As we continue this conversation on influence, I'm fascinated by some of the reactions to the posts.
My goal with these simple entries is to provide enough food for thought so that you can distinguish between hype and real influence, going from temporary popularity to sustainable approaches that benefit your business.
It's very tempting to dive into tactical stuff — here's what you do on Twitter, that's what works on Facebook.
However, without an understanding of what levers you are moving and when, you're chasing one hit wonders. Why everything you know about influence is wrong is a good step in a more strategic direction.
What we know
I run in my neighborhood. It's a quiet suburban area with fairly narrow streets on which plenty of children play hockey, soccer, or ball when the weather permits. A 25-mile-per-hour kind of place. Running every day at about the same time, usually during the early commute, I observed a few things:
- it takes one person going fast for everyone behind them to accelerate
- when someone doesn't respect a stop sign, the drivers within eyesight don't, either
- drivers accelerate when they feel there is no immediate retribution – e.g., a police car nearby
- when a fast driver makes eye contact (sees you see them), she will decelerate visibly
- people within eyesight of a fast driver will call in and report them the police
I even witnessed one shouting match between a young woman driving a sport Lexus and the man she almost hit while he was collecting his mail. His phone was out in no time, and you bet he had memorized her plate. She had gotten to his sense of fairness – a very strong human instinct.
These example illustrate that when everyone behaves alike, no one thinks very much.
They also demonstrate the principles of social proof. As Robert Cialdini wrote in his seminal book on Influence, social evidence can be used on us – not by others, but by ourselves – to assure us that what we prefer to be true will seem to be true.
In other words, because we believe it to be true, we make it so in our reality – we are influenced. There is something else here at play – uncertainty. When people are not sure about something, they are more likely to use the actions of others to decide how they should behave.
Short cuts and look alikes
Which is the main reason why so many are willing to jump on the online measurement tools bandwagon – since you are not sure how to measure influence, you need a short cut, a code, a way to quickly decide where to stack your chips in the competition for the online attention roulette in search for buzz.
Since everyone is now talking about Klout, that has become the short cut to certainty for lack of resources, time, and skills in determining the true nature of what and who influences purchases of your product or service. Are Klout scores meaningful? Sure, just not in isolation.
I liken them to key performance indicators – along with number of followers and fans, number of posts in a blog, etc. They will give you information that is quantitative, grounded on specific actions, the ones it measures, and most useful when compared with itself.
In other words, if your score is 46 today, you figure out the kinds of things you need to do to up it, you do them and you push it higher. Generally, it involves tweeting and posting to your Facebook profile a lot more than I do.
Not so useful when comparing apples to oranges – two individuals with similar scores, yet who affect totally different environments. For example, Scott De Yager has the same Klout score as Alex Hillman. Although at a first blush you may think they are reliably and dangerously awesome, respectively, would you hire them interchangeably?
I'll give you another one. Say you are looking at two candidates who are both knowledgeable in social media, and similar backgrounds/experience, yet one has a higher Klout score. Would you hire her? Why? How do you know she would not be spending the whole day on social networks working on her score instead of your work?
Let's not get tangled into a series of "what ifs". You're dealing in the reality of profit and loss.
What matters to up your real score
Your real score is attached to results and how your actions and those of the people they affect impact them. Saying it another way, you care about those people who buy, and those who recommend you to others and generate actual purchases.
They are not the usual suspects. They are the ones who engage another mechanism that is embedded in our DNA as social beings, and they do so in more powerful ways when you establish the conditions for them to do more of it, and do it more easily.
What matters to upping your referral score, which many in social networking circles are also call advocacy, is similarity. It takes seeing people just like us do something for us to follow suit.
So people who see other people they consider similar to them do something, follow suit. What else can you put into play to up your real score? True influence flows from drawing together people with shared interests. You can do that without creating a proprietary community or insisting people "like" your Facebook page.
Developing a context or series of situations where people come together to problem-solve something, or based upon their passions. Giving thus those people who participate a way to pull others like them into it. The more you connect those people with each other, the higher your score.
Indeed, there are natural leaders and more outspoken evangelists in every field. And you product or service is no exception. What are the best ways to influence the influencers your customers watch for cues? We'll talk about it next week.
The comments are yours.