Cover of "The Blob - Criterion Collection...
Cover of The Blob - Criterion Collection

The topic of influence is one that is discussed quite often in marketing and social media circles. The idea is that if you can find the right people to talk about your product, and they can influence others to try it, you’re golden. And because influence is so important, there are those who try to quantify it in some sort of amalgam of numbers and metrics, i.e. Klout.

Recently, my friend Jayme Soulati wrote a post about how those of us who are bloggers have a measure of influence. After I retweeted her post, another friend, Lindsay Bell, responded:

Influence tweet 1To which my response was:

Influencer tweet 2

And I truly do believe that. All of us are influencers in some way, shape, or form. And despite the fact that no two of us agree on a a definition for the term, we as marketers and business owners still want to tap into and harness the power that certain individuals seem to have over others. But regardless of how we define it, there are 4 truths that we need to examine before we seek to identify people as being influencers:

1. We are all influential about something – It’s true. Everyone is an influencer. One person might be influential about music, while another might be influential about tech products. We can be influential about multiple things at the same time, and at various levels.

2. Influence can be positive or negative – When we talk about influence, we focus on the positive, but there is such a thing as negative influence. There are times when an individual might talk about a certain product, but if I’m not fond of the individual, or I don’t trust their opinion in a specific area, it might color the way I feel about the product. A company might hire someone to endorse a product, but the association with that spokesperson might make me think less of the product.

3. Influence fluctuates vertically – If we draw influence for a particular individual on a graph, it ebbs and flows. At some points we might wield a great deal of influence, while at other times we may have very little influence. And those fluctuations can happen rather rapidly.

4. Influence fluctuates horizontally -Additionally, influence from one individual varies among influencees. Someone might wield a great deal of influence over me, and yet have no influence over you and your behavior. And when you take the first 3 points into account, this too can change rather rapidly.

So if we were to take all of these together and create a physical model of influence it would be some sort of ever-moving, multi-faceted amorphous blob which rotates on multiple axes, and which we all perceive differently.

This is why it’s so difficult to even attempt to quantify it.

Does this mean we shouldn’t seek to identify those who are influencers in relation to our businesses and products? Not at all. But we must take all four of these truths into consideration as we try to harness the power of influence. Identifying influencers, like most online activities, is a continuous process, not a once and done exercise.

How do you view influence? How do you identify your brand influencers?