Are you using your influence?

It’s a Saturday morning and before my ritual of watching EPL Soccer from the UK I am scanning and surfing the channels to see what else might be on TV… Infomercials: the knife guy, the storage bag lady, the get fit quick deal, the real estate dream come true package, the get rich ultra quick 100 set DVD collection and the lose weight by the hundreds of pounds and never leave your couch offer.
Then it It dawns on me that we are obsessed with finding the quick and easy solution for every challenge. Lose 10 pounds in two weeks (no diet or exercise required). Earn a million dollars from this simple investment, guaranteed.

We in the communication, marketing and public relations industry are not immune to the promise of the quick fix ourselves. We all have issues and we want them fixed, now! Nowhere is this more evident than in the latest trend of “influencer marketing.”  This is not new. People like me have been trying to understand and manage the concept of “the audience influencer” and “audience authority” long before social media, Google and the web became common place. It’s our job to cast messages into specific audiences, and finding a voice that can reach and influence your target audience is pivotal in helping spread the message quickly and effectively.

And today, well meaning professionals are rushing to various services and websites to discover their key influencers: The bloggers, journalists, and web celebrities who exert enormous influence over their market and can almost magically create buzz, traffic spikes, and sales with a quick product mention.

Over time, smart marketing professionals have worked hard to identify voices in the media that influence their market. However, what is new today is the unadulterated volume of voices that needs to be tracked in order to determine who the real influencers are to individual target audiences. Today’s media kingdom is more crowded than ever; blogs, Facebook and other social media outlets, 24-hour news and a proliferation of cable and satellite channels, mobile sites, Twitter and “follow me” technology just to mention a few. All this fragmentation makes finding valuable key influencers difficult.

Think about yourself. You most likely have Twitter and Facebook accounts. You might be active on Linkedin or a blog. You are a person of influence. To find your score go to Klout.com.  In a culture where the expectations are high and resources are at an all time low, who couldn’t use a quick fix?

I believe that we have come to place way too much burden on a single point of measurement when thinking about the concept of ‘influence.’ And this reliance can cause serious harm to the relationships and reputations we’ve sought to build.
Based on my experience I want to share 3 ideas as it relates to the concept to measuring influence.

1. Not One Single Measurement
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The sharp and growth of social media has distorted the current cultural concept of influence and all too often mistaken influence for popularity. Influence cannot and should not be reflected by a single measurement. And furthermore, influence does not equal popularity. The size of one’s audience (friends, fans, followers, etc.) cannot be an accurate determination of one’s ability to drive actions. For example on of my favorite soccer stars, Cristiano Ronaldo, may have over 2.3 million followers on Twitter and may be influential in selling soccer shoes, but his influence carries little weight in most markets (e.g. home security, refrigerators, etc).

In calculating influence, we need to first consider relevancy. The influential journalist or blogger must actually be talking to your target market. They must be communicating on topics that matter to your audience. These are the voices and individuals who will capture the attention of your market and help you spread your message where and when it matters most. By ignoring or undervaluing topical relevancy when considering influence, we run the risk of misplacing our energy, emphasis and focus.

2. More Than 1, 2, 3
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I had a boss once that asked to see my work list. If I had my list I was “good.” If not, I was dead. He was wrong in focusing on my lists as the first order of business. He should have been focusing on the quality of my work then worried about the list. Likewise, good communications, marketing and public relations is comprised of far more than making lists of your top influencers and then targeting them. At issue is the quality of your influencers. You might have the numbers but do you have the quality. And we all know that at the end of day, successful communication is all about connecting person to person, not a person to a score.

Don’t get me wrong, scores are highly valuable. They can do a fantastic job of identifying a set of potential influencers and help you to determine where you should focus the majority of your efforts. But need to verify the quality of the influencers; look at the various groupings of their followers, run the analytics, do the hard work first. We can’t assume that the diet pill of pushing a list of influencers into the marketplace (no matter how well engineered) can solve all of our challenges: Its about quality.

3. Success is Based on Results
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In all of this conversation about metrics and measurement, influencers, voices and authority we must not forget that achieving benchmark results is the bottom line. Moving your target audience to action is the point. You will never move people unless you can get into their mind space and begin to innovate the way they think.

To do this you must know and understand your influencers and how they will influence your target audience.
As a communications, marketing or public relations professional it’s your responsibility to find out what matters most to those that matter to your market. In other words, you’ve got to understand what your influencers actually care about. Review their posts and articles. Find an interview they have given. What are they talking about? What were they interested in last month; what do they care about this week?

Once you get to know the influencer, you’ll then know how they will be able to influence your target market.
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We all want the quick fix that the infomercials promise but in the world of influence expansion it still comes down to the focused work of measurements, quality of delivery and results… Now back to the EPL; Man U vs Chelsea is about to begin.

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