Influence: why do some people have it and others don’t?
How can we identify those that really have influence in an industry? With social networks and their increasing presence, including in the professional area, it becomes more and more complex.
A few years ago, talking about influence in the professional world was taboo and reserved exclusively for public relations. Influence was hidden and its mechanisms were complicated to get to know.In spite of this, with Americanization and better communication in our society, influence has been quickly accepted and become commonplace. Now it is only necessary to consult the media to verify that the number of articles and rankings on this topic are constantly increasing and finding faithful readers.
A growing circle
The social platforms of the professional world have materialized the expansion of the meaning of "influencer", and have been selecting a manager in each country, who, according to them, represents this concept.
Beyond the examples of rankings made by reference companies, which are themselves increasingly influential, it’s usually complicated to quickly identify influencers as they are more and more beyond the most famous circles of leaders. When social networks are constantly expanding, generating new communication hubs and reaching more and more professionals, it’s interesting to question the methods that exist to identify the influencers. Whether they are digital, real or most often... both.
To figure out the concept of an influencer, it’s surprising and interesting to see that in France, Wikipedia does not define it directly but redirects you to the definition of "opinion leader": The "opinion leader" is generally defined as "a person who influences others and/or exchanges information on products and brands". An opinion leader is someone who, through their notoriety, expertise, charisma or social activity, has an opinion that guides a large number of other individuals. Before the development of the Internet, it was through press relations and public relations that opinion leaders exercised their influence on global society. Since the height of the Internet, the profile of these individuals has undergone major modifications, in particular thanks to the arrival of new tools to distribute and share their opinion on a specific subject; We now talk about "online influencer”.
Knowledge is power
The question of legitimacy is the first element that explains the transition from the status of simple internet user to the online influencer. Indeed, the expertise or notoriety of a given person makes it more legitimate to other internet users. This can be explained by the thesis of the upper, middle and lower social classes of a society. In fact, it’s the adage "knowledge, is power" that applies in this case.
Thus, in order to distinguish a ¨modern¨ influencer fom one of the ¨past, it should be noted that the presence in the press has been replaced by an intense social presence that continues to have constant "expert knowledge". However, with the arrival of online newspapers to experts and the arrival of new publishing platforms, the excess of information between the media and social networks is becoming more reliable.
Usually the identification of influencers in the digital world is simplified by the use of quantitative "scores" that aim to reflect the impact of each person's digital presence. The Klout, Kred, Social Selling Index and other scoring tools rank users in the category of "influencers" according to the results of algorithms they have created. However, these quotations quickly reach their limits by not being truly accurate when it’s not about hyper specialized profiles in communication and marketing.
The question of legitimacy
Another approach is based on thematic analysis engines. Tools such as Traackr or Augure give you a more segmented approach of the influence by classifying experts according to research criteria determined by their users (Agencies or companies). This type of analysis completes score techniques and gives you a better idea of the different types of influencers on social networks.
Another completely different method, often manual, is to consult the profiles in a resume collection detailing the expertise of its members. The presentation of the profiles is oriented towards the promotion of the skills. The simplest indicator to find out the influence of a person could be to see the list of their skills, accompanied by third-party validations. However, this method quickly shows its limits by its unreliability. People who have never worked together on a given area of expertise can validate each other and completely distort the impression the reader will have.
Other elements that guide the observer to identify an influencer of the professional world and who give a more precise idea of its legitimacy on a topic are:
- The honors, rewards and rankings that materialize their visibility in the universe.
- Responsibilities in professional associations that reflect the trust of other professionals.
- Teaching in schools demonstrates the ability to transmit ideas and listen
- The publications, interviews and mentions in the media, show the impact in special topics
- Participation in conferences or meetings illustrates an ease in oral communication.
Despite all these available elements in just a few clicks, the human appreciation usually remains the main element that makes the difference between an influencer among a multitude of experts. In the real world, word of mouth, difficult to quantify, presence in the media or in professional events will make it possible to identify these. In the digital world, engagement will be the main criterion. Indeed, the identification of influencers on social networks is often materialized through the interaction generated by their tweets or publications and goes far beyond their number of followers (which is not anymore the main criterion). In both worlds, beyond the first circle of knowledge, the influence of a person is characterized by the diversity of his relays and his ability to propagate a signal in a network as far as possible from his point of origin.
The digital presence emphasizes the visibility of an influencer but does not create it because the notoriety is closely related to the expert knowledge of the individual. The best indicator of a person’s influence will undoubtedly be the ability to gather an audience in very different places and to not depend on a single place that may disappear. Thus, the more varied a person's impact, the more likely it will be to be perceived as an influencer.