In reality it's difficult to imagine Lady Gaga and Bono in the wrestling ring. But figuratively, that's exactly where one whitepaper on social media marketing places the celebrities—in the middle of a debate over what constitutes a social media influencer and what direct marketers should do about it.
"Influencer Grudge Match: Lady Gaga vs. Bono" is, of course, more about marketing than it is about the two singers. The survey—released on Sept. 29 by Lanham, Md.-based on-demand public relations software provider Vocus and social media marketing author and speaker Brian Solis—asks 739 marketing and communications professionals, "What makes an online influencer?"
"Someone like me ... [is the] new influencer," the paper quotes of Richard Edelman, CEO of Chicago and New York-based public relations agency Edelman. That means a new influencer could be anyone, according to the survey.
To begin narrowing down the definition, the survey asks, "Is there a big difference between popularity and influence?" Ninety percent of respondents say there is, with one survey-taker making the memorable comment, "Lady Gaga is popular, Bono is influential." (This comment was recorded before Lady Gaga donned a meat dress and became politically active.)
At the same time, 84 percent of those surveyed say that influence is tied to reach—but it's about more than popularity. About 60 percent of respondents say the "quality or focus of the network" is important, with 55 percent saying quality content tied to measurable outcomes contributes to influence. And 40 percent care about the depth of the relationship an influencer has with followers.
Search engine optimization professionals topped the list—at 83 percent of respondents in this category—of the respondents willing to pay influencers to help them "drive actions or outcomes." Overall, 57 percent of those surveyed were willing to do the same. (While not mentioned in this study, it's important to note that the Federal Trade Commission requires paid endorsers to disclose that fact under the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)
In his Sept. 29 post about the survey, "Exploring and Defining Influence: A New Study," Solis concludes: "In the end, it's our job to become the influencer. We owe it—to our communities of customers, prospects and the people who affect their decisions—to lead by example. Then and only then can we master the ability to influence the influencer."
The study provides marketers five tips on how they can become influencers:
- Post content that is relevant to the audiences you are seeking;
- Engage your network—relationships matter;
- Influence is relative; size doesn't mean influence—treat everyone like a rockstar (good service is good marketing). The quality over quantity rule applies here;
- Be authentic and passionate about your work; and
- Build trust—a person you trust says "jump" and you will more likely jump than if some random celebrity says "jump."