Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 8, 2011 8:42 PM

Making Sense Of The Mess

When are we going to learn that millions of followers does not always equal influence?

It's a mass media lie that was perpetuated by the original Marketing and Advertising executives as a way to strong-arm brands into coughing up their dollars to line the pockets of the advertisers and media companies. It's a game (err... business) that worked well until the proper analytics and platforms were put in place (thank you, technology... and yes, thank you, Social Media) for us to see - in living color - a semblance of a truth.

The truth is new. The truth will change.

Today, Mark W. Schaefer over on the Grow Blog has a post titled, On Twitter, No One Can Hear You Scream. Mark (who I frequently debate on the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast) believes that there is little influence happening on Twitter and that, "real influence is taking place in the smaller, stronger groups found in passionate blog communities." I don't disagree with his position, but I don't fully agree with it either (which I'm sure will put a smile on Mark's face as the next topic we can debate). Mark's right, smaller, stronger groups are where influence lies, but there is no correlation between that and a specific media channel.

Howard Stern vs. Charlie Sheen.

Howard Stern has millions of listeners daily to his satellite radio show (and I am one of them). Charlie Sheen has millions of followers on Twitter (and I am one of them). Howard Stern has tremendous influence over his audience. Charlie Sheen does not. Radio is not more influential than Twitter. It's all about the individual, their message and the ability to truly connect it with a caring audience. Nothing more. Nothing less. Howard Stern is not less influential than Charlie Sheen on Twitter just because he has fewer followers (Howard has over 400,000 followers compared to Sheen who has over 2.3 million followers). My guess is that if Stern asked his followers to do something, the conversion rate percentage would trump Sheen's request by a large multiple. Furthermore, someone with a semblance of a following who sends out a tweet with a call-to-action that doesn't convert should not imply that this individual has little influence. It simply means that this message didn't resonate with that audience at this particular moment in time. Remember, for every Egypt there are thousands of movements that never take hold or that fizzle out.

Why brands have trouble with influence.

The brands that are winning "true influence" (and I'm using quote marks here on purpose because there is no agreed upon definition for "true influence" - this is my own/personal interpretation) are winning (as opposed to #winning) because they have people who are having real interactions with other real human beings (and those interactions are truly meaningful). While there are a handful of brands that have influence over and above that (brands like Apple, Starbucks, etc...), it is much more practical/realistic for businesses to think about using these opportunities to connect and have a sincere engagement instead of trying to rack up their numbers.

"Who?" instead of "How Many?"

It's an argument I made in my book, Six Pixels of Separation, and it's an argument I made for years on this Blog prior to publishing the book last September. A brand's ability to have it's message put in front of millions of people begins and ends with that impression. No influence comes from it alone. We (as a public) seem to believe that the influence comes from the sheer volume of impressions and connections that we have in the marketplace (i.e. if we beat a message into people's heads through repetition, that is influence). It doesn't. True influence comes from connecting to the individuals, nurturing those relationships, adding real value to the other person's lives and doing anything and everything to serve them, so that when the time comes for you to make an ask, there is someone there to lend a hand. Worry less about how many people you are connected to and worry a whole lot more about who you are connected to, who they are and what you are doing to value and honor them. It would also serve us well to not confuse an ad campaign with a marketing strategy around building influence and engagement. They are not one and the same.

Perhaps we need to stop using traditional metrics based on the movement of masses and start looking at newer analytics models. Perhaps then we can more clearly define words like "influence" and "engagement." What do you think?

(between us, I'm a little depressed with the fact that I even mentioned Charlie Sheen).

By Mitch Joel