you export something, the resulting file has a meaningful name. This is a very nice little usability touch, especially for heavy users working in bulk.

Compare Audiences

The audience comparison functionality let’s you compare two different audiences. I used this for use cases 2 and 6.

You can use the same search functions as in Audience Intelligence to compare audiences.

You could compare audiences that talk about product launches with audiences that talk about product management (like I did above).

But you could just as well compare audiences who have “VP Marketing” in their bios with audiences that talk about product launches.

The results show you comparison along the familiar data axis:

  • Behavior similarity
  • Audience size
  • Audience confidence
  • Social accounts
  • Phrases in bio
  • Podcasts
  • Websites
  • Geographies
  • Hashtags

Profile search

Profile search lets you start with a website or social profile and see what the audience for that is. I used this for use case 4.

I tested this functionality by looking at the audience of the personal finance site www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com.

Unsuprisingly, the top social profile followed was that of the founder, Ramit Sethi.

Summarizing results and verdict overall

I showed you earlier the seven cases I used for testing. They were the following:

  1. I wanted to know where I can reach people who talk about product management.
  2. I wanted to see if there was a difference in people talking about product management and product launches.
  3. I wanted to know where I can reach people who talk about knitting.
  4. I wanted to know which type of people read the site IwillTeachYouToBeRich.com.
  5. I wanted to know where I can reach parents of twins.
  6. I wanted to understand the difference between people who characterise themselves as founders vs entrepreneurs.
  7. I wanted to know what type of people talk about sketchnotes.

Let’s look at them in turn.

  1. I found helpful results to where I could reach people talking about product management.
  2. I found results for the differences between people talking about product management and product launches, but since the audiences where quite similar, the results weren’t that meaningful.
  3. I found where I can find people talking about knitting. Unsurprisingly, Ravelry was at the top of the list. I did, however, find it surprising that the Philosophize This podcast was highly popular among knitters!
  4. I found helpful results when analysing the audience of IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com.
  5. I completely failed when trying to find where to reach parents of twins. The tool offered me results about the Minnesota Twins, the Twin Cities and the Dolan Twins. But nothing related to twin children.
  6. I found helpful and meaningful results when comparing people who describe themselves as founders vs entrepreneurs. The difference was bigger than I expected.
  7. I found helpful and meaningful results when searching for information about people interested in sketchnotes. Spoiler: they mostly seem to be teachers and students.

My overall finding is that SparkToro is a well designed and well built tool. Even if I was testing the pre-launch version, I didn’t encounter any bugs or anomalies.

There are, however, challenges.

The example about twins shows that context is hard. Google has put on a lot of work to provide the right context in search and made advances.

SparkToro still needs to figure this out.

I also tried to use the tools in Finnish and Swedish. The results where poor. To be fair, that’s what I was told to expect.

Conclusion: the product does what it promises and seems more mature than it is. Contextual ambiguities and major issues with other languages than English should be expected.