Social Media Influencers are not Traditional Influencers


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Guest post by Damien Basille, follow him on Twitter | Read his blog

As more and more brands are moving all of their ad spend online, defining how influence affects their return on investment is necessary and must be done as soon as possible. While some are making inroads to define these calculations many are overlooking the fact that influence affects everything. Without factoring in the real issue of different types of influence you run into a number of problems, for instance focusing on one group of influencers over another or getting broad sweeping numbers instead of knowing exactly how effective your time and money has been spent on the proper target. One thing that usually doesn’t sync up here is that these online influencers with large followings are not the offline influencers.

People with social media influence are able to spread brand messages and have their audiences actually absorb it. To get things done one thing is for sure: the more influence you have the better. While it is important to be able to have your message spread far and wide to the right people it’s also equally if not more important to influence others offline. Generally people who are extremely influential offline fly under the radar online and are able to get things done this way.

Most of the time these people aren’t even online. Their offline networks are created so that they don’t need to be online. Some industries don’t necessarily need to be networking the way you and I may. When these offline influencers are online their follower numbers tend to be smaller and more concentrated. Why is that?

Online Influencers

What these people know is that while it’s important to have a large network to spread a message as wide as possible it’s even more important to have a smaller more concentrated network to make things happen. It’s the age old axiom of quality versus quantity. My answer to that is that it’s quantity of quality.

The one question you need to ask yourself is this: what is my purpose for connecting? Connecting just to connect is aimless. The reason the offline influencers command more influential ears is that they know their time is valuable so they make sure every connection has a purpose.

Every person in your life you connect to should have a purpose. Look at your 4 closest friends. Where they are will accurately reflect where and who you are. Ask yourself where you want to be successful in and focus on that. Both online and offline influencers know where they are successful because they concentrate on those areas.

Offline Influencers

What’s rarely seen is someone with a large online presence conveying an equal or greater command with influencers offline. Sure it’s been known to happen but not often. What happens with many online influencers is that their online influence starts to transcend these nonphysical boundaries and move into the physical world.

When this happens they may be able to wow the crowd but the savvy businessman will be able to spot a charlatans a mile away. Not to say that all those transcending are charlatans but what tends to happen is that because they can influence a crowd they think they can influence the boardroom. These two types of influence are not the same and take two different sets of skills.

Being able to influence C-level executives is different than getting a consumer to purchase a product. Sure the idea behind it is the same but you have to be able to speak not just two totally different languages. In fact each of those two languages are two different dialects.

The Influential Divide

Therein lies the problem with influence grading programs. While they try to ascertain digital influence this is still only a part of the picture. Even if you don’t factor in offline influence into the equation you still are left with a blanket influence grade. There’s all sorts of different types of online influence as I’ve talked about above, but let’s just only focus on the ‘big numbers’ influence for a moment.

Every influential person with large follower numbers interacting online in social media spaces are not doing so in the same way. Some of them aren’t even influential. But for the ones who are influential even they have different nuances in what they focus on. Programs can’t ever capture tactics, strategies, interactions and general feel of someone’s value. While someone may be 80% mass influencer and 20% executive influencer, grading programs can’t capture the secret conversations (IMs, DMs, emails, Facebooks mail, LinkedInmails etc) that make up the core of someone’s worth.

What often happens is that some of the most important decisions happen behind closed doors, online and offline. Sensitive correspondence tends to need discretion. Regardless of how transparent your interactions are there will always be something that you do that can be the linchpin to connecting.

The Future of Influence

Eventually what will have to happen is that programs like TweetPsych will be combined with social media grading programs like Klout as well as other lists like Ad Age Power150. All of these will factor in with some sort of sentiment analysis Myers-Briggs hybrid program that will tell you how you function. Signal Patterns is the closest there is to this so far.There are already programs analyzing your musical tastes and predicting for you (Pandora) as well as social media article prediction apps (my6sense) so why not a program that accurately pairs you up with people most similar to your interaction style?

YES this may be very self-referential and take out the randomness of life, but sometimes you just want to connect with like minds. Eventually what needs to happen is that a verified analysis program will have to scan all of your private correspondences and grade you on different sets of publicly published benchmarks. For obvious reasons there will need to be discretion in not saying exactly what is being looked as the correspondences are most likely sensitive.

Even Digg is building in influence to their ranking system:

…Digg and WeFollow will now be more closely linked as we experiment with user influence as it applies to the Twitter universe… user influence and the data we collect during this process will play an important role in upcoming versions of Digg.

I see this program not just analyzing the style and feeling of the messages but also the outcomes. Let’s say you have a conversation with someone about connecting them to something and lo and behold a deal comes to fruition with something you suggested. There’s no way anyone would know you had something to do with it unless you were explicitly a part of it. What if you connected the parties behind closed doors? That type of influence is lost on grading programs. (Klout tries to grade your Twitter Network Strength by asking How influential are the people who @ message you? and How influential are the people that retweet you? but how can you accurately do that if you don’t define the type of influence you’re looking to grade?)

There will be a need to use directories of people and correspondences that happen in the offline world akin to CrunchBase. This will be combined with all of the above along with something like a NetPromoter Score for people for a definitive influencer score. Social media is still in it’s infancy and still hashing out issues that other industries have long ago defined.

The next big hurdle for the online world to overcome will be converging interactions with the offline world that are organic, natural and can be quantified. As companies look to online networks to solve a lot of their traditional problems they’re going to want more and more accountability. This is where a converged influencer score will greatly help everyone out in the process in knowing someone’s real value, not just their perceived value.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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