No epiphany here…but the beauty of the Internet, whether as an individual or a business, is the ease of connecting with like-minded folks across the street or around the world. You don’t need to know where they live or what they do, just that you have a shared interest in organic food, craft beer or Danish design – to name a few personal favorites.
In the same breadth, one of the primary pitfalls of the Internet is the sheer volume of information and connections that can be made. Beyond a general Google search, where do you start to find out if you really do have anything in common with a stranger halfway around the world, let alone figure out what you might do together once you make that connection?
Thankfully tools have been developed to help wade through this morass of information and prioritize where to start. Klout ranks the relative influence or impact of social media communications, and tools such as GroupHigh take one step further by combining data from Klout with other online metrics to identify key influencers on a specific topic. Klout Measures Your Influence
As strategic advisors to our clients about many aspects of their communications outreach, these tools are a welcome addition to our arsenal of research resources, but they do come with limitations.
So, in search of the perfect tool, a few of us on the GFM team got together last week with some tech-minded friends in Boulder, Colo. at Beehive (a small plug for a new foodie outpost in my hometown with an eclectic menu and one of the best beer lists in town – yes, beer is becoming a theme here).
The conversation quickly focused on the distinction between influencers and advocates, and how technology can help to better identify them. The difference between the two is subtle, but important, particularly as more and more influencers, such as bloggers, are blurring the lines with pay-to-play opportunities to reach their coveted readers.
We netted out that “influencers” are those with an expertise and established platform for sharing that expertise. In most cases, the platform, such as a blog or speaker series, generates income for the influencer. Therefore, as their visibility and public awareness of their expertise increases, they become more influential, but they also become more expensive to have them review or promote a particular product or service
The Internet is also home to an entire army of “advocates” with passions and interests about a particular topic, but who are not known for their expertise as part of their profession. My love of American pottery has nothing to do with my career in public relations, but oftentimes, friends will reach out for recommendations on where to find a fantastic soup tureen or coffee cup – I do indeed have favorites!
So how do we work with clients to cull “advocates” and counsel them on the pros and cons of seeking out the most well known “influencers?”
As we approach 2013, I’ll let you know, we have some great insights on this and are continually working on new ideas and resources to further evolve our communications strategies in the New Year. While there is a wide range between Emily Schuman of “Cupcakes & Cashmere” and myself (please don’t look up my Pinterest page for at least another week), reaching out to each of us has its benefits and costs. At GFM, we’re continuing to refine this process and the value of our strategic counsel to identify the right mix of “influencers” and “advocates” for our clients.