Yesterday, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at the mesh conference (which I co-organize) that explored the growing focus of influence within the social media and digital spheres.
The panel featured two of the leading thinkers about influence, David Armano and Valeria Maltoni, who have spent considerable time thinking, talking and blogging (Armano and Maltoni) about why influence is important, the role it plays, how it’s measured, and how influencers can be identified and approached.
Perhaps the biggest thing to come out of the panel was it’s still early days for influence. Although influencers have always existed, social media and digital influence is still new and, as a result, there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to brands being able to harness and leverage influence and influencers.
One of the most interesting angles is that while there is a lot of chatter about tools such as PeerIndex and Klout, people are still an integral part of the influence realm. It’s people who develop relationships with influencers as opposed to algorithms. So while the tools will make it easier to identify influencers, the ability to successfully engage with them will have a big people component.
Another thing that jumped out during the panel is the importance of identifying topics as a first step to identifying and engaging with influencers. Without a focus of what you’re interested in, it can be a difficult to discover the most relevant influencers. In some respects, it’s akin to listening as a first step toward social media monitoring.
By the end of the panel, there was lots of great insight, information and advice delivered but no one went away thinking they had cracked the influence “nut”. If anything, people recognized influence is a huge challenge, and that the approaches, methodologies and tools are still being developed.