How influence works

Ed Keller
Keller Fay

It is a myth that social media is the best way to influence consumers. Most influencers are big readers of print and online publications and are socially well connected in the real world.

What is the state of the art today for identifying and marketing to consumers who have the most influence in the marketplace? Has the advent of enormous online social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, re-written the manual for influencer marketing? The answer – an emphatic 'no' – may come as a surprise to you.

Huge changes have washed over the media and marketing world since the publication of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point in 2000, which popularised the concepts of mavens, connectors and salesmen, and what Gladwell called 'the law of the few' – and since my book The Influentials in 2003, which argued in the subtitle 'One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How To Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy.' the growth of social media networks has led people to think anew about social influence. Indeed, the very definition of influence is in flux, with a growing group of practitioners arguing that influence now takes place primarily online via social networks or blogs, with their one-to­-many dynamics. Some marketers thus argue that the crucial question of who is influencing whom can be determined by looking at people's online activity, including how many people follow them online and how often their posts are shared by their followers.