Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Influence Defined?

This is the Twitter bio of a person who decided to follow me in the last week:
"I get 5,000 followers a week on Twitter! Let me show u how 2 2!"

It's the archetype as old as the high school clique - does 'popularity' mean influence?

Maybe its just me, but followers don't necessarily equal influence. While auto-follow, auto-DM of new followers (nothing I've ever done or tried btw) is popular among some users, I fail to see how following everyone who follows you enhances or furthers an individual or company's goals with the tool.

To me influence is about finding, harnessing, and addressing whatever knowledge, information, data or character insights one can share with an audience and interacting with those who can enhance ones own views, provide a different point-of-view, or share mutual interests. It is not about dominance but about leadership and enlightenment.

As I've written before, the immediacy of Twitter makes it one of the most popular social media platforms out there. However, with most new users abandoning their accounts only a few short months into their experience, Twitter (more so than some other social media platforms) demands that individuals/companies enter with specific goals in mind - whether its content, engagement level, or (I would argue) to a certain degree who they choose to follow.

Having 20,000+ followers (or more than a million individuals hanging on your every tweet) does not exactly mean that person is the most credible or the most qualified in a specific area of expertise. It does mean that person is very good at understanding technology, personal branding, search engine marketing, or in some cases, good at interaction with followers, facilitation of debate, demonstration of online thought leadership and creation of good content that merits the mass following.

As far as online networks go, Twitter is emerging is the most open and in some cases the most jumbled social network that I am a part of. I follow and have more followers on Twitter than I do Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections. While this is a bit of apples-to-bananas-to-oranges comparison, I think it demonstrates that Twitter is emerging as an instant social network search engine where one *could* argue that the more followers you have, the better or at least more varied opinions one may receive from those you choose to allow in your network. However, do you really want responses from all your followers at any given time? Or just those that are qualified enough to answer the question (whatever criteria that may be based on). How does one aggregate and determine what is credible while not limiting the universe of those who may be able to answer the question that are not yet in your network? Or does word-of-mouth network referrals and even self-discovery of the answer/source (we all hate being told who's an 'expert' in something) prevent network limitations?

Credibility to me equals influence. So how DOES one establish, grow and maintain credibility in a given network? What makes one person more credible than another? In the social media world of metrics, numbers (in this case followers) may only tell one part of the story. As Twitter continues to emerge and new third-party applications and (gasp) a business model for the tool itself is introduced, I think the "influencers" will emerge and it may or may not be those who get 5,000 followers a week. Instead, the emerging trend of recommending certain people to follow and the contribution of content may count more than how many followers an account has accumulated. Only time will tell what influence Twitter will have on who and why we trust a specific individual or company.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

I'm not sure about Twitter popularity. Folks who use scripts to build inorganic audiences, to me, seem desperate.