Influencers and Social Recommendation


In a world where the impact of traditional advertising is shrinking and where the option to simply block ads from our internet use is an easy option, it is clear that marketers the world over are having to rethink the way that they do business. In fact, they’re having to rethink the way that they do everything.

Some are leaping onto the hackathon bandwagon. Some are becoming more social. Some agencies are diving head first into data. And some are imploding, sending shockwaves through the lives of the freelancer networks who rely on their steady patronage.

And while everything is changing, in many ways, it all remains the same. Back in 2009, I came up with a concept I called the Auchterlonie effect. It was the digital version of playground storytelling and the concept seemed to ring true. In order for a story to spread through a network (think a class of 12 year old boys, or a group of connected Twitter friends), there are certain conditions which need to be met. It is about building and spending your social capital within that network. It is about generosity, action and reputation.

Years later, and despite various efforts to map and score our “influence”, it still remains elusive. But we do know a little more about the conditions and the triggers. And this infographic from the Smiley360 folks helps connect some of the dots. It’s just that there are always new and emerging dots that we have to take into account.


Influence: Be the First to Give


In the digital world we are fascinated by influence. We want to know who has influence and we want to know who is influenced by whom. We strive for influence in our personal and professional lives and we reject the overt nature of influence that impacts us through advertising and messaging (even though it still affects us).

Robert Cialdini’s book on Influence is a must-read for marketers. His six principles of influence work together to connect intention and action and are vital to the success of any marketing activity. However, in digital and social marketing, the focus tends to rely on just two elements – social proof and liking. It’s partly why we often feel marketers and brands are “yelling” at us online. There is a simple antidote to this:

Be the first to give.

In this infographic from Everreach, summarising the six principles, they call out that proactive use of reciprocity as a “weapon of influence”. Working this way creates a faster and more immediate bond between brands and their customers. More importantly, it sets the scene for the remaining elements. So, next time – before you ask someone to buy, think about what it is that you can give.


Making Friends and Influencing People

Good Self, Bad Self

Some light reading for your Easter weekend, this time courtesy of those clever folks at We Are Social Singapore. This easily digestible deck on social media debunks some of the many myths and provides “10 commendments” – things that you could do if you were so inclined. My favourite? “Be in it for the long term”. After all, after we get engaged, surely we expect a deeper commitment, right?

Influence: I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

Most of us are in love with the idea of influence. We love the idea that we are influencers or influential within our peer groups, we seek out the favour and attention of others who influence us, and we attempt to measure track and trace influence across different cultural, societal, economic and demographic groups. And yet this thing – influence – remains elusive.

Some time back, Malcolm Gladwell came up with an easy to understand model of influence. It seemed to resonate with many of us who are deeply immersed in the web and have seen, first hand, the apparent randomness of online sentiment and human digital behaviour. His book, The Tipping Point took its lead from Stanley Milgram’s principle that we are all only separated by six degrees – suggesting that within a network, the “hub” or “connector” plays a vital role in the transmission of information across that network.

I have always viewed this theory with scepticism – preferring the strength of weak ties model popularised by Duncan Watts. It’s a shame in a way, as the Gladwell model – the Tipping Point – is easily articulated and understood, while Watts’ approach is more complicated, random and difficult to apply in the real world. Yet, even a casual glance at the social media landscape will show you just how difficult it can be to boil “influence” down to a single factor or variable. Klout has tried it as have PeerIndex and Kred – and there are dozens more on the horizon offering different versions, metrics and tools that attempt to measure the chaos of our behaviours and patterns of indifference.

Ultimately, when it comes to influence, I keep returning to one important point –> it’s not about influence, it’s about trust. And until we, as business leaders, as marketers and as publishers of information and content, understand this, we will continue to dance around the real issue.

And what IS the real issue? Just take a look at this infographic from CrowdTap and read between the lines. Hint: it’s not about your brand.


Influence, Tools and Takeouts

In the social media world, a lot of time spent thinking about, writing about and attempting to develop this elusive thing called “influence”.

