Perks for Social Media Influencers?

One of the first things taught to us in PR is how everything is planned with a particular audience in mind. Now the big question is always who is your audience? Social media is changing the game of deciphering demographics and psychographics to reach your appropriate audience.

Most of us realize that the ads on the side of our facebook profiles reflect the information we provide about us. If you didn’t know, well now you do, so you can stop wondering why the “Find Single Girls/Guys” ad keeps popping up.

Companies are realizing though that most users don’t interact with the ads. We are using social media to make contact with friends, not be marketed to. So research has begun (always the first step) to discover links between influence and social media. An experiment devised by Bernardo Huberman at HP labs challenged two opposing theories of social influence against each other.

“Psychological reactance theory suggests that when we face opposition to our beliefs, our need for self-preservation drives us to stick to them strongly.  On the other hand, social influence and conformity theory argues that we like to feel socially connected with others and as a result will reverse our opinion if we feel it will restore that sense of belonging and self-esteem.

The research team’s results suggest that the first theory is more powerful when we’re presented with the opinions of many others, while the second has more power when we’re imagining ourselves as members of a smaller group.  It also supports earlier Labs work showing that our votes on rankings are influenced by our own desire to impact the choices of others.

‘These are all insights that online marketers can use to alter the design of their recommendation systems and thereby influence their customers’ behavior,’ Huberman suggests.”

Klout Logo

Other companies have decided that instead of forcing consumers to think masses support something, it would be more productive to find the few specific individuals who are influential in social media. Companies such as Klout measure your social influence online.

“When you create content or engage, you impact others. Klout analyzes that impact to find your Klout Score, influential topics, and your influencers. Klout is the standard for influence. Top brands such as Disney, Audi, and Turner use Klout Perks to reach and engage influencers. Over 3,000 applications and partners use Klout data to display Klout Scores, prioritize based on Score or topics, and segment users.”

Scores range from 1-100, with an average score of 20. The score and the topics that a person is influential upon help marketing people know who to contact in order to make the greatest impact in their social circles.

The real trick is that you have probably never heard about this, yet are being influenced by it without knowing it. Brands can now reward people with products or events knowing that it is likely that influencer will in turn write favorably about the company. In PR we aren’t supposed to offer incentives.  Do you think companies like Klout are bending the rules of our profession’s ethical standards?

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About John Peterson

Mass Comm Grad Student & Public Speaking GA at the University of Central Missouri. My passions include public relations, sports, travel, social media, technology, sustainability & dogs.
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