No Such Thing as Generic Influence
Last night I moderated a panel for the Canadian Public Relations Society called Navigating the Social Influencer Sphere. (Excuse the 'verbal' and uncharacteristically vain selfie.)
Panelists included Toronto-based music and video producer Andrew Gunadie - aka "Gunnarolla" (@Gunnarolla), Jess Hunichen co-founder of Shine Influencers (@Jess_Hunichen), Nicole T. Chin (@NicoleTChin) a social media consultant for Torchia Communications, and Joanna Sable (@JoannaSable) a high profile food social influencer.
'Moderation' doesn't come easily for me since I have strong, and I hope well-defended, opinions about a lot of things. So, I used the moderator's prerogative to set the stage for the discussion with my perspective on social 'influence' summarized here:
Nearly every social strategy today is built on finding and using influencers on social platforms in some fashion or other. Why? Because they are a gateway to audiences that businesses, governments and nonprofits want to reach.
The best of them — not all of them — have what journalists used to have — credibility — and something which many journalists never had — authenticity.
I think it is important however to understand who is an ‘influencer’.
Influencers are not celebrities or ‘personalities’ as I have seen them defined . . . although they may be (and I am sure some of the panelists are, and I know I am not).
Influencers are not a defined category or group of people that can be added to a list with a subheading called ‘social influencers', as much as many of them self-describe that way (which seems slightly lacking in humility).
Influence is a function of social reach, yes, but more importantly a function of relevance to a brand, a conceptual territory or a story. And — as important — an influencer is someone who has the ability to resonate, vibrate, and ring true with a target audience . . . not every audience and certainly not an audience defined demographically.
In other words, influence is ‘situational’. Who is an ‘influencer’ depends on who you want to reach, about what, and what you want them to do — buy, rent, support, donate, demonstrate, watch, oppose or attack.
I think most people, including the other panelists, agreed . . .
But what came through even more clearly from the panelists was the importance of looking for quality in an influencers' content. All panelists agreed assessing quality, and value provided to followers, were far more important to successful influencer strategies than simply looking at reach and self-diagnosed 'influence'.