Social media influencers may not have the sway they once thought they had over their digital fans.
A study this week reported
that "self-described social media users put far more trust in friends and family online than in popular bloggers, or strangers with 10,000 MySpace "friends." In other words, while some pseudo-online celebrity bloggers may have earned a respectable legion of followers and have further earned the right to carry the mantle of being a full-blown media outlet
; their influence doesn't equal that of your good friend dropping a solid recommendation on Twitter.
"This shows that popularity doesn't always equate to credibility," said Robert Hutton, executive vice president and general manager at Pollara. "Marketers might have to reconsider who the real influencers are out there."
While marketers have largely relied on popularity as the key indicator of identifying the influentials, this study may be more evidence that Gladwell's infamous Tipping Point theory
is - if not entirely dead - well on its way to be proven incorrect.
What it does show, is that the influentials can be anyone, anywhere.
"There's some validation in the number of links and traffic someone gets," said Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president at the Nielsen Online Strategic Services division of the Nielsen Company. Yet, added Blackshaw, "understanding real influence, you have to look at a number of factors from the type of audience someone attracts, where their expertise lies, and the context in which other sites are linking to them."
This means that marketers won't be getting any shortcuts in reaching out solely to the top voices. Yes, building relationships with key individuals will always be important; but what is of greater value is the increasing number of social applications that provide a digital megaphone for customers to share their ideas, recommendations and referrals about your business. Whether it's on Facebook with the recently launched Loladex
, or on this week's latest mobile player, Socialight
; social media marketers should be thinking strategically about how to better listen to their customers.