Earlier this year, Twitter published an article on their developer blog about new metadata being added to the Twitter API. There were two additions – one to help identify the language of a Tweet, while the other was the ability to allow developers to “rank” Tweets.
This second addition is of particular interest when it comes to influence marketing, and how we identify influencers, since – in my opinion – it offers the potential to further dilute the ability to truly connect relevant influencers and advocates to the brands that are looking to work with them.
Now, in fairness, Twitter hasn’t divulged exactly how the ranking ability may work, apart from the option to possibly gauge Tweets by a “none”, “low”, “medium” and “high” rank. It may be there’s a lot more context to the way the API will identify these tweets.
However, in the meantime, the worry is that true influence, yet again, is being demoted to nothing more than an algorithmic rank with no real context behind it.
When this happens, it creates an “influencer elite” where those who know how to game a system are rewarded, and real influence is left to flounder.
Which begs the question, can the everyday influencer still exist?
The Grading of the Social Web
It’s not just Twitter that’s taking this approach. Take a look at Google and the importance they’re placing on their Authorship Markup algorithm. Or Facebook with its ever-changing algorithm that places more emphasis on paying for a Sponsored Story to have your content seen, versus organic appearance in a feed.
There’s no doubt that the social web is becoming an arena of rank and perceived import – yet questions remain as to the validity of the import when it’s based on how well you play with a platform’s rules.
For example, let’s say you don’t have Google Authorship enabled on your blog or website, yet you write a fantastic white paper on the origins of mankind that challenges everything we’ve believed until now.
When someone searches for “the origins of mankind” on Google, your expertise would (should) probably be the one that people should read. Yet because someone with less expertise utilizes the Authorship Markup script, they actually appear more reverential than you for that particular search.
The same goes with Twitter’s new API. Let’s say they base their authority score on the amount of retweets and engagement a tweet receives. While this is a good starting point, it lacks the more important aspects of context, perception and situation at the time.
This is particularly true when large events are happening.
Let’s say someone uses the hashtag for the Oscars to post an asinine comment about the price of popcorn at their local 7-Eleven. It gets 1,000 reweets and 500 favourites. That may appear as a high scoring tweet based on the new API.
But does it have the context of an Empire Magazine journalist in the UK only getting 20-30 retweets as he/she live-tweets from the UK? Doesn’t their expertise in the movie arena make them more authority-driven?
This is the problem with grading importance based on reactions versus instilling a true action – the sign of an influential impact. It also changes the very fabric of influence – no bad thing on its own, but when it comes to trying to clear the muddied waters of the last few years, it can add to the confusion.
Which brings us back to the topic of this post.
The Everyday Influencer and Where They Fit
One of the criticisms levied at influence marketing today is the lack of results for brands using the medium. And that’s a fair criticism.
This can be attributed to several things – generic social scores with no real relevance to the brand in question; lack of understanding and education on the brand’s behalf; and the gamification of social media channels to be seen as someone of influence.
Whatever the reason, influence has undergone some drastic changes in the last few years when compared to Dale Carnegie’s take, and not always for the better. The biggest impact this has had is in nullifying true individual influence, the kind that brands really want – and need – to connect with.
Activity and popularity online has led to people being seen as influencers, when the true influencers – the ones not worried about social scoring and perceived ranking – are those that should be the ones being identified.
These “everyday influencers” are finding themselves marginalized because they’re not playing to a computational score; nor are their hands being tied by a search engine’s goal of making you use all their products to be seen as relevant.
The problem is, these are exactly the people brands should be connecting with.
They’re the advocates; the consumer marketers; the people who truly have the ear of those that make a difference when it comes to the purchase cycle of their friends, colleagues, and peers.
As public scoring and authority plays continue to evolve and find bigger footholds across the web, the question becomes:
Can the everyday influencer still exist, when the games being played to “be” one nullify results based on much deeper questions?
I believe so. The conversation on influence is already changing and placing the emphasis where it should be – the customer. All we need do now is keep that conversation going.