Social Media London is back and what better way to kick-start the year than with new interesting meetups?
January’s meetup (the PeerEvening) was all about social influence – how it can help brands identify online influencers, how it helps individuals brand themselves, and how they can measure such influence – and was hosted by Craig Hughes and Ferenc Huszar from PeerIndex.
The meetup started with an introductory walkthrough of PeerIndex by Ferenc, to get everyone up to speed on the tool and what it does. It’s easy to register on PeerIndex: you connect your Twitter or Facebook profile and it’ll quickly examine your influence based on the platforms you’ve connected.
Once you’ve signed up you can add more social media platforms (e.g. LinkedIn, Quora), and PeerIndex give you a score from 1 to 100 and a list of categories (also called “benchmark topics”) you’re influential in. With our social interactions online, we can measure our influencers, who we influence, and the topics we’re influential in.
PeerIndex goes beyond measuring what topics you’re influential in – it also shows who your influencers are and who you’re influencing, as shown in the PeerIndex influence graph, which is available to anyone who signs up. It’s interesting to see that the people who influence you are not always the people you influence. To quote an example that Ferenc made during the meetup: President Obama is very influential on Twitter and he’s the person with the highest PeerIndex score (96/100); yet the same people he influences on Twitter don’t necessarily influence him. This is because influence is not a mutual relationship.
PeerPerk is a new addition and it’s one way of PeerIndex to reward people for their social media efforts. So, if someone’s influential in a specific topic, a brand may choose to provide perks related to that.
Delving in the subject of social influence, we soon find that influence is not an easy subject to tackle – in fact, social influence is a concept as hard as human intelligence.
However, if we were to give social influence a definition, it wouldn’t have anything to do with the activity, volume of connections, their reliability or trustworthiness, but rather “the ability of individuals to alter opinions, beliefs and behaviours of people in a community via their behaviours and actions”. Having said that, we should not mistake an influencer for an expert – in fact, an influencer is not necessarily the best expert in his area of influence.
So, how does social influence work? It’s easier for our actions to alter other people’s opinions when our messages are social as opposed to just informational (hence why social recommendations are now more influential than traditional advertisement).
If we take a closer look at social influence online, we’ll notice that it does differ from gender to age:
- Women are less susceptible to influence than men.
- Women are more influential than men.
- Young people are more susceptible to influence.
- Young people are more prone to be influenced by their peers..
Social influence shouldn’t be taken lightly – though it’s a key to endorse products and goods via campaigns, the power of the influence ultimately comes down to sharing good, interesting and engaging content.
As part of this, what was also discussed was the so-called ‘friendship paradox’, which states that people have less friends than their friends have on average. As a direct consequence, you can identify the various hubs (or nodes) in a specific community.
Why does social influence matter?
The second half of the meetup went even deeper in the philosophy and study of marketing, and Craig guided us through the ways social influence plays an important role in marketing. To begin this, we were asked to do a little exercise – writing the name of someone we know on a piece of paper and putting it in a blue bag. This was to see who was the most influential person in the room – a social experiment.
Craig raised an important question: why should I care? In fact, why should we care about our social media influence? Why do we need to understand the effects of such influence and what difference can it make to us as individuals or to our brand?
We touched on a few concepts, the first one being social capital. We can’t really talk about social influence without considering social capital. Brands and individuals get benefit from this capital, the social influence of people online. Social media has changed the way social capital works, by not only giving us a voice which we use to be social online, but also by giving everyone a platform to voice their opinions and thoughts, hence democratising social capital.
Everyone has a level of social influence, and brands are realising it now more than ever. This relates to the so-called customer-network value, also known as customer lifetime value – how valuable you are as a customer and how likely it is that you would influence others to become one with your social capital.
Build your brand in a way that’s appealing for others to share your brand. Remember: 92% of people trust authentic recommendations and word of mouth, while less than 50% trust traditional advertising. Now ask yourself: how can you use this to expand your brand? Who is consistently driving conversation and engineering around topics relevant to you and your brand?
Another concept that was tackled was the theory of the magic middle: in the pyramid of all the social influencers of your brand, the top influencers make up 20% of that pyramid, and this 20% doesn’t necessarily include celebrities or top bloggers. In fact, there may be hundreds, thousands, if not millions of influencers you can work with who are not top celebrities but just people who are very influential in your same area.
This brings us to the last topic of discussion of the night – the three ways of marketing: marketing to, marketing through, and marketing influencers:
- Marketing to influencers involves showing appreciation to influencers for spreading the word, as those are the people who are going to buy.
- Marketing through influence is essentially B2B and collaborating with your influencers, while building a relationship with them.
- Marketing with influencers is more beneficial in the long-term, especially ROI-wise. This is not just occasionally collaborating, but actually building a long-lasting relationship between you, your brand, and your trusted influencers.
I had already used PeerIndex prior to the meetup, and I’m still using it. However, with other competitors in the business, such as Klout and Kred, it begs the question – which one is the best? I personally use all of the above together for different reasons: Klout seems to be more social, Kred offers the most functionality-wise in a great interface, while PeerIndex sits nicely in the middle, with a big focus on segmenting your areas of influence.
As for the influencers vs. influencing, I found very interesting how only the people who talk about the same subjects as I do are both in my influencers and influencing list. So, yes, ‘this is because influence is not a mutual relationship’, and not only that – I’ll also go as far as saying that when influence becomes a mutual relationship it’s often because two people are influential in the same topics.
PeerIndex is a great tool to see a breakdown of your influence, and for the security-conscious you CAN keep your profile private too.
From what I’ve seen so far, PeerIndex doesn’t put an emphasis on ranking you or just giving you a vague number, but it actually provides valuable information on your influences.
One personal observation – I would also count trustworthiness of a person too as a pivotal factor towards the final influence score that PeerIndex provides. In fact, I have to trust someone well enough for them to alter my opinions on whatsoever subject.
Even though the actual algorithm used by PeerIndex to calculate social influence is kept secret, I’d really love to see it and discuss it. This evolves as more data is gathered, so it adapts to you. And though I don’t know exactly how the algorithm works into detail, I do know that it doesn’t merely count the number of tweets and retweets that my tweets garner, and it doesn’t merely rely on the number of followers – it’s a lot deeper than that, and that’s one of the many reasons why you should check out PeerIndex.