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Defining Influence for 2011

Jackie Lampugnano

For those of us in the marketing world, “influence” is a very important term. It has been an especially hot topic throughout 2010 as social media marketing continued to grow in popularity. But I bet if you asked marketers, PR pros, etc. what influence means, they’d all have a different answer.

For instance, earlier this year Brian Solis said that “influence is the ability to cause desirable and measurable actions and outcomes.”

And just the other day I read a blog post by Crenshaw Communications suggesting that “the ‘new’ influencer is the crowd.”

I like both of these definitions, but I also think they apply to different situations.

So how do you determine what influence means to you? How do you decide what type of influence helps your brand achieve its business goals?

As part of the PR crowd, I know that we ideally want to get everyone talking about our client(s). We want them to be top-of-mind—the one(s) everyone knows about. That would mean the more media placements we get for our clients, the better. Right?

Well I’m not so sure if that’s always the most beneficial approach.

What’s more important: one influencer in your niche acting as your brand advocate, or random mentions by a number of influencers that reach a large audience (some of which are not your target)?

Even if you’re lucky enough to get a steady stream of coverage in mainstream media, is that really better than hammering it home with one publication/reporter/blogger/thought leader with an audience that is EXACTLY your niche?

On one hand you want to show some diversity in coverage and expand your reach to more than one audience, but on the other hand: what if you’re already reaching the audience you need to reach?

This issue is the same with social media marketing: is the person with a million followers more influential than the one who has a thousand followers, friends, etc. that are an active part of an industry you’re trying to tap into?

And isn’t the person who engages with their network more influential than the one who just speaks at their network?

Yes, it all depends on your brand, but that’s exactly the point. Figuring out the type of influence that has an impact on your brand will help you leverage the right people for your marketing strategy.

My thought is that you probably want to start by targeting communities where your key influencer(s) live and then expand from there. Establish yourself in one spot and really own that before you move on to others.

I'm sure influence will be just as much of a hot topic in 2011 as it was in 2010 as marketing continues on the path to becoming highly targeted, personalized, relevant, two-way communication between brands and consumers. So, maybe your 2011 resolution should be to take the time to define what influence means to you.

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