Does Influence Really Matter on the Social Web?

Under the influence

Under the influence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the early days of social media, we have been trained and brainwashed that Influence and Influencers are important. This thinking was hijacked by the PR firms, because they were the first ducks to the social media waters, and their world revolved around finding, touching and reaching influencers for their clients. So, their voices disproportionally took over the topic of “social media influencers”, as they tacked-on  “social” to “media influencers” to explain the new beast.

But do Influencers really matter?

It depends on who you are.

If you are a brand, yes it matters. But if you are a regular consumer, industry influencers matter less to you.

As a consumer on the social web, what you really care about is relationships with other people, and not with the so-called influencers specifically. We have confused “thought leadership” with influencers. Yes, there are Thought Leaders in several subjects, and there will always be. Social media gives them a platform. But that doesn’t make them social media influencers necessarily. And furthermore, you don’t have a relationship with them, so why should they matter to you?

Take any so-called social media influencers that you know of by name, and see if they have really influenced you, as an average consumer. The answer is probably not personally, but maybe in thought.

You want real influence? Start by developing a 1:1 relationship with those that you want to be influenced by or that you want to influence. The meaning of that influence will suddenly deepen and become more significant. Many of them will be people that you already know. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar stated that “we can only ever have 150 friends at most”, and he is probably right. No wonder, Path, the new social network limits your friends to 150 people. (side point digression: they were recently valued at $250 million)

You can use the social web and social discussions to develop or nurture these relationships, especially if you can have visibility about the 1:1 interactions with them over social networks and commenting spaces (hint: Engagio provides that visibility).

In the social web, everybody is an influencer. What matters to brands and their marketing approaches is not the same as what matters to individual consumers.

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  • ShaneSchick

    Good post, William. I think there is a lot of confusion in this area. I think my audience, which is the CIO set, is often unsure of the value behind some of the social media activity and the loose use of “influencer” doesn’t really help matters.

    • William Mougayar

      Indeed. We have been brainwashed to say the least. Noise around influence is higher than signal around it.

  •!/TomLabus Tom Labus

    Nice design, your blog looks great!!

  • awaldstein

    Influence, yes social influence, means everything.

    But the thinking that social influence is somehow measurable online is incorrect.

    Klout and others are working under the misconception that online is a place extant from the real world. Just not so. That thinking has been wrong since the word ‘virtual’ has been removed from the term ‘virtual worlds’.

    The barriers between on and offline life are gone. Those who parse this into two pieces will always be in the realm of pretend and academics and miss the real world of people and influence that is rushing right along.

    • William Mougayar

      Yes, quantifying social influence via a metric or number is an abstract method that has little context. Typically, influence is a 1:1 thing, so one has to factor-in the people relationship aspect.

      • awaldstein

        Why has a big future view is that it’s a connector cross off/online.Engagement is a handshake of interests that bridges not only cross social online nets but real human connections as well.

  • Dan Verhaeghe

    What you are describing could be termed as the “authority hoax”. As for 150 friends? Last I heard it was 50 friends. How that’s gone up 100 in a couple of years might just be the impact of social media making us closer together?

    • William Mougayar

      Hi Dan- I was referencing that study via the link provided which stated the number is 150 indeed. Maybe you were thinking about Path that started limiting it to 50, then went up to 150?

      • Dan Verhaeghe

        Don’t think so. Wasn’t really aware of Path until this year. This was a random article just about the maximum number of real friends we can have at any given time. But yes, maybe Path was based on that.

        • William Mougayar

          Do you have a link for it? thanks.