Influencers Rely on Internet as Resource

Once thought to be a experts in a particular field, new research indicates influencers are individuals who gain self-worth by giving good advice. That’s according to findings from the CNET Networks study “Understanding Influence, and Making it Work for You.”

Influencers build large social networks and interact with 100 or more people each month. Moderately-connected individuals report connections with between 11 and 99 people each month, while less-connected individuals have 10 or fewer connections with close or casual friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers, and church or civic organization members. The study finds a correlation between network size and self-reported influence activity. Fewer than half the less-connected group is asked for opinions or advice, versus 75 percent of the highly-connected cohort.

“There are few people that are highly-connected, they are influence brokers,” said Ted Smith, research fellow at CNET Networks. “They are responsible for educating everyone else.”

Technology plays a role in research and communication for information distribution within influencer networks. “Research shows that the larger the network, the greater the role of technology in staying connected. Technology enables the maintenance and frequency of connections…” the report said.

Within the highly-connected group, e-mail (84) and in-person discussion (88) are the most frequent interactions. Phone (46), instant messaging (16), and text messaging (15) occur with lower frequency.

Research suggests a diamond-shaped marketing model. Those with many and few social connections, respectively, sit at the narrow points at the top and bottom, while moderately-connected individuals fill in the wide area in the middle. This differs from the more commonly used pyramid model. The report suggests “the 1-10 or pyramid model, where influence comes from a few highly-connected people who advise the unconnected masses, is inaccurate, and points instead to the significant potential of the moderately-connected majority.” For marketers, the study concludes, “Instead of focusing on the top-tier, more marketing messages and dollars should be directed towards the untapped ‘center of the diamond.'”

Recommendations Include:

  • Consider the emotional and informational needs of the moderately-connected majority.
  • Package creativity in a way that makes it easy to forward and share.
  • Combine PR and advertising strategies to create exclusivity and trust.
  • Choose trusted and unique environments in which to present messages.

CNET worked with Reality Check Research to conduct a quantitative online survey. Surveys were conducted across seven of the publisher’s online properties, and additional in-depth interviews and behavioral analysis of Web site usage were conducted. Over 12,000 respondents took part in the survey, and about 40 interviews were conducted.

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