I was playing with Klout recently, which “identifies influencers on topics across the social web”. It got me thinking about about not only the attention that “influencers” receive but how an influencer is defined.
It used to be that influence was mostly based on someone’s level of expertise and the respect they had within their community.
Today, social media influence certainly has something to do with expertise but it also has a lot to do with the size of your following.
This is where things start to get interesting because the size of someone’s following can have a lot to do with how much time and effort they invest to build and nurture their following and personal brands.
For example, a social media “expert” who generates a lot of content (blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates) and actively engages with other people within the social media ecosystem can become influential, even though they may not have a lot of expertise or experience.
The fact that social media is such a nascent marketplace lends itself to the reality that anyone with some marketing savvy and enough time to have a major social media presence can position themselves as a influential person.
The question is whether these kind of people are influencers or operators. Maybe they’re both but the issue is raises is whether we’re giving too much credit and attention to “influencers”.
As more companies use social media to attract attention to their products and services, there’s a growing focus on courting the influencers.
It’s not so much a numbers game in which a company reaches out to as many people as possible (aka The Shotgun Approach) but an attempt to target people who matter (which is an entirely different definition and conversation). The theory is that if you can capture the attention of people who matter, they will, in turn, influence other people to pay attention as well.
The challenge and problem with this approach is that defining an influencer is a subjective exercise. The methodologies, metrics or assumptions to determine an influencer can be all over the map. One person’s influencer can be another person’s B or C-lister.
At the end of the day, we need to be pragmatic about the how much attention influencers deserve. Rather than getting too carried away with their importance, we should spend more time getting a better handle on how we define an influencer and the impact they really have on a company’s prospects.
More: Klout will be a guest on Sept. 9 on Marketwire’s #ssmmeasurement chat. You can submit questions through Twitter by sending them to @marketwire, post them on the Marketwire Facebook page, or email them to nshin[at]marketwire[dot].com.