In the digital age, a presence is essential, its absence is social death. What, not on the internet? No social media? No smartphone? Unthinkable! But equally as important, is how you make your presence felt, how readers perceive/rate you.
In an age when the majority of people have access to web services in some form, the question of influence is concerning policy makers, marketeers and those seeking to monetise it all.
The understanding of how ideas, opinions, pictures, data, gossip and stories spread, has become key to both business and internet analysis.
Idea-starters and Nobodies
David Armano of Edelman Digital, Chicago chaired a discussion panel at Pivot 2011 conference, and raised the question of the differences between digital influence and real world influence. A phenomenon called ‘The Warren Buffet Problem’ was identified. Buffet is clearly and measurably influential even into the digital world, but ‘is not personally active when it comes to his own social graph’.
Buffet is an idea-starter (and there are many such people in different spheres). The ‘nobodies’ (individuals, media, companies) spread the Buffet word acting as ‘amplifiers’. Some have more digital influence than others, but as Armano reported, ‘it all adds up’. The understanding of the whole process comes in analysing the networks for influential data.
So, what data is transmitted becomes more important than who says it. Volume speaks loud. The discussion found an additional influence: if people can ‘identify with values and lifestyles of the person or media outlet they are exposed to, they are more likely to be influenced by what the idea-starter is telling them’. This will not last forever, but for a season before the agenda moves on.
Questions Before Posting
Also on Edelman Digital, Kartik Srinivasan posted a timely warning about over-hasty posting on social media. Spontaneous acts of free thought and opinion can have repercussions. Your influence can be productive or counter-productive.
Srinivasan suggested 5 criteria to apply before posting:
- The point. Be sure the point of posting is understood. Is it to build a personal brand, an expertise? Is it to ask for information, in which case have you researched yourself first? Is it to get opinion? Is that really what you want? Be ready to evaluate, as any posting can have consequences.
- Dependencies: people. Is anybody, personally or professionally, going to be affected by your posting? Is it for your social circle, your business/work network or posterity?
- Dependencies: brands/organisations. Does your posting affect your employer? Many a staffer has been let go after making disparaging remarks on the social web. Is it going to help or hinder you and/or a brand?
- Tone. It’s hard to tell in advance what will offend people, but something will at some point. Do you have a track record of being a hit edgy? Get away with it? Content, tone, image and reader perception of the person posting are very important.
- Timing. Is this the right moment to go public with that thought? Are you around to respond or firefight any comeback? Do you want to just ignore all feedback? Engagement is the hallmark of social media and it takes time.
So, while web presence is essential (not in cyberspace and you’re socially dead), the style/manner/form of that presence is overarching. All web presence has to be influential and work in the right way.
Check out: Cascade shows precise analysis of the structures which underly sharing activity on the web. This is an early tool that links browsing behaviour to make a detailed picture of how information propagates through social media space.
Photo: Matthew Bowden