09/27/2011 12:44 pm ET | Updated Nov 27, 2011

Influence Is Dead

Well, maybe not dead, but it's being replaced by relevancy. Relevancy is the new ROI metric in the social ecosystem. Yes, size still matters -- Starbucks' 25+ million Facebook likes is impressive -- and seemingly influential -- to most anyone.

But alas, social influence has become a numbers game. How many likes, shares, followers, clicks can you collect? It turns out that it doesn't matter how much influence someone has if their message is irrelevant. Influence can provide sway, but relevance can spark action.

Racking up millions of fans or followers is not an indication of brand relevance. I realize this seems counter-intuitive, but it's true. If the brand fails to be relevant, big numbers and an influential voice won't be enough to save the sinking ship.

Today's marketers know they must constantly be on the hunt for relevant content, not just large numbers of fans and followers. Advertisers strive to create powerful ads that resonate with customers by being contextually relevant. Brands want impact and that comes from being consistently relevant.

And all this relevancy takes work. Typically, it's not the type of work brands and their agencies are used to doing. With the worry of irrelevancy just around the corner, it's a daunting task to understand, inspire, and connect with your audience in a relevant and meaningful way.

Brands often decline because they are no longer relevant. It's not that they're losing customer loyalty or even losing the ability to deliver on their promise. What causes the decline is that they've lost touch with what the customer wants. They've become irrelevant.

Last month, Dan Zarella's Science of Social Media webinar debunked several social media myths. One of those myths was that "Engaging in conversation with your audience helps you build reach."

Dan's research demonstrated that creating valuable content will increase your reach much more than engaging in banter by commenting on blogs or interacting on Facebook posts. What does that mean? It means that engagement is not enough. Relevancy is all the more important to the impact and longevity of your interactions.

At Facebook's F8 meeting, Mark Zuckerberg talked about turning Facebook's focus to activity -- i.e. watching, reading, listening, sharing, added to Google's plus1 ratings -- proves that relevancy is quickly moving to the center of the bull's eye. You'll be rewarded for the relevance your brand provides that leads to action.

This is going to get interesting. Relevancy requires deeper thinking about how to first develop meaningful content and then help convert sentiment into activity. Influence and size still matter, but get ready to start measuring relevancy.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit LLC and the Co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing. She also teaches Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension. You can send her an email at or follow her on Twitter @beverlymacy