From Nobodies to Somebodies: Who Are the New Influencers

During this past week I took a small break from book writing to participate in Social Week in New York City. Two of my favorite conferences were scheduled, Pivot Conference 2011 , and Conversion Conference East 2011.

Pivot Conference is produced and hosted by Brian Solis, the author of Engage, and more recently, The End of Business As Usual: Rewire the Way You Work to succeed in the Consumer Revolution.  I only just got my copy of the latter, but I can tell that if you could only bring five books to a desert island, Engage should be one of them.

 Both Deidre Drewes  and I had the pleasure of live-blogging and tweeting from Pivot, so we were front row and center, taking it all in. You can see our tweets and other mini-posts on the Pivot live page.

One panel I paid close attention to was Nobodies to Somebodies: Who Are the New Influencers. The panel was described as, “Social has created new sets of influencers…and new tools for revealing who has the right stuff,” with Edelman’s David Armano (@armano), with Elisa Camahort Page(@ElisaC of BlogHer),  Joe Fernandez (@JoeFernandez CEO of Klout), and Larry Levy (CEO and co-founder of @Appinions).

This was an interesting mix for a panel: two social media industry influencers, and two executives of companies that have created tools for influence monitoring. The following is not a verbatim transcription – but the output of my furiously writing what struck me as the salient points of what was being said:

David Armano (DA) led the panel, starting with a framework: We’re in a sort of 3rd revolution. 1st was broadcast, 2nd was a broadband revolution – computers connecting to one another, and the 3rd, is social, the connections of humans. Influence plays a huge role in that.

Elisa Camahort Page (ECP): bloggers were influential. As we moved forward, there was a dismissal of bloggers by the mainstream. As time went on, people do care about small talk and conversation. And when we do that, we mention brands. At the same time there is a declining trust in the institutions in our lives. Media and government have lagged behind corporate America in understanding this influence.

DA: bloggers have become the new journalists. There seems to be a difference between digital influence and real influence.

Joseph Fernandez (JF): We call that the Warren Buffet problem: someone who is influential in the real work but isn’t active online. We’re really early. Google’s goal is to index all the information in the world. Ours is to index all of the influence in the world.

Larry Levy (LL): We really looked at the Warren Buffet problem; how do you extract what people are feeling from unstructured data? Once we extract all that data, we can create influence graphs that overcome that problem. There are different types of influencers.

JF: What we found is in our campaigns, people with scores between 30 and 60 are going to engage their networks on behalf of a brand.

ECP: Forget the A-list, and find your A-list.

DA: (citing CC Chapman and Ragu case, although not by name) – how can brands avoid reaching out to the wrong people

JF: blindly firing away is going to cause issues. The measurement of influence means these are going to start to happen.

LL: The whole notion of analyzing what people are feeling is a tough problem to solve. Different language can cause problems. With our approach, we’ll give you some sense of sentiment, because that’s part of our gig. Ultimately, you have to choose who the influencers are.

DA: Not just the “who,” but the “what” and the “where.” There’s topical and temporal.

ECP: and there is the third, which is identity based. Parent bloggers and lifestyle bloggers were influential in health and beauty as health and beauty bloggers.

JF: We see this a lot in our data around natural disasters: People raising money. They become the champion in their network, but then it decays over time. That’s the temporal.

LL: I was talking to someone at Google, and realized we have different influencers. There are the enthusiasts. Within their peer group, they may know a lot about their issues. We call those the long tail. We monitor them differently.

ECP: We broke it down into three groups:  relationship, likableness, and expertise.

JF: I think the score is the tip of the iceberg. The context around the score, the topics, – the score is always the consumable bite-size piece. The value in the next three years is what’s around the score.

LL: how are we going to get away from broadcast, and move to conversation?  We have to prove it out.

ECP: We have various ways of measuring influence, interest,  – for brands to go on and invest; how do we prove it’s moving the needle and in the end making a tangible difference in revenue?


Influence, and how influencers are being gauged seemed to be a permeating spirit hovering over Pivot.  Four of the major influence tools companies were represented (Kred, Klout, Peer-Index, and Appinions).  All of those companies, and many more, are scrambling to develop better tools and to claim industry hegemony. From the marketers’ standpoint, the ability to identify influencers within micro-segments is going to be critical in social media marketing.

 

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