Independent Thinking Blog

What is an “Influencer”?

Let’s clear something up: Influence is important. Badges, numbers, and algorithms are not.

I deleted my Klout account because people’s perceptions of my value shouldn’t rise or fall depending on whether I’m talking to an “online rock star” with thousands of Twitter followers or someone with a handful of them.

Social proof is an interesting concept. Mark Schaefer wrote a thought-provoking post yesterday asking whether people have to cheat to be successful online. My response: It depends on how you define success.

I don’t get validation from strangers.

I also replied:

I’m not sure that I’d use the word “cheating” so much as “gaming” (the system). Now I say that as someone who opted out of Klout, has never cared about numbers, and measures myself against myself and not what others are doing. I find all this gaming (or cheating) the system icky–but it’s a useful way for me to identify who I want to associate with and who I’m staying a mile away from.

Trust trumps badges and numbers every day.

My friend Shonali Burke pointed out in remarks at xPotomac recently that the people who move the needle most often don’t show up in any rankings. What they have? The trust of their online communities.

It’s all about context.

I was reminded of this again because a colleague asked me to weigh in on his search for the “biggest digital DC influencers.” This happened on a day that I was fascinated by a rare Senate filibuster and tweeted a few times on the topic. So who influenced me then? People who were talking about Rand Paul. (And “influenced by people who were talking about Rand Paul” is not a sentence I ever thought I’d write.) But if you factor those tweets and the people who amplified that content into an algorithm you’re going to make me influential on something that has nothing to do with me.

Someone at xPotomac said that “social scoring is the lazy man’s version of marketing.”

Who you know will always matter, but how that matters will depend on context and trust–not badges and numbers. 

Photo by cdrummbks (Flickr). 

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