Incoming Social strategist rant: proceed at your own risk…. 

Influencer programs are in vogue right now. And I’m totally a fan. Social network analysis has always pointed to “nodes”- people who have disproportionate influence within a conversation and subsequent actions. This holds true as well in the social media age. In 2012, Pew published a report called “Why most Facebook users get more than they give” featuring the finding that a small number of Facebook users have a disproportionately large impact in terms of social interaction- from liking, to tagging photos, to poking (remember that?!) to friending. Pew calls these “power users” but in our 2015 terminology the tendency would be to call at least a good proportion of these users “Influencers”: People who drive engagement and have a disproportionate reach through their networks. Strategically, therefore, Influencer programs are a terrific way to reach out to your audience and build relationships.

Unfortunately the concept has been twisted beyond recognition thanks to Klout, Forbes, and other such “lists” the belief is that there are just generic “Influencers” who you can go to and abracadabra get the output you’re looking for. This is totally inane. EVEN celebrities don’t have total Influence. They appeal to different demographics, across different issues, and with differing levels of credibility.

Going back to the Pew example- the “power users” that they identified are “influencers” on Facebook within their own networks. And that’s as much as you can glean from this data. The Obama campaign took the analysis to another level by analyzing the type of content that users posted and their social networks to make use of power users who were advocates for the campaign who had independents and other “persuadable” voters within their networks. But still- these were individuals on Facebook. No doubt they had a different set for Twitter- there may be overlap but this should never be assumed.

Note all of the research and caveats that go into defining these “Influencers”. If you want to build a social strategy around Influencers you must answer the “who, what, where, and why” before you can even start to compute data.

  • Who: What type of Influencer are you looking for? A blogger, a social network contributor, a big name offline as well as online?
  • Where: What circle(s) are you looking to Influence and on what platform?
  • Why: What’s the end goal? Are you looking to make a sale? Do you want to Influence opinion?

This is the level of analysis that you need to go into to identify an Influencer who will actually serve as an asset for your end goal. Seriously. So please put aside the lists and the generic scores (seriously analytics companies just give it a rest!). Those may be great for landing speaking gigs and building your personal brand- BUT they are not a measure of actual Influence when it comes to putting together a serious campaign where you’re looking for actual results.

So PLEASE let’s put aside the generic overgeneralizing in favor of something that emphasizes the need for serious research. I’ve taken to utilizing the term “niche-influencer”- but anyone has a better idea I’m all ears

Tweet me at @suzimcc 🙂