The changing nature of influentials and the role of the social graph

August 25th, 2009 / 09:08 by Ross Dawson

We weren’t the first to use the phrase ‘Future of Influence’. Most prominently Nate Elliott of Forrester wrote a report ‘The Future of Influence‘ (though you’re better off going to Future of Influence Summit than buying the report :-) ) and has done a number of presentations on the theme.

Nate summarizes the topic:
* As Users Become More Active in Recommending Products and Services, New Influence Challenges Volume of Classic Influence
* The Growth of New Influence Will Overwhelm Some Users, Reinforcing the Value of Personal Recommendations from Known Sources
* Marketers Should Focus on Classic Influentials to Drive Direct Action, Encourage Them to Make Off-line Recommendations

Nate’s presentation below describes the difference between what he calls ‘Classic Influentials‘ (who exert passive influence by responding to requests for information) and ‘New Influentials‘ (who exert influence by proactively giving advice).

A key focus in this analysis is user reviews. As we get a critical mass of reviews of products and content, this becomes a better source of information to consumers. However simple recommendation behaviors, for example in Twitter, are also being aggregated to provide information that guides decisions and behaviors.

While the Forrester analysis emphasizes that recommendations from known sources carry the highest value, the balance is shifting for a number of reasons.

* The increasing number of contributors of opinions and recommendations creates a deeper pool with more useful and representative information.

* The use of ‘social graph’ information to highlight or overweight the recommendations of people with similar profiles makes these closer in credibility to those from known sources such as friends.

* Reputation systems are beginning to help filter the quality of recommendations – again fueled by the social graph.

As Nate points out, influence is hardly a new phenomenon. We are now well past the key step of immersive connectivity meaning that individual influence can be scaled to any degree.

The key issue now is the changing nature of influentials, and how our increasing array of personal links and connections is creating a substantial different influence landscape.

To learn far more on this topic, go to Future of Influence Summit!