Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 9, 2010 8:29 PM

The Value Of Influence

Who is an influencer? What value does an influencer have on your business? How does one become an influencer?

The concept of "influencer" was always a hot topic in our world. The concept has, practically, exploded in popularity because of Social Media. Prior to the openness and transparency of the Web and prior to having these many free publishing tools and platforms where ideas (from anybody, anywhere) can be put out into the world and spread for free, an influencer had to be built, managed and worked on slowly over time. In a world where anyone with a "publish" or "like" button can become an influencer, it's becoming increasingly more important for us (as Marketers and businesspeople) to go back and re-visit the definition of "influencer" and it's role in our society.

Tipping the tipping point.

Fast Company Magazine is currently running an online initiative called, The Influence Project. Because this program is backed by the brand Fast Company, you can rest assured that many people are participating (and even trying to game the system) - who wouldn't want to update their bio or profile with a line like, "Fast Company called Mitch Joel one of the top online influencers in the world"? In a world of easy clicks and cheap like buttons, does it really mean something if you can get a mass amount of people to click on something as a vote of confidence for you? That's the bigger question that Amber Naslund over at the Brass Tack Thinking Blog has been asking. Her post, How Fast Company Confused Ego with Influence, is an amazing read/rant (and the close to 300 comments are also worth your time and attention). Beyond the semantics of the debate, the real question still remains: what defines an influencer?

It has to be more than clicks... or does it?

If someone can get somebody else to click on a link, does that mean that they are influential? The better question might be: if someone can get somebody else to click on a link, does that mean that they have influence? And while that may come off as semantics, it may be important to recognize that just because someone can influence some kind of outcome, it doesn't mean that they are, necessarily, regarded as influential on a global scale. Perhaps in the democratization of the media, we are also changing our own globally perceived definitions to be something other than what we are accustomed to. In that, is it possible that using our old model of what constitutes an influencer in these new media channels is where the friction lies?

Back to the clicks.

In the old days (pre-Social Web), getting somebody to take action might have given you the title of influencer, but maybe in a world of retweets, Facebook status updates and text messaging, the true (or one of the better) metrics of influencer might not be in how many clicks you can muster up, but if you can get those people who are clicking to get their entire social network to take action? I like what the people over at Klout are doing in terms of measuring people on Twitter. That being said, we may have to agree that even our definition of "influencer" might be a moving target - one that evolves and mutates based off of the business objectives and needs.

Perhaps we are at a new moment in time where it's not about one big tipping point or chasm crossing, but rather a bunch of mini tipping points and small hurdle hoppings as we redefine our definitions in a world where every human being can have significant influence and become an influencer?

(The conversation on influencers continued over on the Media Bullseye podcast where host Jen Zingsheim and Bryan Person invited me in on the discussion. You can take a listen to the audio Podcast right here: Radio Roundtable: All about influence -- Mitch Joel visits the Roundtable).

By Mitch Joel