By: Steve Goldner, Senior Director of Social Media
We talk about influence as if it is something new. Actually the definition has not changed in the past 1,000 years or so, but tactics for influence engagement certainly have changed due to the digital revolution. And while many might consider my use of the term “digital revolution” trite, I think it deserves the entire superfluous connotation as I intended it to be. The fact is that the digital world and, even more importantly, the related behavior changes that have transpired, are extremely important. Thus, we must look at “influence” as it relates to digital behaviors.
What is Influence?
Influence is “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.” For marketers, influence is only valuable if it produces actions or changes behavior or opinions of others. This distinctive point is often missed. So as marketers, we want to focus on those individuals that do something to cause an action or behavior change in a significant number of people that favors the brand we represent. “Influence marketing focus on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole.”
So before we have the “Klout (popular social influence scoring platform) — should we care debate?”, let’s make sure we understand why influence is important to brands. And second to that, let’s make sure we understand the types of influencers that are valuable to brands. I break this down in three groups:
- Traditional influencers. These are the individuals that traditional PR agencies court. They are pinnacle media establishments (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post) and celebrity-like figures (Mario Batali, Roger Ebert, Tim Gunn) in a specific area of subject expertise.
- Emerging (digital) influencers. These are bloggers that have established a large audience following and drive thought leadership in a specific space. The poster child of emerging digital influencers is Robert Scoble. Scoble is a tech blogger whose rise to vast influence started from strong participation and guidance in Microsoft’s NetMeeting support newsgroups, and for maintaining a NetMeeting information website. Another example of an influential blogger emergence from nowhere is Tavi Gevinson who commanded quite a following for her fashion blog. At the prime age of 13, she was a special guest at New York Fashion week. (It still astounds me how she came up in conversations at ELLE magazine when I worked with them.) Emerging digital influencers could also be blogs (PitchFork, Mashable, Gizmodo) rather than individuals by name.
- Influencers by connection. Here we have your everyday “Max” and “Maya.” People who have hundreds of friends — no, let me correct that — hundreds of Facebook friends and Twitter followers. These people make posts and tweets and their connected friends react. “Saw a great movie.” “New sports drink was killer.” Their posts create response and action. If you represent a brand, you want to court these people to produce brand action. (more…)