The Power of Alpha Influencers

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I spend a lot of time thinking about influence and how the internet, particularly the “social internet”, has dramatically changed the way we approach the marketplace of ideas.  I’ve been focusing lately on Alpha Influencers, essentially those core influencers that lie at the heart of most influencer pools. These are the influencers who have a large, diverse group of avid followers and tend to be those intrepid reviewers/commenters who seek out new ideas (content, experiences, physical products, etc.) and have the confidence and ability to express their opinions in clear and interesting ways.

Not Only Traditional Reach

We tend to think of these Alpha Influencers as being at the center of the expanding rings of their circle of influence.  And that is a perfectly accurate representation.  However, it’s not always representative of the way their influence is eventually consumed. Take something like Amazon book reviews for example.  Yes, the initial group of followers may make a purchase decision based upon a reviewer they’ve come to know as a like-minded individual.  But this type of influence consumption is generally a one-to-many relationship.  It’s similar to the expanding tiers of influence on a social site like Twitter. Otherwise known as that influencers “reach”.  Incredibly powerful for sure, but that influence can be consumed in another way as well.

Another Type Of Influence Consumption

At a certain point another type of influence evolves on sites like Amazon, Yelp, YouTube, etc.  This more generic type is based upon consolidated information that is used in aggregate. For example, the majority of people on Amazon will reference the overall book rating once a certain volume of reviews has been reached and not delve into the detailed reviews at all.   This is true of other similar review based services as well.  What is important for marketers to understand is that it is still Alpha Influencers who have created this type of influence.  It is only through their initial groundswell that enough traction was gained to achieve the volumes necessary for it to occur.

Think It All The Way Through

All of this evolved out of a discussion I recently had with a marketer who told me in no uncertain terms that they were not focusing any of their influencer marketing efforts on these sites because they weren’t about individual influencers, they were about aggregated review scores.  I found this short-sighted to say the least. Smart marketers would be investigating things like Amazon’s “Vine” program which gives certain influencers access to pre-release products and materials for the purposes of giving a review.  Most other services either have or are developing similar programs as well; the various “badges” at places like Yelp for example (Yelp Elite) are simply ways of segmenting and recognizing influencers within those services. Eventually there will be more tangible rewards for those key influencers.  Ideally done in such a way so as to avoid the real or perceived “purchasing of positive reviews”.

Ignore At Your Own Peril

For a book publisher, the ability to now utilize digital books as a means to market an author who heretofore could get very little attention is creating an entirely new market segment. Many of them are currently offering one of their authors books for free or .99 cents in the hopes that you’ll like the material enough to buy their other books.  A great strategy and one previously not possible.  Yet you still need even your free book to be rated highly for it to show up on the users radar. This is where an Alpha Influencer can make or break your sales effort, and your author’s future.  This aggregate rating is now the relative equivalent of being put on the Oprah Book Club list for these unknown authors.  To ignore the opportunities those influencers can provide in that situation is to ignore your future.  Like it or not, there is no such thing as equality when it comes to influencers.  Of course, influencer marketing programs can be subtly complicated to pull off right, and without a great product no amount of marketing is going to get you great reviews.  But that’s another topic for another day.]]>

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