Social media white paper: should marketers target influencers or the easily influenced?
As requested, I have republished the white paper into separate blog posts so that each section can be commented on. This post focuses on the sixth section – should marketers target influencers or the easily influenced? You can still download the full paper by clicking the link: Distributed influence: quantifying the impact of social media (PDF).
Links to all sections:
- why is it important to measure online influence?
- social media index
- defining influence
- is influence what we should measure?
- should marketers target influencers or the easily influenced?
- what can we be selling that is better to buy than impressions?
- what are the origins of influence?
- the move to micro communications
- be cautious
- a formula to understand influence
- what makes this actionable?
Should marketers target influencers or the easily influenced?
Focusing on the two categories with the greatest impact. The super-influencers fall into two buckets (meme starters and meme spreaders) and are by their nature the minority.
- Meme starters – e.g. Dave Winer, film critics
- Meme spreaders – Glenn Reynolds, or people with a platform
Nevertheless, it was agreed that there are very, very few super influencers. Arguably the most real ‘influence’ is effected by people not even on the ‘influencer’ radar screen.
Marketers face the continuing dilemma of how to gain the maximum impact for their investment. Understanding that there are very few meme starters or spreaders, we asked the question on whether the most effective target would be the easily influenced as oppose to the few influencers.
These people can be defined as follows:
- Individual influencers: people who lead the crowd (influenced by societal observations, memes)
- Influence-ables: the people in their personal networks who follow their lead
Either way, we’re likely also talking about the effect of influence on the aggregate – or watching the crowd and its impact on how people act. In some rational decisions, and in essentially all emotionally-based / impulse decisions, the action, opinions and behaviours of the crowd shape the actions, opinions and behaviours of those still on the outside.
The crowd drives behaviour – Henry Copeland
The concept of the ‘crowd as the influential’ was an area that Henry Copeland strongly believed in. He cited Duncan Watts who explained that “people almost never make decisions independently” and that “what people like depends on what they think other people like”.
No conclusions were drawn regarding who marketers should target. Where there was consensus though was through continuation of Henry’s point regarding the crowd. Because the crowd is online, the best way to interact with them is in that environment where they can readily see how others are reacting, both positively and negatively.
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