Why Influence Doesn’t Work Without RelevanceBy 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.