Way back when, (read 1940s) Paul Lazersfield introduced emerging communication theorists and professionals to the Two-Step Flow theory of communication. Lazersfield — and later Elihu Katz — argued that media messages were intentionally consumed, interpreted and disseminated by opinion leaders, and subsequently disseminated to people within their social network. I believe it is safe to say that in 2010, the Two-Step Flow theory of communication is replaced by Social Influence, and the Opinion Leader replaced by the Social Influencer.
In my attempt take the pulse on the Social Influence discussion I did a little research. While in the process, feel in love with Josh Bernoff and Augie Ray’ Pyramid of Social Media Influence As analysts with Forrester Marketing Forum. I believe their break down serves as a useful aid for interpretation of information collected by social media influence tools such as Twitter Grader, Twitanalyzer, and Klout.
At the top of a social media influence pyramid are Social Broadcasters. This group is composed of top bloggers and social media personalities with a high number of followers attending to their messages to stay current on industry developments. Although you might assume that Social Broadcasters are likely to be the most influential in this scenario, according to Ray and Bernoff, typically this cadre is less trusted in the sense that followers may click on the links and recommendations they share but continue to evaluate data on their own terms. In other words, Social Broadcasters can generate awareness.
In the middle of this pyramid sits Mass Influencers — individuals making up about 16% of the pyramid but accounting for 80% of the influence impressions about products and services. Although this group is small in comparison to the bottom, they are important because they are most likely to click on links or review products and services discussed by the Social Broadcaster group. They also have inroads in the largest pyramid population.
The remaining 84% of the pyramid is Potential Influencers. Because “this is where the trust really is,” brands reaching out to this group can pay off big since they are your quintessential “average consumer.” In other words, individuals nestled her maintain online networks populated primarily by people they actually know in an offline context (friends, family, peers) and therefore, trust-rich communities.
So, what does social influence or the types of influencer have to do with you? Well, if you’re attempting to build a human, corporate or non-profit brand — a lot. Here is a list of few things to consider:
- Knowing your niche audiences means developing multiple messages that can be both appealing and easily shared.
- Different key audiences respond to different levels of engagement, so find ways to meet them on their own terms.
- Don’t ignore the bottom tier of the pyramid in favor of the top two. The biggest collection of individuals operating as Potential Influencers have the most power because their social networks are primarily populated by those they have an offline relationship encased in trust.