Some people have it, many people want it and it seems, we all want to know how to measure it. But, of course, this “influence” is really about an individual’s ability online to:

  • Create a topic of conversation
  • Get others to talk about a topic of conversation
  • Generate click throughs on a topic

Does this really equate to “influence”? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Regardless, a number of companies have been developing ranking and measurement systems that assess your online influence. They take into account a variety of factors – counting your number of followers on Twitter, your “friends” on Facebook and even connections on LinkedIn. Their systems analyse your online activities, arriving at a “score” which you can proudly place on your website or blog.

But the real question is not “what is your score?” – but “what is theirs?”. Which of these tools are worth spending some with? Which yield the most useful information from a business and individual level?

The RabbitAgency has put together a great newsletter teasing out some of the differences between the major players. It turns the microscope around and assesses Klout, PeerIndex and Kred, leaving you with plenty of food for thought.

The Rabbit Feed on social media influence

eCairn’s Top Social Media Blogs

I have not shared a big long list of blogs for ages – but I quite like this one from eCairn. It includes many of the blogs that I regularly read as well as plenty that I should. But not only that, the eCairn rankings have consistently delivered rankings which seem to make sense. Hope you find some good reading for the weekend!

Rank Name URL Trend Move Twitt BWELA speaker
1 Chris Brogan UP 1
2 Seth’s Blog UP 1
3 Jeremiah Owyang DOWN -2
4 Brian Solis
5 Logic+Emotion
6 Social Media Explorer
7 Search Engine Land
8 SocialMediaExaminer UP 3
9 Conversation Agent
10 MarketingProfs
11 Social Media Strategy DOWN -3
12 Online Marketing UP 1
13 Six Degrees of Separation UP 5
14 MarketingProfs Daily Fix UP 3
15 CopyBlogger DOWN -3
16 Internet Marketing DOWN -2
17 Scobleizer DOWN -1
18 PR-Squared UP 1
19 Jaffe Juice UP 1
20 Web Ink Now UP 1
21 Shel Holtz DOWN -6
22 Brand Builder UP 12
23 BuzzMachine UP 2
24 Neville Hobson UP 2
25 Ducttape Marketing UP 3
26 Steve Rubel DOWN -3
27 The Viral Garden DOWN -3 < /a>
28 Spin Sucks UP 9
29 SocialMediaMarketing UP 1
30 Peter Kim UP 5
31 SEO Blog UP 21
32 Internet Marketing News UP 4
33 ProBlogger DOWN -1
34 PR Measurement UP 1
35 Amber & Tamsen DOWN -13
36 How to Change the World UP 5
37 Search Engine Marketing UP 32
38 Danny Brown DOWN -5
39 Influential Marketing DOWN -1
40 Drew McLellan DOWN -9
41 Geoff Livingston DOWN -1
42 Liz Strauss UP 2
43 Steve Rubel Stream DOWN -16
44 Strategic Public Relations UP 5
45 Christopher S. Penn UP 10
46 B.L. Ochman UP 1
47 Stowe Boyd UP 7
48 Social Media Club DOWN -6
49 Greg Verdino DOWN -6
50 Adverblog UP 28
51 Mack Collier DOWN -12
52 Peter Shankman UP 11
53 Harte of Marketing DOWN -24
54 Servant of Chaos UP 5
55 The Buzz Bin DOWN -10
56 Communication Overtones UP 12
57 Edelman Digital UP 1
58 SmartBlog DOWN -7
59 CK’s Blog DOWN -3
60 Toby Bloomberg UP 1
61 Edelman DOWN -4
62 Search Engine Journal http://www.searchenginejournal.c
63 John Jantsch UP 22
64 Arik C. Hanson DOWN -11
65 Bad Pitch UP 2
66 Hitwise Intelligence UP 28
67 Dachisgroup New
68 Social Media Informer UP 6
69 Outspoken Media UP 1
70 iMedia Connection DOWN -20
71 John Bell DOWN -7
72 Brand Autopsy DOWN -7
73 Dave Fleet DOWN -25
74 POP! PR Jots UP 3
75 Ann Handley UP 9
76 Josh Bernoff UP 3
77 Altitude Branding UP 3
78 Ben McConnell DOWN -6
79 Sphinn / Hot Topics DOWN -6
80 Internet Writings UP 18
81 DOWN -21
82 Church of the Customer UP 1
83 Phil Fernandez UP 5
84 Media Bistro DOWN -9
85 PR Guy’s Musings UP 6
86 Techno//Marketer UP 6
87 Shonali Burke UP 17
88 GlobalNeighbourhoods DOWN -7
89 The Future Buzz DOWN -2
90 Dan Zarrella DOWN -8
91 Ogilvy UP 18
92 Brains On Fire Blog DOWN -26
93 Andy Sernovitz UP 21
94 Marketing & Strategy UP 8
95 Simply Zesty New
96 Edward Boches
97 We Are Social
98 Customers Rock UP 9
99 Community Guy UP 9
100 Techipedia UP 25
101 Nick Burcher DOWN -2
102 Drew B DOWN -13
103 Joe Pulizzi DOWN -27
104 Paul Mcenany DOWN -14
105 Inside Marketers Studio UP 7
106 Pro PR UP 7
107 Branding Strategy Insider DOWN -6
108 ConverStations DOWN -15
109 B2B Mkting Zone UP 37
110 Radian6 DOWN -4
111 Citizen Marketer 2.1 DOWN -40
112 UP 10
113 Michael Britopian New
114 Abraham Harrison UP 13
115 AdPulp UP 1
116 Charlene Li DOWN -21
117 David Reich UP 30
118 Chaos Scenario UP 14
119 Tom Webster UP 14
120 Mark Schaefer UP 14
121 Global Neighbourhood DOWN -18
122 Sysomos Blog DOWN -17
123 Socialnomics UP 15
124 Shannon Paul DOWN -38
125 Personal Branding UP 16
126 New Comm Biz New
127 PR Conversations DOWN -1
128 Communications Consultant
129 Chuck Hemann UP 16
130 In Over Your Head DOWN -12
131 Marshall Sponder UP 5
132 Webbiquity New
133 Jeffbullas’s Blog UP 6
134 Social Organization UP 6
135 Josh Hallett UP 15
136 Brendan Cooper DOWN -136
137 Neil Perkin DOWN -27
138 Conversation Marketing DOWN -38
139 Bill Green UP 4
140 Adliterate UP 4
141 Christopher Carfi DOWN -26
142 Seroundtable DOWN -12
143 PRBreakFastClub DOWN -24
144 Fresh Networks DOWN -24
145 StickyFigure New
146 HPC | Marketing Uncommon DOWN -23
147 FeverBee New
148 Jacob Morgan DOWN -24
149 Emergence Marketing DOWN -7
150 Customer Experience Matters New

