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Why Influence Doesn’t Work Without Relevance

By Digital Strategy — October 17, 2011 - 5:38 pm

Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, PostRank — it seems that everyone is obsessed with measuring online influence in the form of followers, clicks and shares. But as popular technology develops, we see that it’s not just a numbers game anymore. While Whole Foods and Oreo boast millions of social network followers, their reach isn’t so great if they’re tweeting about something irrelevant. And that’s what should matter most for brands: not just the ability to reach, but also the ability to provoke action.

Facebook’s rejiggered “Top Stories” and “Recent Stories” feed is a prime example: content that has provoked enough action (in the form of likes, comments, or shares, for instance) is rewarded with the most visible placement in Top Stories. In this vein, content really is king – but good content rules all.

Google, too, rewards quality content with the +1 button. While Google+ is still finding its footing in the social network world, the +1 button is already making waves in search. Google has confirmed to Wired that it re-ranks content based on how many times it has been +1’d, illustrating the shift from simply traffic volume to also weigh approval from qualified users. And how does that content get approval? By being relevant enough to the user to provoke a +1. Consider this Relevance 2.0: whereas the old search algorithm weighed keywords and clicks, the new search algorithm has an added layer thanks to +1.

Facebook’s recently added “People Talking About This” and revamped Insights metrics also exhibit the emphasis on qualify content and qualified users. A brand page may have 500,000 page likes, making it seem influential on the surface… but if only 5,000 people are talking about it, it means the content the page is producing is not relevant enough to the user to interact with it. In contrast, if a page has 10,000 page likes and 5,000 people are talking about it, that brand has captured an extremely engaged audience of qualified users—users who are commenting on, liking, and sharing the brand online, and likely interacting with the brand offline, too (read: advocacy).

Other reasons why influence isn’t a tell-all metric: it doesn’t track sentiment. Klout scores are calculated by an algorithm based on clicks, comments, and retweets. If a Twitter user starts frequently tweeting shocking or inflammatory statements, he can likely generate a high Klout score because of the content’s provocative nature. However, does a brand really want to align with a negative influencer like that? Is that influencer relevant to your brand’s audience? Do you really want Charlie Sheen trying to hawk your wares? (Don’t answer that.)

Time and time again, research shows that word-of-mouth from family and friends sparks more conversion than any other kind of marketing recommendation. Why? Because they have relevance. Even online, if my friend is listening to a Jens Lekman track or is reading a particular news article, I’m much more likely to interact with that content than if a stranger, celebrity, or marketer was pushing it. My friend’s relevance — not his influence — is what extends the content’s reach.

For these reasons, influence isn’t the only thing marketers should be looking out for—a combination of influence and relevance is. Because no matter how small that relevant voice is, the biggest social players out there—namely, Facebook, Google, and Twitter—are there to amplify it.


3 Responses to “Why Influence Doesn’t Work Without Relevance”

  1. I used to work for a PR Firm where I posted press releases on free websites. We called it “added value.” I would then use a formula similar to newspaper and physically measure the screen to determine the dollar amount of the “added value” to report to the client. The clients were excited and happy. I knew the truth, it depended on the size of the screen and the resolution. It was made for Tom Foolery. 

    I worked in media buying and I asked people who worked on the digital side to convince me of the importance of digital. They stared at me blankly.This is when I would ask my go-to questions, “Have you been on the Internet to check your email today? What ads did you see?”

    A look of bewilderment takes over every single one of them and then the answer is always the same, “I don’t remember.”

    I still cannot believe no one has even tried to lie to me and give me one example. These are ad folks – isn’t it our job to be on the ball and at the very least be able to pull out some lies or should I say exaggerated truths?Yet we continue to put this medium on a pedestal. We act like the Internet was invented in the last decade (and thankfully we figured out it was not by Al Gore).

    Job descriptions emphasize the need for a copywriter, like myself, to have digital experience. Why? Like radio, television and print – digital is just another channel for advertising. All need to be written with a different tone and length when it comes to writing.

    Television – Needs to be engaging and visually beautiful so people don’t fast forward through the commercial or get a snack.

    Radio – Needs to be interesting enough, often repetitive for memory’s sake and paint a picture for the listener to ensure they don’t simply zone out or change the channel.

    Print – Needs both visual stimulation and a message so people want to stop and look/read it.

    Digital – needs to be instantaneous, engaging and interactive because people fast forward through the Internet and have the want it now attitude (Which is why we all got fed up with dial-up and are looking for next G on our phones).

    Above all, the one thing they all have in common is – CONTENT. They all need to be interesting, factual and relevant. They also have to consider the amount of saturation in the market. This is an entirely new topic I could write about for days; the short opinion – don’t over do it when it comes to any medium; unless you want to be fast-forwarded, channel changed, disliked, hidden or simply a nuisance.I am glad an agency I believe is one of the most forward-thinking in Chicago has finally brought this to light. I don’t think it needed to wait for Facebook to change formats or Google to jump into social media. We all knew it deep down inside. If you didn’t – hear me roar.

    The advertising world will always evolve and new mediums will be brought to us to add more pieces to the puzzle. It is exciting and wonderful. Just don’t forget the basics. 

    Follow my blog and engage: http://jplanet6.onsugar.com/

  2. jasmine live says:

    Like it … very well pointed!