Social media’s tremendous power now rests in the hands of those using it. We’ve seen this over the past year with Tahrir Square and the Arab Spring as well as with the Occupy Wall Street movement that escalated to global proportions. Social media users have become major players in social change.
In 2009, through the use of YouTube and other social networks, Canadian guitarist David Carroll publicly took United Airlines to task for breaking his instrument : United Breaks Guitars (His book “The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media” will be released in May 2012). Since then, not a week goes by without companies being forced to manage new crises because of disgruntled social media users.
In a recent (French) blog – Pouvoir citoyen 2.0 – Gérald Fillion from Radio Canada wrote, “The power of the people exists and we are now witnessing a new incarnation of this power through social media.” Social influence has been democratized with Web 2.0 tools and social networking. Today, any user can stand out and influence his or her network.
THE NEW POWER OF SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC INFLUENCERS
In a business context, the social power of these new influencers also becomes economic. Aware of their potential impact, the simple user becomes a major player who is no longer satisfied with the role of spectator. Before becoming involved, users now demand to be heard and to contribute to the enrichment of the proposed experience.
At the same time, popular social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have created a new economic ecosystem which revolutionizes the very notion of influence. In the era of social media, companies no longer appear in the hopes of selling; instead it’s the users who are seeking out and finding the best opportunities.
Brands are thus forced to change tactics and realign their business strategies and commercial approach. Traditional advertising and marketing simply do not have the same effect on consumers they once did. A recent study by Lightspeed Research revealed that nearly three out of four consumers (73%) refer to peer recommendations before buying. Over a third (37%) will even change their minds after hearing negative reviews from other consumers.
INFLUENCER MARKETING: A BOOMING INDUSTRY
Consequently, the social and economic impact of these Web influencers has spawned a new growth industry – influencer marketing. Based mainly on algorithms that compute the online interaction and engagement prompted by new influencers, this recent growth industry allows brands to identify the stakeholders that demonstrate the greatest impact on their audience.
Following the example of the cultural industries (film, books and music) and electronic media (radio and television), this new industry uses scores and lists to establish a certain hierarchy among influencers. Companies like Klout, PeerIndex, Kred and Empire Avenue (to name only the most important ones) now offer sophisticated measurement tools to assess the social capital of the new Web influencers.
By offering perks, brands want influencers to become their ambassadors in a ploy to win back customers. However, by making lists and providing rankings that ultimately result in competing for influence, they divert the new influencers from their real value.
CONTENT CURATION: THE KEY TO INFLUENCE IN SOCIAL MEDIA
In a recent blog post on Intelegia – 9 Indicators of a Social Media Influencer – I wrote that the key to influence is based primarily on the quality and relevance of the content offered. I maintain that point of view more than ever. Only by adding value to the maelstrom of content on the Web can a blogger reveal themselves as an influence within their network.
Social Media influencers offer original and personal content that allows readers to recognize and appreciate their unique value from the outset. In order to merit the trust readers show them, influencers must continually question the relevance and true value of the contents they provide.
Within social media’s current context we need to integrate content curation with the concept of influence. As Neal Schaffer noted when he invited me to join his team of bloggers on Windmill Networking: always ask whether our contents are worth sharing. A question I will continually ask myself with this new column.
Do you think content curation is a key to developing influence in social media?