Is influence for real ?

I hadn’t written on the subject of Influence in a while.

Not surprising.  It’s a touchy subject.

Pierre-Philippe Cormeraie, better known as PPC and famous for his videos, put together a presentation and asked me what I thought of it.  An answer in 140 characters or less is tough, so I will reply with an article.

Obviously, I am in complete agreement with several points.  But not all of them and therefore, I would like to share my vision.

Influencers, digital influence: the challenges and stakes communicators face by @ppc, from Pierre-Philippe Cormeraie.

Is influence for real ?

PPC seems to indicate in his presentation that he doesn’t think so.  And I don’t agree with this position.

Let’s take a look at the definition of influence.  Where better to look than in the dictionary :

Influence : “the capacity to have an effect on someone, something on or someone’s behavior”.

In light of this definition, I believe that we can say that we each exert a measure of influence, and that people many relations are able to exert influence on more people.  If the term “influencer” is silly by definition, one nonetheless has to accept that those who work on their digital presence have a greater potential for being influential .

However, at least 3 factors must be taken into consideration :

  1. 1.     Influence is relative to the subject matter – you can’t be significantly influential on all topics.
  2. Influence is relative to the degree of separation with the influencer.  The closer that person is to you, the greater their influence over you will be.
  3. Influence over who?  Detailed knowledge of the people involved and a careful reading of their interactions will allow you to determine who is being influenced.  Numbers

(numbers of followers, for instance) don’t mean anything without this essential information.

 

These factors are not necessarily relevant in the case of celebrities who, given the scope of their followers, manage to influence others on subjects they know nothing about.

Nonetheless, in my opinion it’s stupid to say that influence doesn’t exist, just as it’s stupid to overestimate its importance.

 

How to tap into these people?

When brands being to wonder if influence could be an interesting part of their mix, that is a sign that it is time to understand what it does and how it works.

 

  1. 1.     Joining existing communities

When we talk about digital or social media strategies, it’s important to note that brand communities very rarely exist on their own; they tend to be integrated into pre-existing communities.  This may seem insignificant, but this little fact implies the need for major strategy changes, to both content and positioning.

In addition, I would point out that most of the time, communities are very structured and endogenous.

So there’s no need to contact 20 people in the same community if you want to join it.

It’s better to approach 2 or 3 people and build a qualitative relationship with them over the long term (not just for the purpose of one campaign).  You can be sure that the rest of the community will know about it.

While you’re at it, work with other communities, always using this very qualitative approach.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that you can make friends or enemies and be careful of the cocktail you’re mixing.  These are real people above all, and you should make sure to do your research.

 

  1. 2.     The community is a start but an end in itself

It should be obvious that if hooking up with bloggers, twittos, instragrammers, youtubers etc is the only focus of your plan, it is a pretty risky one.

First of all, contacting them doesn’t guarantee their participation.  Secondly, their audience/influence remains relative, as we have already seen.

This approach may be a good place to start if you want to make some noise.  Feedback will get you referenced in search engines.  You will be boosting your natural referencing and possibly garnering support in the event that you are ever faced with a reputation issue but…

You will still have to reinforce your strategy with other activities such as advertising, PR, merchandising…

 

  1. 3.     Why do people share?

In his presentation, PPC asks this question but doesn’t provide a clear written answer (I can only assume he did so orally).

It’s all about sharing values.  We share in order to give indications about ourselves to friends or to whoever is willing to pay attention to us: “I am funny, I am one step ahead, I am modern, I am a hipster…”

Once you understand this, it’s really simple to offer an effective experience to those you are trying to reach.

  1. 4.     Individuals looking for an experience

Some preconceived notions die hard :

  • All bloggers have huge egos.  In order to get what you want, you must flatter them.  It may be true that sharing, and even more so, creating content suggests a certain need for recognition.  But this doesn’t necessarily make someone a horrible people.  In any case, a blogger will spot the difference between false flattery and genuine praise.  He/she will be able to detect if you have even a slight interest in whatever he/she produces.
  • All bloggers are for sale.  There are different kinds of bloggers and various ways to interact with brands.  Generally speaking, those who look for freebies are not very interesting.  Experienced bloggers will never ask for anything and prefer a thousand times over the offer of a cool experience that may translate into unique content for their blog.
  • Most importantly, if the value of the freebie is disproportionate to the product  (ie. a GoPro in exchange for blogging about Nescafé), this could backfire on the brand.  Followers will not hesitate to bring this to everyone’s attention.

Measuring influence: a never-ending battle

It’s all about understanding who to invite and how to measure.

As PPC remarks, there are many measuring tools, such as Klout which has recently pushed it way to the top of list .  Klout takes into consideration the commitment you are able to produce repeatedly in others.  It measures your activity and your presence on different platforms.  But the truth is, there is no good way to measure influence today.

Ideally, all conversations (digital or otherwise) emanating from a single individual of your choice would have to be accounted for.  This is of course impossible.

 

2 timeframes are relevant when discussing influence:

Immediate influence:  a person’s ability to generate interactivity and sharing (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Vine) and ideally, that person’s ability to get picked up by other media (TV, radio, conferences…)

Medium/long term influence:  The pagerank, indicating a person’s Google ranking, is a very interesting element because most people with blogs or Tumblrs of any scope end up being ranked.

Although the rest is difficult to measure, that doesn’t mean it has no value.

In friendship, you don’t measure the ROI of each and every phone call you make.  But you know these calls strengthen your relationship with your friends, and that your phone book (or your social circle) is undoubtedly one of your most valued possessions.

gregfromparisAuteur: Grégory Pouy
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