There’s Influence, and then There’s Influence

The graph

You can hardly go one day without someone mentioning the topic of online influence, especially in social networks, and especially about scores. I know why everyone is now (still) talking about Klout, do you?

I can tell you that Klout knows squat about me and my behavior. Zero, nothing, niente, nada. Got it? The fine folks behind the algorithm have no idea of who gets my emails and calls, which are the tools I use most to conduct my real business.

They know nothing about what I read and why I read it, because they are not reading these articles or talking with me. They are just tabulating the keywords and volume of my Twitter activity. Twitter. Shrink me into 140 characters. Or maybe they are 134 more than those in Pirandello's play (more context was the lesson there, it is here, too).

Are the people in my life even on Twitter? You don't know that.

Am I the person you read here every day? (And I thank you humbly and sincerely for reading and thinking about this content.) You are not just the person who is reading. You are much more than one thing you do, so why would I be just the person who is sharing here?

Yet, we continue to fall for the fallacy of thinking that the here and now is all we've got.

There's influence

So many alongside me have been talking about strong and weak ties, and writing about designing for social interactions.

I just started reading Duncan Watts' Everything is Obvious, Once you Know the Answer, so look for a review here in a week or two. Watts has done a great deal of thinking and research around weak ties.

I've always said that common sense is not that common. It turns out it's the cousin of hindsight.

What is this influence that everyone is looking to nail, bottle up, and sell you? I'm looking at you PR agencies, especially.

Is it just the notion that if only someone with a voluminous audience sees our message and spreads it, we get buzz, it gives our site a traffic boost, and our product a lift at the cash register?

One big problem with that notion is that, in the rush to be noticed, often the message is hype vs. real value. Real value is a lot easier to deliver when your product helps the user kick ass.

And guess what? If your product is really that good, chances are those people others look to for clues in the getting-the-word-out-about-new-stuff department will write or talk about it. They know how to recognize a good thing.

I look at those people as more like what Paul Adams has on your left side of the graphic in this post — they are constantly out there looking for interesting and useful information to spread, because they like to share with their friends. It's a psychological thing, too.

We want to be helpful.

… and then there's influence

They are the right people who need to learn about the product, because they will do something about it.

Where it gets confusing today, I think, is that it is people on both sides of the chart. In the past, it used to be ginormous media companies, slim pickings on TV channels, newspapers, etc. that trafficked those messages for brands. Today, it's us for us, among us. Very confusing.

How can you tell them apart? What are the kind of clues you look for?


Next week, we'll continue the conversation by including your comments and points of view, so annotate in the comments box, we're going to do much more thinking together moving forward. It won't be like Google+, the ease of the tool. You've got me facilitating over here, though.

There's influence, and then there's influence.


[graph by Paul Adams]

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