We talk often with our clients about building thought leadership online and harnessing social media to create brand awareness. That act – becoming an influencer – was the focus of a recent study conducted by a doctoral candidate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Karen Freberg sought to find out whether certain personality characteristics contribute to a person’s potential influence, and she and her colleagues studied several prominent influencers, including digital analyst Brian Solis and author and PR strategist Deirdre Breakenridge.
Freberg’s findings, published in “Public Relations Review,” shouldn’t surprise you at all. Influencers are smart, ambitious, productive, poised, power-oriented, candid and dependable.
Doesn’t it make perfect sense that the people most likely to influence large groups in person are the same ones who influence us online? We all want to know what the smart, ambitious, productive, poised, power-oriented, candid and dependable people know. We want to know what they read. What they buy. What technology they promote.
The clients with whom we work are smart, ambitious, productive, poised, power-oriented, candid and dependable people, and our job is to help them show those characteristics online. Our job is also to help them see that becoming an influencer is not an activity that can be completed in an afternoon. Effective PR pros can give you a quick turnaround on a press release, a campaign plan, an editorial database and many other action items, but influence creation takes time and persistence.
As Freberg writes about her findings in a recent blog on Coherent Social Media, “...influence (or what others also call social authority) does not happen overnight. Like traditional reputation management practices suggest, having a presence in a community – whether online or offline, or even both – takes time, resources and commitment.”
The time, resources and commitment to which Freberg refers need to come from the client and the PR team, both of whom must recognize that to influence is not the same as to control. Social media influencers are effective because they are authoritative and conversational. The mix of the two is what makes them credible.