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!
some tagline for would you take...

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Photos from the Drupal Conference in San Francisco, CA 2010

Thursday, Jun 06, 2010

Would you take architecture advice from O.J. Simpson? A blog post about Social Media Influence.

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I am fascinated by Social Media influence. I find it interesting that a lot of people assume just because you have a lot of followers it makes you influential in some way, or if because you get re-tweets a lot you are a celebrity of some sort.

Normally this would be the part of the blog post where I shoot down this theory and make a pop culture reference that will evoke a smile and then send you on your way so we can all go back to doing whatever else is on the schedule but instead I am going to agree with an asterisk and explain why these social media folks are “celebrities” but like most celebs they have very little influence outside of their small area of expertise and here is why.

O.J. Simpson is a celebrity.

No one ran like O.J and by all accounts he was a super nice guy but I would never ask for advice on architecture from “The Juice” because that is not something he is an expert on. Now if I was needing advice on how to kill someone, get away with it and tour the country playing golf before getting thrown in jail for something really stupid then that is something I would totally trust OJ to advise me on.

What I am getting at is that Celebrities do have influence but not for things they know nothing about. I got to thinking about this after a talk Scott Stratten gave a few weeks back. Before I show you this I should point out that I have nothing against Scott, I have written about him a few times on my blog because he has a different viewpoint then I do on some things and inspires me to write about my side of a discussion. I do wish him well, think he is a very entertaining speaker and think you all should buy his book and continue to make him a celebrity and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE realize that I am not comparing Scott to OJ in any way…I just used OJ as an example cause, well OJ is funny to me.

In a talk he was explaining to a group of Financial Advisers how influential he was online and said [notice the quotes] “I have more influence over the Canadian Financial Advisers then you do” This statement couldn’t be farther from the truth (my opinion) because no one in Scott’s network is going to trust him with their retirement plans or money in general to invest on their behalf. You see just like OJ, Scott’s expertise is in Social Media and the tools etc and while he can (and I assume) does consult to all sorts of industries on how to do what he does best but we as Social Media folks can’t assume that our influence will cross over to anywhere we want it to go and our followers will blindly follow us no matter where we try to take them…and to take this a little further we must realize that whatever influence we do have over people comes from trust and proving over and over we know what we are talking about in our little slice of expertise.

Influence isn’t all encompassing. I don’t buy into celebrity endorsements but will listen to celebrities talk about their craft for hours. When people rank influence there needs to be a clearer explanation on what the folks are being judged on. I imagine there are folks on Twitter with a few hundred followers but own a lot of trust in a sub culture like a genre of music or a style of art that have those few hundred people hanging on every word and are equally influential to them as any of the Twitter Celebrities.

There are a few valuable and different lessons in here but…am I right? Honestly, I want you to use your own judgment and not use my influence over you to make you agree with me.

  1. There was a comment that came in from an Anonymous (Please Note that I am posting it as myself because there was on paragraph that was a little too much of an attack on Scott for my liking and have removed it. I have not edited any other part of the comment. I would have left it in if it was attributable to someone):

    You are absolutely correct that context and expertise matter when it comes to influence — whether online or in real life. My next door neighbor is a well known rock star hedge fund trader. He has been profiled on television, newspaper articles, etc. He's also a genuinely affable and trustworthy person. The other day he was outside cranking some tunes from his car. He called me over and we started chatting about music. He then "recommended" a new album by a middle of the road group he likes. I smiled and feigned interest. But the truth is that he did not have any context about my taste in music (indie, jazz, world) and he had no expertise as a musician or music critic. Now, if he would have recommended a stock or investment strategy I would have run back home and acted on that influence.

    All this said, real celebrities (Ashton Kutcher, Miley Cyrus, etc) can and do exert influence beyond their area of expertise. Kutcher's support for mosquito nets and malaria awareness reaches and influences a wide audience irrespective of his context or expertise in this area. So, yes, influence is generally limited to a narrow area of expertise except if you happen to be a mega Hollywood celebrity.

  2. I have received 5 very angry blog comments with personal attacks againts me because of this post. Please realize that I will be happy to post these comments if you bother to do so with your name attached.

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