Your Friends Suck

We often talk about social networks operating in a bi- or multi-directional way. The conversations flow from one point to another and ever-onwards.

But the same can be said of reputation.The same can be said of “influence”. After all, the people that we associate with – the people that we know and that we trust impact the way that other people see us. And those people also influence us.

Here, for example, is my Klout “influence matrix”. Now, I don’t think Klout is the be-all and end-all of measurement by any stretch of the imagination, but it provides us a glimpse into the world of mass-digital-data that sits just below the so-called level playing field of the social web.


What this shows, is at this point in time, indications are that I am influenced by David Armano, Mack Collier, Craig Wilson, Heather Snodgrass and Mark Pollard. But the same can be said of those who I, in turn, “influence”: Kate Kendall, Rob Campbell, Jye Smith, Trent Collins and Matt Moore.

Now, I am quite happy to write about these smart folks because at some level, they reflect well on me. They are smart, focused, professional people. But I would not have included their names, links and pictures in this post if I did not respect them. It is precisely because we can now see your visible networks, that we are able to make an assessment of what YOU are like, how professional YOU are and how likely YOU are to work well in a business context. And this is not just about HR or marketing. It impacts every aspect of your business. It impacts every relationship.

So now you really need to ask yourself – do your friends suck? And just what are you going to do about it?

Where Are You on the Trust Barometer?

Whenever the social media conversation shifts to “influence” – who has it, how you can get it and what it’s worth, you know we’re talking trust. After all, what we perceive as “influence” is simply a combination of trust and relevance – a heady mix of the right audience, a trusted shepherd and a call to action.

Don’t believe me?

