Social influence is probably one of the most debated topics in social media today. Unfortunately, it is frequently a debate about scores. Whether we like it or not, companies such as Klout and PeerIndex grant us a score that claims to be an indicator of how ‘influential’ we are. It is nothing more.
Social influence – or better: ‘digital influence’ – is not about scores but, nevertheless, many businesses use them to identify who to identify, target, engage and – unfortunately – even hire.
Influence is misunderstood, and it is used in wrong ways. We cannot ignore that it exists. However, the best influencers are people who share a common passion – regardless of their scores – and act in a mutually relevant way.
The score has become so important that we use it to make lists. And when these lists get published, people that don’t make it, often feel ignored and shocked. The score matters for many of us, as I could see when a Belgian magazine published such a list last week, leading to much controversy.
Social influence goes beyond social networks
As I explained in a few posts on my blog, I’m not a big fan of scores, if they are not understood and looked upon in an abstract manner. They make us look at the concept of influence incorrectly. In the end and from a business viewpoint, an influencer is someone who is relevant for what we want to achieve and who acts as a consequence of how relevant we are for him or her.
Social influence goes beyond social networks. The connected consumer uses multiple channels and as we all know, the holy grail of influencer marketing, word-of-mouth, still has a very strong offline dimension.
Nonetheless the scores do exist. It’s important that businesses learn how to ‘read them’ the right way as Brian Solis explained in a blog. Who are the people behind the scores? How do they behave? What are their interest spheres or as Brian Solis calls it, their interest graphs (see below)? How active are they where it matters most? What do THEY want? What do your audiences want and what do their audiences want?
These questions matter. We can learn something from good email marketers here: a subscriber to an email newsletter is not an email address. It’s a channel-agnostic human being of flesh and blood with a rich and often complex behavior and personality.
Social network users and ‘influential’ consumers are channel-agnostic people as well. Ask yourself who is more influential: someone with a low score but a very active network or strong sharing behavior via, for instance, email, or someone with a high score and little or no potential to influence the behavior of others through all the networks he uses?
The rise of digital influence
If you want to be active in influencer marketing start with your goals and then ask what influencers want from you first. The latter is rarely done but is crucial. Furthermore, look beyond the obvious and see the omnichannel behavior of today’s consumer. Finally, take the whole ‘social value chain’ into account: ask what you can do for the social networks of influencers as well. Their social influence – or digital influence – depends on how relevant they are for their connections, unless they game the whole system, as is often the cases with scores.
Only then, after knowing what you want and what they want, start looking at ways to engage them. Never start with the score and don’t confuse it with influence. Be relevant and valuable first and understand a person is more than a score. Obviously, technologies will improve but, still, human behavior is too amazingly beautiful and complex to capture it in a rank.
In Altimeter‘s report, The Rise of Digital Influence, written by Brian Solis, you will find the right questions to ask, how to avoid the pitfalls of the score obsession and how to get started in a measured and meaningful way.