Influence is a hotly-debated topic in my line of work. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately watching our Advocacy program unfold at Autodesk. It’s one of the most fascinating subjects in the industry. Unfortunately, as evidenced in reports like this, it would appear not too many people truly grasp what social influence is about.
I don’t claim to have any more brilliant social reputation insight than someone like Brian Solis, to say the least. But I do believe that in this case, once again, we tend to over-complicate things. That happens a lot in our industry :)
Influencers in real-life communities have certain traits, namely they are:
- known and respected in the community
- good communicators
- prolific value content producers
Applying these to social media, you’ll be looking at followership, reach, and virality (RTs, comments, shares etc.). Then publishing frequencies, and content quality/relevance. Finally, evidence of being a “mensch”, and living and breathing one’s domain of expertise. All of which can be measured digitally.
Several times in past years, I had to quickly pinpoint influencers in different industries. And every time I started with blogs. Influencers always have blogs. Generally, their blogs reference other influencers’ blogs. Short of that, a simple technique is to simply ask them who their peers are! Influencers always boost their peers.
Some influencers specialize in a given media. For example, forums rather than Twitter of Facebook. It’s a mistake to assume influencers are present on every channel known to man. Some are. Some aren’t.
Influencers always communicate quickly. They answer emails and tweets in near real time. They never bill themselves as “experts” either. They tend to be very humble.
Influencers love to help others. They prefer giving over receiving. And I’ve never met one without a good sense of humor. They tend to be prolific writers. They comment on other people’s content. Their community participation is orders of magnitude above others in terms of monthly activity. This directly correlates with passion.
Their influence is not based on always being right, or smarter, or more “Liked” on Facebook than others. It’s based on simple trust. And truth be told, no one can exert influence unless he or she is “loved”. People don’t trust those they don’t like to begin with.
I know “love” is a big mushy word too often thrown around. But what I mean by that is if you were devastated to hear that someone in your industry passed away, then you e-love him. You can count him among your influencers.
So go ahead and use Klout, PeerIndex, Kred, and all these influence gauging tools. Nothing wrong with them. They will give you an idea of someone’s social “juice” for sure. But finding digital influencers is no different than finding them in our daily lives and communities. And then applying the same criteria to their online behavior. You can’t change a leopard’s spots :)
Whenever I think about complex topics in the social sphere, I always try to relate them to “real life” examples. So when I think about influencers (or advocates, which is not the same thing) I ask myself who are real influencers in the physical world. Because their digital counterparts are then easier to identify.
There are two major influencers in “real life”. Those who got the money, and those who got the political power. The equivalents in social are those who control or produce publishing and/or content (social currency), and those who control and/or manage community (social political power).
Draw your own conclusion but if you’re looking for influencers online, that’s where I would start.
Like Clint used to say, there’s two kinds of people in the world, those with loaded guns, and those who dig :)
If you, or anyone, knows of a person who can perform all these tasks in a mere 40-60 hours per month (yes folks, month) then please refer him/her to me immediately. I could use someone (or five) like that on my team! Big reward. And a bag ‘o chips! :)