“The reality of an evolving social web is that influence is very subjective and relative to each community,” writes Geoff Livingston in a guest post today on Spinsucks.com.
The impetus for his post was Empire Avenue, about which I’ve already expressed my opinion. But, it ties right in to what’s been on my mind this week – influence.
Specifically online influence and the search for those individuals deemed to be influential – that vague, inexplicit, possibly ephemeral, designation.
Everyone’s talking about trying to identify the influentials. And, Involver is now making it possible to offer them special content on Facebook according to their Klout score.
But how do you know as a brand using something like that whether the person with a score that crosses some random level is really the person that will influence the people you want to reach?
One illustration of what I mean came this week when I saw that Dunn & Bradstreet was trying to identify “the most influential people in small business on Twitter.” They sought to expand beyond a simple criteria like number of followers or even a Klout score (although that was part of the equation) by looking at the people’s peers within Twitter.
What they ended up with – in my view – was a list of all the usual cast of characters that I would call influential in social media. Names like Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Liz Strauss, Lisa Barone, Brian Solis, Robert Scoble and Jeremiah Owyang.
I had the opportunity to talk with Brian for a few minutes the next day and I asked him if he considered himself influential in small business. His view was that sometimes, yes, he does reach a small business audience, but that his reach is much broader than just that one area.
Like most of the other people on the list, he’s someone a small business might turn to if they want to learn about social media but, does that make them influential in small business? If I asked my neighbor who owns a small pharmacy, or my favorite local “cupcakery” owner, or the owner of the vintage clothing store next door to her, would any of them have ever heard of any of those people on the @DandB list?
Perhaps. But, running a small business requires someone to wear so many hats, there is no one person to turn to for advice. There are probably different influencers for small business on all sorts of topics like accounting, human resources, sales and technology.
And that’s exactly the challenge I see in online influencer identification – it’s going to be very niche. To filter the entire online population and find those niches is not going to be easy. And, it’s going to be a constantly changing ocean of people.
I do think there is a valid point to identifying people who can be influential to your target audience and building relationships with them – I’m in public relations, right? I just predict a lot of effort will be expended, a lot of “free stuff” will go out, and a lot of people will be hard pressed to show results.
Is there someone out there doing it right in your opinion?
Image via Creative Commons courtesy of PamDumBumPsh