Who are you influencing?

The latest thing that most social media types are complaining about is an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, “The Social Media Bubble,” where Umair Haque (Director of the Havas Media Lab) launches into his theory of “thin” relationships via social media channels like Twitter. “Call it relationship inflation. Nominally, you have a lot more relationships — but in reality, few, if any, are actually valuable.”

As you might imagine, just about everyone who has tens of thousands of followers on Twitter and makes their living preaching about the importance of social media is disagreeing. And I’m not going to go there.

Instead, it got me thinking about those people that DO have thousands and thousands of followers. Many out there would consider those people “influencers” because of the followers they have amassed over time. And here’s my question: WHO are they influencing? We all know it’s quality over quantity these days, but what if you’re influencing the WRONG people?

The social media preachers on Twitter have large followings of, well, social media preachers. And really what’s the point of influencing them? They all are trying to get business. They are all service providers. And they all spend their time telling each other how great they are. When brands approach them to drive a car across the country for them or give them a new camera to use, they are just broadcasting those messages to a bunch of other marketers. And that really doesn’t make sense to me.

So I believe a key question needs to be inserted into your digital strategy: Sure you want to attract those who have “influence” (even though I’d argue for the “passion” model over influence). But we need to make sure they are influencing the right kind of people for our communications and conversations to be effective. Just because someone has a huge following doesn’t mean they are going to be effective.

Maybe we need to take a closer look at what influence really means in this brave new world.


  • March 25, 2010


    Oh no! That would mean that traditonal ROI models go out the window!! We can’t have *that*, because we might actually have to *think.* Or, even scarier, feel.

  • March 28, 2010

    Rags Srinivasan

    Thanks for the HBR link.
    All the twitter follower count metrics seem more like the social media ponzi scheme – web2.0 amway.

    We all tend to overestimate our influence over purchasing decisions of our friends/followers and the leverage we have over brands. Once decision makers start believing that any one individual can have broad influence, they start diverting marketing dollars towards these channels.

    When decisions are driven by hypes and meaningless metrics, why bother with ROMI?


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