Is “Influencer” even worse than “Disruption” ?

I am hardly appreciative of the prose of this newspaper: rabid, extremist, abrasive in general it makes me stop reading halfway through.

The topic however is interesting, as it calls one of the big bluffs of modern marketing, i.e. the role of influencers.

Let me start with a disclaimer: I am absolutely convinced the concept of “influencer” is a sound one: I get influenced by other people in my opinion-forming process, and I am convinced so we all do.

For example, my opinions in foreign policy are influenced by Sergio Romano, in distributed computing by Werner Vogels, in divulgation of physics by Richard Feynman, in mobile phones by Tomi Ahonen, in macroeconomy by Thomas Piketty, in Open Source by Eric S. Raymond. But on tractor lawnmowers I am influenced by Beppe (whose surname I don’t know), in heat pumps by Stix66 (whose name AND surname I don’t know).

How did I choose my influencers?

Well, like we all do: I came across some of their commentary on topics that were relevant to me: I appreciated the quality of commentary, shrewdness of perception or analysis to the point it made me read more, listen more, watch more.

They are my useful beacons of knowledge I can turn to when something related to their domain comes across my stream, and contribute to shape my understanding of those domains.

In other words, the concept of “influencer” is IMHO completely centered on the influenced. Just how ridiculous it is to instead focus on the influencer?

influencerIf influencers are chosen by their own audience on the basis of what they say or write, how can someone be an influencer tout court?

Influencer in what?

Influencer to whom?

This is another attempt to paint a coat of “modern” on very old marketing: we say that we embrace the concept of “segment of one”, but we don’t want to take the trouble to really understand it, so we look for proxies that will make our life easier.

We say that we want to engage in individual conversations, but the old world of cozy relationships with the anointed media through a highly specialised department was much easier to deal with and – most importantly – to control.

Another consequence is that the arrow of the influencer → influenced relationship is monodirectional: I can say mr. X influences me, but mr. X cannot say he influences me. Is like being cool. Your friends can say you are cool, but saying it about yourself is desperately, utterly uncool.

Which casts a wannabe light on anyone whose bio includes this qualification.Screenshot 2016-04-22 11.35.18

Take my good friend Sean Gardner (@2morrowknight): he is a Twitter star, has a million followers, but do you see the word “Influencer” in his bio? Well, me neither.

So, how do you find the “real” influencers? Can you work with them? Does the expression “influencer marketing” carry ANY meaning?

The answers to all these questions is “Yes” if you don’t cut corners.

“Influencers” cannot be separated from “Domains”, so the first thing you need is a clear domain map; once you have this map (or Ontology if you like unusual words) you will pepper it with influencers and once you have this enhanced map you can devise you own content strategy to engage them – and their audience – in a relevant way.

But that is the subject of another post or two


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