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Influencing the Influencers

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People have been building their personal brands and online footprints for some time now via LinkedIn profiles, prolific Tweeting and clever search engine marketing optimization. As a result, their social influence is growing.

At the same time, brands are having a harder time reaching consumers because advertising is no longer trusted and folks are just plain skeptical of the promises made and so rarely kept.

Enter the new Influencer Dynamic -- a new way to connect brands to consumers via social media influencers. Brands locate and court the influencer with products and other perks, and the influencer ignites the social buzz. In turn, the influencers work on boosting their scores... and so it goes, the new 'influence the influencer' race is on.

In fact, this influencer dynamic is one of the most intriguing developments in real-time social media. Finding and measuring those influencers is becoming vitally important because of the rising "just like us" review-based marketing and buying dynamic. Smart companies are already monitoring social platforms to segment and target their influencers and learn how to support them.

Companies like Klout, Twitalyzer, and PostRank have built algorithms that generate scores tracking user's influence. Does it always work?

Back in 2010, scientists at Northwestern University used specialized mathematical algorithms to rank the most influential people tweeting on the hot topic of the day.

They sifted through the tens of millions of tweets sent each day on the microblogging website to pinpoint who the most influential people were and how they shaped "trending" topics or issues that are popular at any given time.

What did they find? Some of Twitter's most popular influencers (think Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga) aren't really all that influential. Instead, the most influential users on Twitter are actually individuals who have much lower profiles but who are experts in their own fields.

A recent interesting example emerged from the NBA's Sacramento Kings. The Kings are working with Klout to rank their fans in Twitter. The fans with higher scores carry more influence socially. There's a leaderboard that visually rewards influencers and if you're a Kings fan, that's a big deal.

"We're always looking for ways to reach new fans, and this experience is a great way to get the word out about all the fun and amazing things about a Kings game at Arco Arena," said team vice president of marketing/communications Mitch Germann in a press release about the event.

Where is this going? Influence definitely matters, but we're already seeing accusations of 'gaming the system' as wannabe influencers try beefing up their scores by racking up ghost followers and likes. Learning the true meaning of influencers and how best to maximize that engagement for both sides will be next on the social media To Do list for many.

What do you think? Share your influencer stories in the comments section!

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit, Inc. and a top speaker on social media. She is the Co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing and also teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension. Follow her on Twitter @beverlymacy; @PowerRTM; @GravitySummit or email her at beverlymacy@gmail.com.

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