A couple of decades after the advent of the World Wide Web, the Internet, and social media are omnipresent in our society. They influence how we operate and our behaviors in most aspects of our daily lives; from home to school, work to personal relationships and leisure. There’s a transfer of power and influence in favor of users, and it requires organizations to react.
The accessibility of information, combined with the diffusive power of technology, is changing our cognitive approach to knowledge, and favoring the expression of users. The influence of peer-to-peer recommendations and the impact of word-of-mouth have definitely downgraded traditional consumer advertising.
The web and social media have become the main source of information and communication for the new generation of connected consumers.
Today, with new aggregation, curation, and publishing tools, any user can produce and distribute content. Through the various social platforms, some users stand out and become influencers in their community.
Companies and organizations can reap many benefits by building lasting and equitable relationships with these leaders.
The 3 Main Types of Influencers
Social media influencers can be grouped into 3 main categories that are positioned in the pyramid of influence.
- The influencers and opinion leaders: They represent less than 10% of social media influencers, but produce and disseminate relevant content through their communities which will then be amplified. These are the experts who express their ideas, and who maintain conversations and exchanges on social networks, sharing their knowledge. It’s also the opinion leaders of different interest communities that have developed recognized expertise in their sector. They influence important audiences and the reach of their message is often significant. Their contribution and cooperation generally depend on the quality of their relationships with the organizations that use them, and their impact will be long-term.
- Celebrities and ¨influenceratis¨: The celebrities of social media are usually stars and media personalities, who benefit from large audiences already acquired via traditional channels. These are also the new ¨influenceratis¨ found on the exchange platforms and blogs with large audiences in targeted niches. Although they represent approximately 25% of social media influencers, the viral impact of their message is very large, and rapidly creates the illusion of a majority. However, their participation is usually limited to sponsorship or as a spokesperson, which is similar to traditional advertising. Relationships with celebrities and ¨influenceratis¨ are commercial, and their impact is ultimately limited in time.
- Ambassadors and connected consumers: They will emerge from the other 65% of users, and are found among both consumers and employees (staff and partners). They join small targeted communities, and their influence is organic and often difficult to reverse. They exchange content and naturally share their comments in their community, and become either the best ambassadors or worst critics for companies and organizations. Because they often find themselves on the front line, the impact of their recommendations is crucial for organizations.
The 5 Levels of Learning and Influence
1 – Learning to navigate a new ecosystem (discovery)
Digital learning begins at the first step of the social media pyramid of influence. Initially, all users (including influencers and opinion leaders) should become familiar with and learn to navigate safely in this new ecosystem of the Web and social networks, where every action and each word uttered contribute to its digital footprint.
2 – Secure digital identity (security)
During this initial phase, the main challenge for companies and organizations remains to secure their digital identity. This is the basis of the reputation we create on social networks. At this stage, professionals define the use of different platforms, their social media safety strategy, and policies and structure further their web and social media presence.
This is also the time to set up basic (and later advanced) monitoring of branded search results to keep an eye on who is talking about you and determine what you can do to impact the sentiment of those online publications.
3 – Develop community (sharing)
This is the 3rd level of the pyramid and influencers are beginning to stand out among professionals and affirm their leadership and brand image. They engage in conversation in chat rooms and discussion forums, and they share comments, content and photos relevant to their community.
This content is amplified through their blogs and various social platforms and their social capital can be measured. This is where they start exploring new tactics and tools. No social media influence grows without the help of innovative technology. These tools are Sprout Social, Canva, Lightroom, Wix, and many others.
4 – Establish its networking (estimated)
At this stage, companies and organizations seek more influencers to participate in presentations, training workshops, or coaching. The influencer’s work is widely published online, and they offer webinars on different platforms.
Community leaders are now exploiting new tools for the exchange, aggregation, and distribution of content, and begin to exert an influence. That’s when the ¨influenceratis¨ and celebrities emerge.
5 – Confirming its leadership and influence (realization)
In the last step of the pyramid, influencers further confirm their leadership, collaborating on businesses and organizational projects, and presenting lectures at corporate and institutional events.
Their works are often studied in business schools while celebrities and ¨influenceratis¨ reap the short-term fruits of glory with companies.
Digital and Social Transformation of Organizations
Digital and social transformation is a challenging process. No one escapes, not even influencers, regardless of the type, and they must climb the ladder one by one.
The opinion leader who embarks on social media for the first time will have to become familiar with the use of these new tools before they can claim leadership in this new ecosystem. Before exercising some influence on their community, ¨influenceratis¨ will also have built a large network and have developed a strong personal brand that is worth the viral impact they achieve.
The company ambassadors and influencers among consumers emerge unexpectedly in the adoption curve of social media, depending on the context of the situation. Even though they’re unpredictable, they remain the pillars of influence marketing in social media. In fact, they should be at the center of priorities. A lack of cooperation or support can cause a real disaster for marketing campaigns on the web and social media.
Each of these influencer types require different tactics allowing businesses to reach out to and start building beneficial relationships with them. Take some time to research your niche influencers and create a personalized strategy for your mutual collaboration.