We know that being popular does not equate to being influential. On the other side, being influential does not equal popularity either (consider Florida’s new Governor elect Rick Scott is now very influential, yet he is the first such governor since 1916 to win without the popular vote (<50%)). So is this conversation is circular, another chicken and egg discussion? There are a couple of ways to approach this topic.
- the much covered approach of popularity vs influence and
- the more scientific approach of the forms of social influence.
The difference of these two topics, especially across the enterprise, is that one conversation can add value and the other typically does not. So to not bypass a good SEO opportunity, let’s cover both of them.
Influence vs Popularity: you can talk ad nausea about this topic but consider that having a lot of Friends, Likes or Followers online does not mean that you are either popular or influential. It simply means that you paid a service to use bots to increase your presence. for companies looking to find industry influencers, they typically rely on tools that mechanize a formula that compares the amount of post with the amount of people who see the posts against the number of people who act (like, share, retweet) on the post. The point I’ll make here is that scheduling your message to be published at a time when everyone is online and looking for your message does not mean that your message will be popular or influential…only optimized.
Forms of Social Influence – when you begin to apply science to influence there is a chance you will be able to repeat success. First, when we use the term Social Influence, let’s make sure that we are not talking about how influential people are on social networks. That’s the soft discussion. We will use the term social influence to mean the study of influence in the context of a group (or social influence) overlaps quite a bit with the research on attitudes and persuasion. Social influence is also closely related to the study of group dynamics, as most of the principles of influence are strongest when they take place in social groups. As an enterprise, if you are able to understand the science of how people affect the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others (influence) you could begin to shape your engagements much differently that pushing a press release to a group of industry bloggers and calling it a day. According to Wikipedia, the 3 main forms of social influence come from conformity, compliance and obedience.
- Conformity – a tendency to conform in order to receive social acceptance – is generally defined as the tendency to act or think like other members of a group. Group size,unanimity, cohesion, status, and prior commitment all help to determine the level of conformity in an individual. While conformity is generally disdained in American culture, there are many cultures in the Middle East and Asia that rely on conformity for social influence.
- Compliance – refers to any change in behavior that is due to a request or suggestion from another person. Word of mouth marketing relies heavily on compliance behaviors with foot-in-the-door or bait-and-switch techniques.
- Obedience – This is a change in behavior that is the result of a direct order or command from another person. Special interest groups find this method popular. When there is a chemical spill, toxins in a river, a new national healthcare plan…it is easy for people to follow a distractor based on socially accepted beliefs regardless of truths.
The default for companies trying to figure out who is influencing their “voice” in the market is a tricky one. The only approach right now is the crop of online tools that have emerged from Klout, Edelman and Hubspot that formulate from forms of popularity that assume influence. For some companies right now showing movement for the sake of motion is better than nothing. What this does is provides a false sense of security though as there are no algorithms that measure passion. Passion can drive tremendous influence if you think about the Bills that pass through congress with a child’s name attached to them. They are driven by wildly passionate parents who do not want the same thing to happen to any other children. These parents would never show up as influencers in the traditional sense though.
Where I like the discussion around the science of influence is it opens up broader discussions for enterprises who are looking to become influencers and not just rely on those who seem influential. After looking at the forms of social influence, companies can uncover new meaning behind their approach in an effort to continuously make them better. Think about recommendations. If you understood that your site visitors were simply looking for conformity as a way to influence a purchase decision, you would employ product ratings and feedback. To take it further, compliance is more than a simple “share this” button, it’s the Groupon model. I’ve made a decision to purchase this product but I need you to also buy it in order to get the discount.
Sorting out social influence as a science will lead to a much better result than simply looking at people who have large followings or simply talk the loudest in the room. To help us sort out our discussion this week is Shelly Kramer. Shelly Kramer is the Founder and Chief Imagination Officer of V3 Integrated Marketing and Kramer & Co who has been written up in Forbes, American Express and the Wall Street Journal to name a few. Our topic and questions this week will be:
Topic: Social Influence: Meaningful?
Q1: How do you find influencers?
Q2: Can you create influencers?
Q3: Is Social Influence a meaningful goal for companies?
Please join us in this online chat on Tuesday, December 7 at noon ET. Follow #sm89 from your favorite Twitter client or simply go to our LIVE page at www.hashtagsocialmedia.com/live. The format will stay the same with the first question starting at noon and a new question coming every 20 minutes at 12:20 and 12:40.