Sign up to our Newsletter
In the early 10s, we've seen a growing number of companies like Kred and Klout which claim to put a value on social influence - identifying those individuals who are perceived to be trendsetters within their networks.
Now, we know there are merits to targeting people who are more inclined to amplify a brand - people who are prepared to share ideas and content have consistently demonstrated that they are also more likely to follow brands online, to buy brands in a conspicuous, trackable sense and in theory, therefore, to inspire up to 900 million others to do the same.
And indeed, looking to nVision data, we find that 1 in 2 people agree that friends and family come to them for advice. Some 60% of us, meanwhile, report that we like it when people acknowledge our posts. As we discuss in our Accumulation of Social Capital trend, it is certainly the case that many of us enjoy being seen as mavens.
But what about that theoretical top 10% - those who go even further and who are more vocal, more active, more brand friendly? Are these the super influencers, the ones you really need to motivate to talk about you?
Well, not really. In fact a comparison of ‘influencers' versus supposedly ‘super-influencers' didn't inspire us at all. If super-influencers are those who strongly agree that they're always sharing messages, this represents just 7% of the online population. And if we look at their socio-demographic characteristics and compare them to our ordinary mavens (i.e. those who agree they're always sharing messages), there's not a lot to distinguish them.
Certainly, ‘super influencers' are a bit younger and less well off than other influencers. But, on the whole, you couldn't possibly tap into them easily with an even loosely defined social profile. This also applies to their online habits; across a whole host of activities (buying online, downloading mobile apps, watching TV, social media activity) their uptake is virtually the same as our influencers. And, as the 10s evolve, the rise of our emerging Performative Leisure trend is bound to complicate the situation still further; as the mobile internet is used ever more widely, the frequency with which people broadcast details of their daily lives - as well as the content they discover online - will inevitably increase.
We would argue, then, that it's not about how many brands you follow, or how many connections you have. It's increasingly about the quality of the connection and the conversation. Similarly, it must be significant that 1 in 3 of us say that we now feel more influenced by experts than we once did. Meanwhile, an identical proportion will report that they feel less influenced by contacts on our social networks. This, we suggest, captures one of the key problems presented by the Networked Society trend - in today's (and certainly tomorrow's) ever more online society, anybody can be an influencer.
So where does this leave us?
Well, we believe that influencer marketing should be more experimental. It's not just targeting people more intelligently, it's about engaging them with more intelligent ideas. Don't leave it all to the top 10%. Explore who and what else is out there.
Posted by: Meabh Quoirin, Future Foundation