Attention social media marketers: number of followers is not a strong indicator of influence. Sure… it's obvious and easy – but it's also lazy. The number of fans or followers often has nothing to do with a person or company's ability to influence others.
Seven Characteristics of Influence Online
- The influencer must primarily be engaged in relevant conversations. An actor with a bajillion followers won't necessarily mean that they can influence others regarding your product or service.
- The influencer should engage frequently and recently in conversations about the relevant topic. There are many abandoned blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts out there. Social media requires momentum, and those who stop or even pause for a little bit lose a lot of influence on topics.
- The influencer must be frequently referred to by others in relevant conversations. Retweets, backlinks and comments are indicators of an influencer's ability to engage the audience.
- The influencer must engage in conversation. It's not enough to blast a message out to their audience, the influencer is gifted at answering peoples' questions, confronting criticism, and referencing other leaders in the space. Passing along a link or a Tweet from a competitor isn't bad business, it shows you really care about your audience and want to feed them the best information possible.
- The influencer must have a reputation. Whether it's a degree, book, blog, or a job title… the influencer must have a reputation that supports their knowledge of the subject matter with authority.
- The influencer must convert their audience. Having a ton of followers, a ton of retweets, and a ton of references still doesn't mean that there's influence. Influence requires conversions. Unless an influencer can impact a person's decision to actually make a purchase, they aren't an influencer.
- Influence doesn't grow over time, it changes over time. A change in influence can come as simply as getting your link mentioned or a retweet by another influencer. Just because someone had 100,000 followers a year ago doesn't mean that they're still influencing today. Find the influencers with momentum as seen through continued growth.
Are there exceptions? Of course there are. I'm not pushing this as a rule – but I do wish that systems that identify and rank influence on the Internet would quit being so lazy and begin providing some more sophisticated analysis at the characteristics that really make up someone of influence.