My name is Saul! I'm an award winning Word of Mouth Marketer, Professional Speaker on the subjects of Social Media, Customer Service and best of all... Word of Mouth. I collect Air Force One sneakers and think you should hire me... (as a consultant) to teach you how to get your company doing interesting things!
the smartest man in the world.

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Photos from the Drupal Conference in San Francisco, CA 2010

Thursday, Jun 06, 2011

Influence, The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus walk into a bar…

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Influence is a real hot topic right now and the most interesting part about it is how everyone is trying to either measure it or justify it but like the title of this post hints, Influence is just like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus…a lie people tell kids who want to believe in something they can’t explain.

Yep, I’m here to lay claim to the theory that “influence” as we think of it doesn’t exist.

You see what we all think is “Influence” is nothing more then “Audience”. Let me explain, with a few examples.

Last week I was at Canada’s best Tech conference MESH and sat in on a panel on influence with David Armano. David gave an example of his own influence by sharing a story of how he took a woman and her family into his house during an “at risk” time for them and gave them a hand by providing shelter as well as raising some money for her (over 16k, 3x the hoped for goal).

Before I say anything else it is worth mentioning that his act of generosity and unselfishness is pretty incredible and the world would be a better place if more people did what David here.

So yes this is an amazing thing but is it influence? I say no because it wasn’t the “ask” from David that moved people to donate but rather the cause, so it really wasn’t David changing people’s mind or opinion (my definition of influence) but rather broadcasting the situation and introducing it to people so they could decide on their own if they wanted to help.

Not influence but audience.

Taking the idea further, when Pop Chips or Tasimo Coffee, or whoever sends a case of their product to an “influencer” would they be satisfied if they locked themselves in their basement and binged ate the product and didn’t tell any friends or do they send cases so that the influencer will share within his/her peer group. They probably want them to share.

Again not influence but audience.

So final thought on this (for this post at least) is a little something about Klout Scores. I noticed today that Klout has added context to their scores by saying a person is Influential in certain areas ie: marketing, social media, and in my case “Prince” (not sure if it is the Singer or the Boy who would be King) but the one thing they don’t mention in their rankings is that whatever score I have and whatever verticals I am influential in still is only in the sphere of my social graph.

SO acording to Klout,  I am inflential on the subject of Prince (and for the record I am way more a fan of Morris Day and the Time)  to the people who follow me on Twitter/FaceBook and only those people.

Again not influence but audience.

Real influence is getting people to change their mind or opinion on something…not introducing something to you…and all I see with most “influencers” is a lot of introducing you to things.

What says you?

  1. Klout says I’m influential on Barack Obama and maple syrup. Great post by the way.

  2. You don’t think some of these folks trying out and talking about the product are actually “influencing” others to buy the product?

  3. Also: I am influential about beards.

  4. Hey Rayanne!

    I don’t disagree with you but if I intro’d you to a product that you are absolutely agaist, something like sauce, and would you buy it?

    I think (and probably didn’t explain this well enough) is that the theory currently is that your friends are just like you, so if you identify one, you are really identifying many. This logic is very sound and still effective but I still think it’s audience and not influence.


    P.S. I miss you.

  5. I have also been omphaloskepsis/schlepping about influence and Klout. From the perspective of an almost virgin with no Klout, I have imagined scenarios to game system and acquire the special K in this new decade. Most likely I will not attempt these, yet the idea of influence with a conversion aspect seems to be what you might be hinting around, or even a Socratic re-direction of opinions outside one’s own realm….finally, you spoke once of it being no problem if you sponsor an event and no one comes…..the real problem,as I see it, is if one person shows up and you can’t win them over….have a great weiner monday

  6. Just interviews Tom from Empire Ave on my show today ( – thanks for letting me plug it!)

    Tom and the EmpireAve team are now of the opinion that you can’t really measure influence at the present time with the present tools. so much so that Empire Ave has changed their business model to make it more about gaming and connecting with people of similar tastes.

    Interesting times.


  7. Saul, recently I sat next to you on a flight from tampa to orlando, it was nice chatting withyou.. my question is: If it isnt a sales persons influence, is it the perception of the audience that they need something that makes it effective? Many times in my automotive field it is easy to sell something to repair a car because the individual needs the vehicle back to get through day to day life… A great deal of our income originates in the custom or aftermarket, do we simply play to the audience that already desires, or influence a fresh uneducated group who may desire but is uninformed?

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