When the banking crisis in 2009 caused trust levels throughout the world to plummet to new depths, I believed that we would be in a far better place now six years on. I was wrong.
Trust has now receded back to these low figures but with the key missing factor that there has been no major recession. There have of course been major catalysts of disruption (Ebola, the Sony hack and the FX trading scandal), but even these don’t clearly demonstrate a reason why trust levels are so low.
There are many reasons – but one of the contributing facts that leapt out and shocked me, thanks to Edelman Berland research that forms the Edelman Trust Barometer, is due to innovation.
As Edelman Berland’s chief innovation officer, the fact that innovation, the saviour in my mind that generates growth and value, could even be mentioned in the same sentence as something negative shocked me. How can innovation cause problems? When a new technology app helps people to stay fit or keep in touch with their families cheaper and easier – how can this be a problem?
The problem isn’t with innovation but instead with its pace. It’s too quick and often without control.
A few key facts:
- Twice as many people think innovation is too fast
- Three times as many people think that innovation is only about profit and greed but not for worldly benefits
- Four times as many people believe that innovation needs government regulation but fear government cannot do it
This great discomfort with the pace of innovation (albeit less felt by Millennials) is most pronounced in the developed world where great leaps of “improvement” have created fracking and GMO.
Pandora’s box is open and innovation has flooded out a maddening pace.
But, the speed of change was not mirrored by the control that should map onto it. People want to be able to engage, comment and opt out but frequently can’t. Life is not “Field of Dreams” – just because we can build it, doesn’t mean people want it. If a customer can’t see the link between a new innovated product and their problem then the brand has a problem too. Innovation doesn’t start and stop with the “what is the new product?” but instead needs the foundational support of “how” and “why” too. Trust is an essential ingredient to innovation. Where there is high trust in institutions, the trust in innovations is often higher. And where there is an understanding of benefits and that an innovation is borne not out of a firm’s desire to gain profit but to be of value, there is higher trust in innovation, or Trusted Innovation, as Edelman calls it.
This is where Edelman and communication marketing fits in. Only through dialogue, engagement and participation can brands link reputation and marketing. Advertising will only broadcast a message. Innovation will always be needed but without a purpose it will be seen as a negative solution.
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We are at a wonderful tipping point in the business of influence analytics. For the first time ever, sociology and technology are colliding enabling us to identify the influence type of an individual by the patterns of their online behaviour.
Why understanding influence type is important?
In order for PR and marketing professionals to enable their message to resonate as successfully as possible they must engage with key influential people in a manner that complements them. For successful engagement, any interaction must follow three key tenants:
- Context: ensure that the topic you are discussing with the influential is relevant to them.
- Time: speak to them when they are receptive to the discussion. This could be because it is currently of interest or perhaps more significantly (and often forgotten) when they are awake!”
- Influence type: engage in the way that most close matches their behavioural characteristics.
All these points are included in the most recent major update to TweetLevel, a GPS for navigating twitter influence.
However, it is the last aspect that propels TweetLevel to a whole new dimension. TweetLevel analyses the twitter behaviour of individuals to determine their influence type and segments them into one of five classifications. Of course having an influence type in itself means nothing, it is learning from this so engagement with this individual can be as effective as possible.
What do the different categories mean?
This small collective of people are the creative brains behind many of the thoughts and ideas that other people talk about. Even though they may not necessarily have a large audience themselves, their insightful opinions often flow and are repeated throughout conversations long after they have left. They are typically well connected to other idea starters (where they collaborate on thoughts) and amplifiers (who they often rely upon to spread their views). Idea starters tend to be well connected to curators and amplifiers.
These people frequently have a large audience and following. Their expertise may be deep but often they rely upon other contacts to provide opinion to which they then let their readership know about. They often have professional or commercial motivations such as journalists or analysts but are also more often than not self-created experts and avid sharers of information. Their advantage and their burden is their huge number of followers they need to keep satisfied. This behaviour ensures that they need to receive pre-packaged content that they can easily repost, retweet or repurpose so that their audience does not diminish. Amplifiers are frequently well connected to idea starters as the source of their content.
This group though having a far smaller audience are perhaps one of the most influential groups. Long after the idea starter and amplifier have left a conversation, it is the curator that maintains discussion. This niche expert collates information about a specific topic and is frequently sought after for advice about this specific area. They often take part in discussions with idea starters and are avid readers of topic-specific amplifiers.
These people individually have little influence. Their behaviour often resembles little more than adding a comment without contributing greatly to the conversation. Their influence should not be ignored but should instead be viewed as a collective to measure the trend of opinion around a subject. An interesting factor is that this group are often self-moderating – when negative comments are posted often these contributors will often intervene to correct inaccuracies or a unfounded negative views.
In the conversation this invisible group who we call viewers don’t leave a foot print except through Google. Indeed it is through Google, and the impact of viewers on search results, that these other groups become influential and evolve their role within a conversation. Authority rests with the search patterns of those who simply observe in a democratic world.
With a constant pressure on PR and marketing professionals to deliver great success with limited time and budget, ensuring that any engagement that occurs is targeted and effective is critical.
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Tags: amplifier, commentator, curator, edelman, idea starter, influence, topology of influence, tweetlevel, viewer