The Illusion of Influence

It’s going to be very interesting when one of two things happens, and I’m honestly not sure which one it’s going to be first. Either everyone will simultaneously get over their new-found addiction to analyzing everyone’s online influence scores or there will be some sort of big incident wherein someone who’s obviously gamed the system in order to receive some form of perk that completely destroys whatever credibility these tools may have had.

It comes down to this: If everyone is an influencer than no one is. Sure we all have our own networked circles that our opinion might hold a bit of sway in, but that doesn’t mean that they are a good target for some sort of outreach program.

In my experience the best outreach programs are based on tons of research not just of who someone is influencing or being influenced by on Twitter or Facebook but in how they participate in entire conversations. And there are people who clients or superiors have told me must be included or whom it was assumed would be part of the program that I’ve rejected because they just don’t make sense.

This sort of wishy-washing “influence” that we’re seeing being rewarded is so transient there often isn’t even time for its mail to catch up to it. Someone who’s influential today isn’t going to be a week from now because of the way their networks shift over time.

The race to become the next “influencer” rewards the wrong behavior. Instead of truly original thinking that shakes up some assumptions and challenges people, these folks often play to the middle, staying safe and scratching itching ears. It also doesn’t take into account other forms of influence that aren’t captured in these sorts of measures, namely among people who simply *do* good work instead of talking endlessly about the good work that others do.

By Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.