Wednesday, December 21, 2011

the myth of the 'influencers'

Here’s the thing.

This keeps coming up, so just to be clear on what is and isn’t correct it’s worth considering this.

There's a lot of false assumption and BS that tends to fly about ‘seeding’ and ‘bloggers’ and ‘online pr’ etc with regards to the 'influence' this supposedly has on behaviour.

The alleged ‘influencers’, or ‘the few’ if you’ve read The Tipping Point are documented as consisting of, at most, 10-15% of any given population.
These 'influencers' are the so-called opinion-leaders in any given category or sphere.

These ‘influencers’ are thought to initiate up to, and at most, 25-30% of the conversations about brands in any category or sphere.

While these people do have some influence, granted, it's a danger to overestimate that influence. The web has thrown up a large number of self-annointed influentials, with large twitter followings or blog readership.

This really the equivalent of celebrity endorsements.

Or like broadcast advertising, and conventional PR (ie 'publicity').

It's useful up to a point, in as much as it can help with 'branding' the thing and contributes to generating awareness and other such high level brand measures.

However, it's the people not recognized as ‘influencers’ - ie the ‘nobodies’ - who will still account for starting 70-80% of the conversations which contain brands. Because the effects of influence only reveal themselves after-the-fact then 'nobodies' can quickly appear to be influencers. Which they are, of course, it's just their influence is nearly impossible to predict in advance.

And a massive chunk of that happens offline, by the way...

So, that 70-80% of conversation that actually has real influence in terms of decision making and adoption of behaviour is originating with us, the ‘nobodies’ and happens with the people we go home to, or work with or socialize with.

Instead of looking to the idea of ‘uber-influencers’ to help our ideas spread we should focus activating small connected groups of close relationships that are connected to the idea in some form, from the outset.

The people who actually influence our behavior are usually the people who are closest to us., both emotionally and by simple geographic proximity.

We’re also know via the sensible end of neuroscience and behavioural/social science that most decisions are made unconsciously, without critical thinking (even though we think we are thinking).

So even getting celebrity tweeters, or mommy bloggers to publish facts or product information en mass would still have limited value.

Don't confuse influence with popularity.

What we need is stories that will spread though small interconnected groups.

If you want a one-two-three in marketing terms, this is about distributing emotional cues as the triggers (orchestrating) and then engaging in the resulting situations (as direct agents) to draw others (spectators) in to become participants.

- See last weeks post on Hurricane Bawbag, for how this works for real.

We 'do' then 'think'.

In reality we are all influencers.

And 'nobodies' are the new 'somebodies', as Guy Kawasaki puts it.

The myth of the uber influencer whom everyone looks up to and follows is just that.
A myth.

For more on this stuff check what KellerFay, the Word of Mouth Research and Consulting Firm, say.
It's well worth having a dig about in here for the nuggets.

And also ask Santa to pop 'Grouped' - by ex-Googler and now Facebook Social Researcher, Paul Adams - into your stocking.
The principle hypothesis of Grouped being that the web is being rebuilt around people, and from which I've pulled one or two stats and notes for this post.

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