From Any to Many: The Collective Influence

By Jen Charlton, June 2, 2011

We recently hosted a thought leader event about  Collective Influence at our SF Social Media Command Center. The panel was moderated by Irina Slutsky of AdAge and featured:

Jeffrey W. Hayzlett, Best-Selling Author, Change Agent and Sometime Cowboy

Porter Gale, Vice President of Marketing, Virgin America

Elisa Steele, Chief Marketing Officer, Yahoo

Jodee Rich, CEO, PeopleBrowsr

We brought this group of marketers together to tackle some very difficult questions that all of us, across the industry, have been working to answer. What is Collective Influence? Why is it important? How do we define influence, measure it and determine ROI?

We dream a lot about what influence means, both for our “little” brothers and the Fortune 500 companies. Jodee shared with the group as a “must read,” Duncan Watts’ recently published book, “Everything is obvious once you know the answer” …

For the first time in human history, the social sciences are being quantified. We have the ability to rigorously quantify data from conversations, bringing civilization closer to validating various communication theories.

Little brothers are banding together and exerting extraordinary influence on social networks like Twitter, as they ReTweet each other, @reply in conversations, and rapidly share news and other forms of content. Individuals are creating influence networks.

Previously we thought of influence as having the highest number of followers. Now we’re approaching influence as “relative influence”, determined by having the most number of friends in your network that are talking about your brand or topic of interest.

Influence is personal. It’s shifting from the celebrity to the individual. Everyday people are coming together and forming a greater influence chain than celebrities alone could create.

As Jeffrey Hayzlett so eloquently described, “Influence is moving from eyeballs and ears to hearts and minds”.

Understanding influence requires understanding the personal connection, the emotion behind the brand, the relevancy to the person and the degrees of separation on the interest graph.

Finding influencers requires listening…

During the panel, Jeffrey described why he created the world’s first position for Chief Listening Officer at Kodak. The CLO acts as the company’s “air traffic controller” directing social conversations to the appropriate internal departments.

Jeffrey gave the example of how connecting with customers via social media influenced product development. A customer tweeted Kodak to ask if they would consider placing microphones on their cameras, and the Kodak social media team was able to reroute that conversation. By the next product cycle, Kodak had integrated the feature.

This is a powerful way of showing how social media can be used to engage with customers to influence product decisions. But what is the ROI of influencer engagement?

Elisa Steele offered this interesting insight when discussing what influencers bring to your bottom line. Marketers can begin to approach influencer value in terms of brand assets. The value is in leveraging your brand champions to be evangelists and ambassadors for your messaging.

Porter Gale described how 80% of transactions occur online for Virgin America, and how social streams surrounding point of sale could influence buying behavior. Influencers have a real potential to effect purchase habits.

From e-commerce to product development, customer reviews, loyal evangelism and buying behavior, influencers are effecting the way we make decisions.

Throughout the evening, moderator Irina Slutsky asked many  thought-provoking questions that garnered sound-bite-worthy answers.

Here’s a clip of the panel:

One of the more exciting moments came at the conclusion of the discussion, during the Q&A, when Porter announced she had a free Virgin America flight for anyone who could define “Collective Influence”.

Crowd-sourcing the definition was a blast, and the winner was chosen by the amount of applause…

Laura Fitton won a Virgin America flight to New York for her summary definition of Collective Influence:

“Where the message becomes the influencer and one to many becomes ANY to many. The human network amplifies good stuff!”

Collective Influence is about how anyone, anywhere can have impact and reach across social media streams. And that’s why brands should be listening for real-time engagement.

We’d like to thank you for listening and appreciate everyone showing their support. We had a fantastic time hosting the event and would especially like to thank our sponsors, Silicon Valley Bank, for the generous wine donation.

Here are a few snapshots of the evening…

 

We were very happy to have over 200 tweets to the hashtag #CollectiveInfluence!

Search the stream for #CollectiveInfluence on ReSearch.ly!
http://research.ly/%23CollectiveInfluence

The event was a great way for us to involve marketers into the conversation of Influence. This topic has been top of mind for us at PeopleBrowsr for a while now.

Last month, Jodee spoke at AdAge Digital 2011 in New York, where we released a fun, short cartoon deck on the Social Media Influencers.

 

At PeopleBrowsr, we’re deep diving into this topic and developing new algorithms and methodologies for relevant, customized influencer engagement.

Stay tuned for more, and please feel free to reach out to us on Twitter @PeopleBrowsr, email us at contact@PeopleBrowsr.com or comment here on our blog.