Social Media & The Power of Influence

August 1, 2012 // By: // No Comments

Social & Digital Media     



The Internet has spoken, and Pitbull is headed to Alaska.

That would be Pitbull, the rapper, and he’s headed to Kodiak, Alaska, to be specific. An online campaign — presented by Walmart and a new brand of caffeine-infused Listerine strips knows as Energy Sheets — asked fans across the country to vote for their favorite local Walmart store on Facebook. The store that received the most votes would receive a visit by Pitbull himself.

Soon after the vote began, David Thorpe and Jon Hendren of Something Awful hatched a plan to send Pitbull to the most remote Walmart store in America: Kodiak, Alaska. After several social media news sites picked up the story, the Kodiak Walmart Page quickly amassed more than 60,00 Facebook likes, nearly 10 times the population of the entire island according to the 2010 US Census. Pitbull has since released a video illustrating his excitement about venturing to America’s 49th state:

Celebrity Does Not Mean Influence

This social experiment can teach us quite a bit about the power of digital influence. For starters, the conventional concept of celebrity does not always translate in the digital space. Pitbull sent tweets announcing the vote, but none of his fans in or around urban areas were compelled in large enough numbers to bring the rapper to their stores. It was the reach of digital influencers Thorpe and Hendren that resulted in Pitbull’s exile to Alaska.

A 2011 charity contest hosted by SixDegrees.org illustrates the same lesson. The social fundraising site awarded matching grants to the six causes that raised the most funds during a 10-week period. Although many celebrities attached their names to certain causes, the top fundraiser was mom and blogger Ali Edwards, who created a badge for Autism Speaks in honor of her son. Edwards posted about the contest on her blog of loyal followers and wound up recruiting more than 2,000 donors and raising $47,849. She easily out-raised all the celebrity participants, including Kanye West, whose lack of promotion around the contest resulted in zero donors for his cause.

In both of these cases, it wasn’t the power of celebrity that drove people to act — it was the power of digital influencers with dedicated, engaged followings.

Influence Determined By Content, Not Numbers

So how can brands identify who holds this power of engagement? Platforms like Klout — which measure and attach a score to a person or brand’s digital influence — are trying, although some question their accuracy. Critics argue that Klout’s algorithm is flawed and that it’s easy to game the system. Regardless, brands have begun offering digital influencers exclusive products or access to events based on their Klout Score for a given topic.

Regardless of who has a higher influencer score or which brands become household names, content remains the most important key to unlocking the secrets of digital influencer success. Social media users value news they can use and will revisit sites that aid them in the discovery of new media. This behavior has helped StumbleUpon amass such a loyal following in the last five years, including celebrity evangelist Ellen DeGeneres. Remember: Not all offline celebrities have sway in the digital realm. Some, such as Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Fallon have managed to convert their broadcast viewers into a social media audience, but not all have had the same luck.

Key Takeaway

In the social media space, steady engagement coupled with valuable content can lead a brand or person toward greater digital influence.

About the Author

Michael Lamp

As Hunter PR’s Senior Social & Digital Media Strategist, Michael manages an array of projects including Twitter parties, Facebook brand pages, mobile apps, blogger relations and live-streaming video.
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