Despite so much noise about how social media has radically changed the rules of PR and marketing, the fascination with social media influencers is proof of a persistent desire in our industry to take the same old shotgun approach to publicity and dress it up in a new media veneer.
In the influencer game, everyone with high enough readership, or an audience large enough to be considered influential gets pitched for campaigns without a lot of thought to whether the message they’re asking these influencers to deliver is relevant to those in his/her network. Even Virgin America is jumping on the social media influencer bandwagon with free tickets to what it considers influential Twitter users.
Doesn’t this dance sound familiar? Simply pitch everyone with a soapbox tall enough to carry your message to their audience?
Stop Schmoozing and Find People Who Actually Care
It doesn’t matter how much influence someone wields if the message is irrelevant to their audience.
When this happens, the audience predictably tunes out. Everyone loses. A friend of mine once described this phenomenon with the analogy of tapping an influential hippie to talk to their audience about deodorant. Silly, yes, but you get the point.
When a message is relevant enough, and the delivery is passionate enough, that relevance leads to resonance, which can actually create mass influence. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore are all examples of individuals who were basically nobodies without a relevant message, whether or not you agree with their position or politics. Many of the people who influence me on a daily basis do so through being relevant (none of them are famous for the sake of being famous). When it resonates, I listen.
Influence may be able to create short-term buzz, but a relevant message can spark a movement.
I’m not recommending you ignore people who are influential, but journalists have been preaching the gospel of relevance to PR practitioners for years. There is nothing new about switching players in the same old game.
Social media tools offer new ways for companies and brands to increase perceived relevance with consumers, journalists and stakeholders of many stripes. The fascination with influencers in social media marketing seems downright, well… retro.
Little Bloggers Grow Up Fast
This is a message I received loud and clear from Liz Strauss a couple years ago. Since I’m only two years into publishing this blog, you might consider me a testament to her theory. Make friends with those online participants and content creators who truly care about your company, your mission and your brand, or who are passionate about something aligned with the mission of your business (some might call this common ground). That may not get the short term spike in online buzz you’re looking for, but you may just spark a real, lasting movement.
At the very least, shouldn’t we all be thinking about both influence AND relevance in equal measure?
Photo Credit: MightyBoyBrian