The Caveat of Influence – Influencableness

A lot of people talk about “influence” or “influencers” or “influencing the influencers” but no one really talks about the ying to the yang of influence. This line, from “Connected” by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, itself citing Duncan Watts et al really puts this small, but vitally important point, into perspective.

It turns out that influential people are not enough: the population must also contain influenceable people, and it may be that the speed and diffusion of an innovation is more dependent on the proportion and number of the latter group than the former.

via Make Marketing History: Influenceables Outpoint Influentials.

I defer to John Dodds on the analysis but for me, it is important to realise that I am more influencable from certain people than others. My level of influencableness varies from person to person, brand to brand and organization to organization, depending on myriad of various things. Things which include the depth of my relationship with the person, brand or organisation. The number of times we’ve engaged. The quality of their contribution to the quality of my life. My pre-existing bias or preconceptions on the person, brand or organisation – which may be based from my on- or offline experiences.

Clearly these things differ not just for the person who is influencable but for the brands who are trying to influence them. You could drive yourself crazy trying to segment down to each and every person but as we know, we can’t be all things to all people.

It’s tough to try and influence people. It’s tough to try and influence the people who influence them. It’s tough to put people into the frame of mind where they are receptive to being influenced.

This post doesn’t have the answers, just a small piece of insight to help guide your own thinking. If you do have the answers, please share in the comments below!

5 Responses to The Caveat of Influence – Influencableness

  1. John Carson says:

    I like these kinds of posts, Ed! (Chicken and the egg stuff.)

    So … someone is labelled an “influencer.” That’s subjective. I might read that person’s knowledge, and think nah, and move on. But someone has been influenced by that person.

    Does that mean the “influencer” really knows their stuff, or the “influenced” was an easy mark? How many people label someone as an “influencer” before they achieve that label … and get added to Radian6’s database 🙂

    “The population must also contain influenceable people …” It’s impossible not to. Even if I recommend a good restaurant to a friend, or a TV show — that makes me an “influencer”, right?

    Not sure if I’m making sense. I know what I’m trying to say, but it’s easier to debate it in a chat than write it!

    Thanks for the 10-minute brain workout, Ed.


  2. Hi Ed (and John up there) –

    The trick with influence is that there is no standard definition for what it means. As John says, influence is utterly subjective, and what’s influential to you isn’t to me, and vice versa.

    What companies need to understand is that “influencers” for their business and community can vary widely, and often have little to do with numbers or reach. Sometimes it’s the much squishier sense of who carries the trust and rapport with the people in the community, and that can change and shift over time. Keeping pulse on that is an ever-evolving process.

    And John, I wish I could tell you we kept a “database” of those influencers, but we don’t. 🙂 It’s all based on factors that companies determine for themselves, and is fluid over time, too. All in all, YOU as a brand need to decide what’s influential in context of the people that matter most to you: your customers. 🙂

    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community, Radian6

  3. Ed Lee says:

    thanks Amber – good points, valid points, but I think you’re focusing in on the wrong thought. i’m not talking about the need for, existence or importance of, influencers, but the fact that the first thing you need in order to become anything like an influencer is a community which is ready to be influenced.

    if i stand up on stage and talk at 1600 people for an hour, i can either be an influencer or a lunatic…depending on where they’re facing. if they’re facing me, i’m an influencer; if they’re looking the other way, i’m a lunatic…

    put another way, i could try and be an influencer and shout about my recommendations, but if no one listens, there’s no way i can exert any influence…people have to be receptive to my message in order to make me an influencer…

    does that make sense?

  4. Ed – I think we’re saying the same thing, really, but from different angles. Being “influencable” means a bunch of things. That I care what you have to say, that it’s timed well for what I need, that it suits my context, that I trust your judgment enough to take your recommendation. I have to have the mindset in the first place that I’m even open to other people’s opinions.

    (We could probably have a whole separate discussion on subconscious influence and “influenceability” and the characteristics therein).

    So the notion of influence – not just the definition of an influencer – is GLOBALLY subjective, and impacted by circumstance and attitude as well as the nature of the content or discussion itself. If I’m not in the market to buy a car, I don’t care about your recommendations. But the minute I’m in the market, my “influencability” changes, and so too does my definition of what’s influential, both in terms of people and information.

  5. […] The Caveat of Influence – Influencableness « Ed Lee’s Blogging Me Blogging You […]

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