We had a call today posing the question of how to work with Influencersin your community. I compared community influencers similar to how theindustry works with Analysts. Many organizations have Analyst Relationsteams whose sole job is to interact and communicate with analysts thatcover their products or services. Analysts come from many origins, butare usually recognized as experts in their topic, and hold a primaryjob function to cover the topic, or consult and interact with manycompanies, the press or other customers about the topic.
It's not a far stretch to say that leading bloggers, forum members, andothers who interact in a community are starting to gain (or evenbecome) the same status. The primary difference for most is the"amateur" status: rather than "being an expert" as their official job(the professional analyst), they are experts because of an existingjob, function or coverage they have. However, my point is that weshouldn't disregard them because of their amateur status. In fact,quite the opposite: this represents an opportunity to work with otherwho can help spread the word.
For the converted, this is not news, but in general this is still a newnotion. In fact, many organizations haven't even considered how toaddress this new population of amateur-analysts. They are looking for anew generation of PR/AR people who do get it. Businessweek's July 24th issue raises this issue.
On the other hand, some have (see the Nike examplein that article). Or on the other hand, there's the current debate onblogging-for-pay, where some bloggers are looking to get paid for theiractivities when in relation to product mentions, etc. I find thisdebate not very surprising when you consider this is already exists inthe field of professional-analysts. What is happening is that they aretrying to make a transition from amateur to professional status.
That is a bigger leap than a lot of people may think.
It's more than a matter of showing that you have X number of people whoread your blog, hence you should be paid $Y. In fact, what it points tois the somewhat mysterious/mystical reputationfactor. Anyone who tells you they have an equation for fame is talkinghorse's eggs (it's one my mom's favorite Bengali sayings: ghorar-dim).
This circles back to our Influencers and trying to figure out who theyare, and how to support them. With the social networking software oftoday, however, it is possible to learn some general behaviors like howmany people read something you've written, how often they may come backto it, what they think of your posting, etc. (Obviously, this onlyenters the picture when the influencer in questionwants to actually participate in this. Otherwise, you'd be running intosome heavy privacy invasions.) You need a number of different softwareelements to find that out, including a good metrics collection andanalysis system, a ratings system, per-user histories, peer networks,etc. This is more than a few separate pieces of social software we aretalking about, which means a lot of investment in developing the righttools. It's already going on in the industry as apparent by the growingnumber of social software sites and products that many new startups aretrying to capitalize on. So, there is and will be many different waysfor companies to start leveraging social systems.
But what is the value to the company? How do you even value somethinglike that, especially when they are so widespread across many differentsocial networking sites, tools, all of which provide different types offeatures, metrics, etc.
Many web sites in the industry have generally agreed upon the UniqueVisitor metric as a common measurement for people coming to sites, buthow do you measure reputation.Just because you have a lot of people reading the post, does notnecessarily mean you have any kind of influence over them. In fact, thepopulation may actively dislike an influencers views. Amusingly enough,this reminds of how Howard Stern became a big hit: not just his fansbut also those anti-fans listened to his show. Because of how thetraditional Wanamaker advertising model works (see my earlier post),it is considered a success. Is this still true in the evolvingpin-point targetted marketing model available on the Internet? (I'msure Mr Stern's producers certainly hope so: can he deliver on his$500M salary).
Do we need an industry-wide reputation metric? Is that even possible?Would this have any impact on what people use now: the traditional CPMadvertising/marketing metric model?
Well to get off the pontification of where it may go, I'll step into what we are thinking in terms of a reputation model next...
Are bloggers/community members the new analysts?