The biggest buzzword being tossed around these days in the online world is perhaps “influence”. The whole Klout debate centers around the idea of influence, covering everything from “who is an influencer” to “can influence be measured, and if so, how?” And of course Klout’s recent algorithmic adjustments had people wringing their hands over the idea that they were less influential than they had thought.
Because influence doesn’t always work the way we want it to, or the way we think it does. This is why big businesses insist on hiring celebrities to pimp their products: because they think it influences how we feel about their product. And I’ll just come out and admit right up front here that what I’m about to write about is not based on any empirical evidence or data, but merely my view of things based on my situation and purely anecdotal data.
Perhaps I’m a contrarian, but I can’t think of a single time I’ve tried or purchased a product because of a celebrity endorsement. In fact, for me, it works the other way. I often won’t try a product because it is being endorsed by a celebrity I don’t like. For instance, take the most wonderful, nicest, most likeable football player, and I probably won’t buy whatever he’s selling. But have TO endorse it, and I’m sure to run the other way. Is this a personal character flaw? Perhaps, but I know quite a few others who feel the same way.
Influence, real influence, on the other hand, is far more subtle and nuanced, and doesn’t easily work across the board in the neat little (or big) ways that we might like. I’m not sure we can identify an influencer and say, “let’s bring him or her on board and we’ll influence X number of people.” But that’s the sort of thing upon which these algorithms and businesses are built, i.e. “This person is important because they are an influencer in area X and influence Y amount of people.” It’s an attractive supposition, but life just isn’t so neat and tidy. Just because someone is perceived as influential on a specific topic and they have a certain amount of followers doesn’t mean that they bear any real influence over those particular people on that particular topic. Got that?
Case in point: my new found love of cricket. Not the insect. Not the one named Jiminy. But the sport which is played in other parts of the world. And I say this as someone who considers baseball to be my favorite sport. Hands down. And as an American, I have long had an interest in those “other” sports. Several Winter Olympics ago I fell in love with curling, and for years I’ve wondered about this thing called cricket. I’ve watched it. I’ve tried to read about it. But no matter how hard I tried to understand it, my eyes would glaze over and I remained firmly among the confused.
Until recently. I don’t remember exactly how this all started, but my friend Shonali Burke (whom I only know via social media), must have mentioned something on Facebook and/or Twitter about watching a cricket match online. So I decided to check in, since it had been years since I had last tried to figure it out. Again, my eyes glazed over. I mentioned this to Shonali, and she agreed to a quick five minute tutorial via Skype. She gave me the basics, it suddenly clicked, and I was hooked.
But her influence ran deeper. Not only was I now a fan of cricket, I was a fan of her team. Suddenly I was a fan of the Indian Cricket team. I even became one of 3.6-million fans of the team on Facebook! And I went on to watch the rest of the matches in England’s Tour of India on BCCI-TV. Yes, thanks to Shonali, a whole new world was opened up to me, and I’m willing to go out on a limb that as a 49-year old white American whose only trips outside of the U.S. have been to Canada (home of curling!!), I’m probably not on the radar of the Indian Cricket Team when they sit around discussing their prime demographics and target audience.
And while my beloved Phillies didn’t make the World Series this year, and I don’t have much to say about Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley these days, I find myself singing the praises of MS Donhi (the Hank Aaron of Indian cricket) and expressing my disgust in the behavior (or should that be “behaviour”) of Steven Finn (the Roger Clemens of English cricket).
Yes, I’m the exception to the rule, but no amount of number crunching or analysis would ever let anyone know that an Indian expat in Maryland would influence me into not only liking and understanding cricket, but choosing India as my team of preference over the more obvious choices.
Perhaps more time consuming, and less of an “exact” science, the best way to spot influencers is to engage with them and watch them.
Analytics are wonderful and important, but there are those areas where anecdotal evidence might actually be more accurate.
Oh, and the West Indies tour of India begins this coming weekend, so make sure you tune in, and if you need help understanding, just give me a shout. It’s a lot easier to understand than it looks.
How are you identifying the influencers who can help your business? Are you monitoring blogs, Twitter, and Facebook to see who might become an important part of your team?
- Klout Means Nothing; Carry On (soulati.com)
- The Klout Drama Kontinues (waxingunlyrical.com)
- WTF? Friday: What is Klout, Anyway? (marijeanjaggers.com)
- Six Reasons Social Media Doesn’t Work (spinsucks.com)
- Does +K affect your Klout score? (and other juicy Klout nuggets!) (businessesgrow.com)