Confusion about influentials

The other day I read a post about “influentials” – these people marketers and PR-professionals so desperately want to reach.

From research by Duncan Watts, we have learnt that influentials aren’t that influential.

Influential or not, Watts believes that whether a trend (or idea or similar) takes off depends on how susceptible the society is to it overall.

Of course, the actual context is also important – people are influential within different areas – or as MediaPost Publications concluded:

“A new study from ICOM — a division of direct marketing agency Epsilon — finds that there is no universal influencer, and that consumers are influencers strictly within product categories, rather than across all categories.”

The actual number of people in a persons network is of course also an important factor in deciding whether this someone is influential or not. It is not the factor, but an important one, and the reason it is important might be that a large network makes it possible to take advantage of the big seed marketing approach that Watts suggests works.

However, research made on Twitter says the number of followers doesn’t really matter much and that the three measures of influence – followers, retweets and mentions – has surprisingly little overlap when looking at the top influentials.

The post on ReadWriteWeb also concludes that:

“…the most influential users hold significant influence over a variety of topics, as opposed to being experts in just one area.”

Hmm.. .. wasn’t that in direct contrast to what ICOM concluded?

My own conclusions are that:

  • Context matters
  • The size of the network matters

But whether or not someone is “influential” or not must have a lot to do with the ability to get retweets or inbound links for example. So, I think it has a lot to do with the stickyness of the message. What gets links and what gets retweeted has more to do with the actual content then who does the tweeting. And then we are back to what Duncan Watts concluded – it depends on how susceptible the society is to it overall.

Kristofer Mencák has a M.Sc. in Business Administration from Stockholm School of Economics. He is a consultant, author and lecturer on social media, viral marketing and word of mouth. He has also recently been travelling the world teaching the dance kizomba.

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