« The democratization of influence » – Post inspired by an article from The Times – 2011, April.
Our modern history is impacted by this special trend, due to the emergence of the Internet and especially social networks in our society. After decades, elites have lost their exclusivity, their brands and businesses must cope with demanding consumers – who find their strike forces in their mass mobilization: the communities.
Now users can give their opinion on anything, anyone, anytime. They become influencers directly and / or indirectly – in real life as virtual life. These contents have more credibility and ability to influence than traditional media. Thus journalists and other opinion leaders start being confronted by other competitors on their area of credible and legitimate experts.
Keep in mind that the power of influence does not move but widens – unlike a marketing budget for example. Opinion leaders are not dead. They still use their « power », including on social networks – even if this capacity is challenged by communities.
Companies were confronted head-on by this phenomenon and often have trouble controlling it. However some do not necessarily feel « concerned » by this trend and do not really distinguish it real importance.
It took an election campaign in the U.S., a tsunami in Japan, revolutions, marketing campaigns, and especially major crises affecting companies, to make these same decision-makers aware of the reality. The Truth is that the power of influence and advocacy is now within reach of all. Little by little companies realize that corporate success requires acceptance of this social phenomenon. Behaviors are changing, the executives are trained, and investments are more significant: The democratization of influence fits into the overall strategy.
However, should we be delighted at this realization or be worried about the excess that it could lead in business?
Do not underestimate this mass phenomenon. Web means lot of pressure and firms must learn how to resist – Thanks to Community Management, Crisis Management, etc. Mismanagement of this « online pressure » can lead to dictatorships that can push companies to indulge Internet Users’ whims. Remember the case of GAP who had to bow to reactions created by it new logo on Internet?
In the future, the challenge lies in the ability of decision-makers to choose the right networks, the right channels, respecting the necessary balance between traditional and social channels of influence. This is by integrating the traditional and social side that companies and their brands will make the most of the democratization of influence.
But other problems could occur, such as the complexity of measuring the influence and it real ROI…