Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Understanding Influencers

Following my friends in the social media PR world on Twitter and at in-person events, I often hear the talk about identifying influencers and reaching out to them. But who exactly are influencers and how can you identify who they are?

In Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, he examines this to some extent: the people with wide networks who can help spread the word on something he calls Connectors.

Stephen Abram
has posted a great movie from R+I Creative about influencers (which I have re-posted below), and along with it has posed some questions for library folk:

Libraries are a very misunderstood ‘brand’. In some respects we are that “book, books and nothing but books” image and positioning. How do we make the library brand broader in our users’ consciousness?

Do we understand the influencers in libraryland?

Who among our users are influencers?


Who are the library opinion leaders – those who infuence library folk and those who influence broader social networks?

It's not very often I see people in libraries reaching out to influencers specifically, apart from perhaps well-planned marketing campaigns to raise funding for something. What about day-to-day, do we know who are influencing our library users? Who are setting the trends, who are identifying the trends? Do we try to connect with them, learn from them, and perhaps even influence them?

In libraryland I certainly see Stephen himself in this role, but there are plenty of others. The trick is to look beyond our immediate roles, our immediate world, look to other groups, other communities, other industries, to see what is happening. So often ideas are pollinated from one area to another, you can literally see an idea spreading, morphing, becoming adopted over time. That is how futurists are many times able to make predictions, they look to see what already exists somewhere else and thinks about how that will have an impact down the road.

Anyway, regardless of whether you are in the library world or not, this video is very interesting, entertaining and informative:

INFLUENCERS FULL VERSION from R+I creative on Vimeo.

This movie is a keeper--great catch, Stephen!

So, who influences you? How do they influence you--are they people you have contact with on a daily basis, are they people in your family, in your workplace, in your industry, or in the media?


Wendy Reynolds said...

A question that has pestered me since I read The Tipping Point, is whether one can *decide* to become an influencer. This is perhaps an extension of the "leadership" question - are leaders born or made?

Becoming influential may be a similar sort of exercise - you become influential by being visible. Express opinions, engage in the discourse, and perhaps others will come to value what you have to say.

And then there's the whole challenge of *measuring* influence...

Hmm - you've given me lots to think about, Connie!

Connie Crosby said...

Fantastic question, Wendy! Gladwell implies that one is kind of a naturally born influencer, doesn't he? I'm sure there is part of that to it, but how do you become influential in the first place?

I would never thought someone like me who started off extremely shy could influence anybody, and yet I probably do to some extent with my blogging, Twitter, writing and speaking. So I think it is probably a little of both.

I don't buy a lot of the measures used to gauge influence, many seem too arbitrary, but I guess the key is looking at what *type* of influence one wants to measure, and then being consistent in measurement across people/communication vehicles.