Ep.1 Why VIPs don’t work as influencers

Twitter Influence dynamics: an almost exact science

This is the first of a series of posts analysing in depth the mechanisms and behaviours going on between influencers and their audiences on Twitter.

In the first episodes we are going to describe the world we are talking about, in order to have a good model of Twitter influence-driven relationships and conversations to use then in the next episodes.

First of all, let’s point to the commonly shared idea about influencers on Twitter: effective influencers are the most visible VIPs accounts. We at FindTheRipple initially discussed about this idea but we managed to get rid of it.

According to the common idea the influencer is depicted as a ‘guru’, someone with a strong karma and a huge mass of devotees, who blindly accept and like what he or she says. It’s a very simple model, made of only two actors – the influencer and his audience – with no intermediaries. More complex relationships between the influencer and other influencers, as well as relationships between his audience and other influencers, are ignored. Influence is perceived as a unidirectional positive energy flow moving from the influencers to his audience. Unfortunately things happen to be more complex than this.

influence model 1.pngInfluence – simple model

Going a bit deeper into Twitter interactions, we find out that those gurus exist, but (a) they are very uncommon and (b) they are often VIPs, Very Important, but also – we add – Vaguely Influential People.

These people are celebrities, they are followed ‘by nature’, no matter what they say or which topics they bring up. If Justin Bieber says a word about drugs legalisation, his word will spread over the millions of teenagers following him throughout the world. Moreover, his popularity will remain the same, independently from his position on drugs, because he’s not followed thanks to what he says on this topic, or on any topic in particular. It’s obvious that every marketer working for a teenager-targeted brand dreams about involving Justin Bieber in a campaign. He could potentially sell everything. But it’s another obvious fact that only a few brands could afford such kind of testimonials, who want to be paid for any marketer commercial message they have to send out. A lot. Because they are rarely involved in it, VIPs feel themselves as mere mercenaries. The only good point for them in sponsoring a suntan cream or a political party is essentially getting a big amount of money from it.

More than that, we defined them as vaguely influential, first of all because they aren’t related to a specific domain, but also because their word is weak and tied to their today’s coolness and trending power. If tomorrow another VIP comes out, stronger, cooler, younger than Justin Bieber, saying exactly the opposite of what he had said, the second message will overwrite the first one. The inner issue here is that visibility of VIPs is not related to their credibility in the topic they are talking about, thus they can be beaten by other people, even more visible than them.

We covered the 1% of the Twitter world. We’ll move to the remaining 99% in the next episodes.