Nicholas Christakis has an interesting post on the power of twitter and its ability to influence a large following. As he explains, Alyssa Milano with her celebrity and her 1.3 million strong Twitter following would normally be considered “influential”. But when she tweeted out a link to the Amazon page of a book called Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks & How They Shape Our Lives, the roar of social media silence was deafening.  There was not ONE clickthrough. Not one sale.

It seems – finally – that we are seeing the reality of trust and the power of relevance. That’s why I am particularly interested in this report from Edelman Australia – the 2011 Australian Edelman Trust Barometer.

Launched today (see the Tweetstream), this is the third survey to be carried out in Australia, but we are already seeing some interesting trending:

  • Coming out of the GFC, we saw an upswing in trust in government (54%) and businesses (52%)
  • Trust in NGOs (65%) is the highest of any Australian institution, with the Media well down at 32%

The full report is embedded below and can be downloaded from Slideshare. It makes for interesting reading.

But what does this mean for brands and marketers?

As one of the launch panellists, Vanessa Hall, pointed out, trust is created through the interplay of the message or story the brand wants to tell, the expectations of your customers/stakeholders and the promise that exists between the two (my interpretation here). This is where the challenge comes – after all, our customers are rarely interested in the brand story, and their interpretation of your brand promise is often different from where you (on the client or agency side) tend to see it.

And with social media, individuals are now well equipped to engage with brands in a public (and searchable) sphere. Positive and negative brand experiences can be published, shared and amplified around the world in minutes – and this makes “trust” all the more important. As the report points out, “Trust is a protective agent …”. And yes, it can lead to tangible sales.

But, we need to consider the following trends:

  • Aligning our business purpose with a greater good (CSR is a good start)
  • Strong support for NGOs (consider partnering with an NGO to build your trust profile)
  • Multiple voices in multiple channels (while CEOs have increased level of trust and respect, use expert voices across your business and in multiple channels to build a network of influence)

Perhaps, most importantly, you need to think about all this in relation to YOUR business. Where do you sit on the trust barometer? And how are you going to improve?

Act Like You Care

I’ve always been interested in people. At university I would spend hours in the coffee shop watching people. I would notice the small gestures. I would see the forced smile of an unhappy coincidence. Or the joyous embrace of a true surprise. And as I watched – and drank coffee – I realised that our bodies betray us before the words ever do. Indeed, our actions speak louder than words – with some suggesting that over 90% of our communication is non-verbal.

But if this is the case, how do we go about establishing credibility and trust online?

This is where social networks are coming to play an important role. While we may not know or trust a brand or a company (or the brand manager working there), we may well know others who do. And the level of trust and respect that we hold for that other person will impact our actions – whether to research, engage and purchase – or not.

Why is this distinction important?

Most business people drink their own kool aid (which is, perhaps, as it should be). But your customers (in general) don’t work for you. They don’t spend hours of every day thinking about your business. They are thinking about their lives – the problems, the joys, the relationships. They are wondering about interest rates, mortgages and what to cook for dinner. You are probably the same – as Robyn McMaster explains, we perform many different roles each day depending on our responsibilities.

Despite this (and of course, we know this deep down), many corporate blogs, websites and social media outposts are designed and populated with content which aims to influence customers.

As I have said before, it’s not about influence, it’s about trust. If you really want to transform the relationship you have with your customers, it’s time to stop thinking short term sale. It’s time to stop dating and get real about commitment. And in a way, that means sharing the needs, interests and concerns of your customers.

It’s time to watch HOW you say something rather than WHAT you say. Julia Hanna over at the HBS Working Knowledge blog suggests that “People often are more influenced by how they feel about you than by what you're saying. It's not about the content of the message, but how you're communicating it.” And online, that’s determined by your actions within the network.

It’s time to act like you care – or find someone who does.

Real Life Social Networks

Here is a great presentation on social networks by Paul Adams (with thanks to Rachel Beaney). Complete with slides and speaker notes, the presentation steps through the marked differences in our behaviours online and off.

It’s the perfect primer for those who are just coming to grips with the world of social media – and a nice reminder for those who are more conversant with topics such as:

As you go through the presentation, think about your clients and think about your customers. Think about the topics from their point of view – and then also think through your own behaviours. Think about how you use social media/networks at work and at play – is there a difference? Should there be? Will you change what you do based on what the presentation reveals?

I will be interested to know!