This morning I was stumbling through my Facebook messages when I ran across something by Brian Solis, something about influence. In the social sphere influence is the commodity the movers and shakers of the Internet are interested in. Influence, according to Brian or anyone else, is far more than a popularity index. Let’s take a look inside a study by Brian and the insightful folks over at Vocus.
For almost anyone reading this, Brian Solis will be a familiar figure. Since the onset of the social web, Brian has been at the forefront of the discussion. Despite my occasional pokes at my old friend for this and that, he is a person of extraordinary acumen. Brian’s brilliance and credibility out of the way, this particular analysis (PDF) was conducted using another of the world’s benchmarks for modern social media, Vocus.
But, the reader wants to know all about the definition and character of influence within the so called social graph. Okay, I will give you the Readers Digest Condensed Version here, but I suggest you read Brian’s unabridged version too. If your goal is to influence anyone that is. Let’s break down the breakdown shall we?
Focus from Vocus
The formal study Brian and Vocus carried out collectively had as its goal to rather compartmentalize online influence. This in depth study sought to engage some 739 “so called” marketing and communications influentials for a sort of re-visitation of influence. Let’s be clear, Brian and Vocus are not trying to redefine the term here, but simply re-solidify this important aspect of social interaction. Here are some key aspects almost anyone already knows, but probably forgot.
- Quality of content (or value) is, as aways, a core constituent of influence. Content, value, this is where online influence resides – as we shall show.
- Influence and popularity are not the same thing. In the end it is the situation or context wherein influence is defined, whereas popularity can wholly be outside the context actually. Outside the nebulous gray area here – Arnold Schwarzenegger is popular and influential, but not so influential where women’s panty hose are concerned.
- Measurement is the hardest thing to do. Okay, Brian and Vocus do not say this specifically, but establishing a benchmark for influence based on tweets, clicks, comments, or any other current metric is subjective – sorry.
- The real movers and shakers, that would be CEO’s and big cheeses, want influencers. Basically, business will pay for influence. This is true to an extent, but it is also true that the value of “influence” – even the definition – is sometimes beyond the current mindset of some business leaders. The study’s numbers seem to indicate my premise here too, with a relatively low 57% of CEO types saying they would pay for influencer. This also indicates something else, but I won’t say it here.
As I mentioned, I am going to fast forward past the components of influence Brian and Vocus painstakingly investigated. For those who know me, this is not normal operating procedure. However, as one of the most analytical Web 2.0 authors of all time, let’s just say I got past the microscope on some of these arguments. Do read Brian’s brilliant content, and the Vocus report – they are extraordinarily informative. However, influence as characterized in this study, can be quantified fairly simply and easily. Let’s use the best case in point to illustrate this, Brian Solis himself.
The Brian Solis In the Pudding
Across the study there are two variables which are consistently most valuable were influence is concerned. These are compelling or valuable content (value proposition – what’s in it for your network), and authenticity (credibility/reciprocity). Looking at Brian, even this most recent post and study, it is easy to see how he has risen and maintained on the “influential persons” list of social personalities. Brian will not fault me for saying his own influence is not derived from popularity or reciprocity – but hard core content value.
I have known Brian since the beginning of this digital experience, and let’s just say Brian is far too focused and busy to be all syrupy social. This just goes to show how extraordinary content (like Brian has always produced) can over ride lesser influential factors. Ergo, Brian Solis is the perfect proof influence is as he and Vocus dissected it.
What can you learn from this? This is the question all the verbiage leads to. Whether you want to get across your latest knitting ideas, or find a way to get Michael Arrington to cover a startup, influence is going to play a part in your endeavor.
So, building up your own version is maybe the most crucial thing you can do. Now the question is in your mind – “Okay, what is the quickest and best way?” The answer is the same for everyone – build a quality network, be they friends and/or collaborators – the strive to provide the very best content (substance) you can summon.
If You Build Value – Influence Will Come
Whatever your niche is, with time and pressure (Brian has loads of diligence BTW), you will be influential. As a final note, and Brian knows I say what I think, unless you are Brian Solis, don’t attempt to over analyze everything. Influence is really just being credible – trusted. Or something hard to express on Twitter basically. But then influence is power, and it does not have to be pretty always. Some people’s influence is derived from unbelievable reciprocity – engagement of the one kind – while others’ (like Brian’s) comes from a superlative value alone (like his writing and ideas). Take from that what you will, it is not a bad roadmap for success.
You should also check out Brian on his new Brian Solis TV network at YouTube. I always told him he should be in movies, maybe he listened? Here is a segment for your influence education.