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Meet the social instigators

Social influence. The need to prove how wonderful you must be to get such a high Klout score. The golden nugget for brands looking to tell their story to the masses.

Yep, social influence – and, by association, social influencers – is a hot potato and continue to divide opinion.

On the one hand, you have the likes of Klout, Kred, PeerIndex and others allocating scores to you based on your perceived influence, according to their algorithms.

Included in this camp are the evangelists for these services – the score bleaters, pimping themselves looking to score freebies from brands that have bought into the unscientific scoring systems, as well as those that genuinely wish to be seen as more influential through a high score or number.

On the other hand, you have the naysayers and doubters, who believe it’s impossible to allocate a score to an individual, because no individual can truly be measured. There are way too many variables involved – I may be excited by something tweeted to me online, but if my wife says no, my wife says no.

And not one of the influence ranking platforms knows a single thing about my wife and her “influence”.

However, it’s clear we’re looking at the wrong people.

There will always be tools like Klout to offer those needing validation for the stuff they do online, just as much as there will always be people whose validation comes from the results they get for themselves or their clients, both online and offline.

And it doesn’t matter – because the term Social Influencer is pretty much dead. The real power online lies with the Instigators.

Influence Comes And Goes, But The Instigator Thrives Indefinitely

Before the term “social influencer” bastardized the origins of influence, it was a mark of respect to be known as an influencer. Now, though, the term has lost a lot of its marquee, because it’s tied directly to who can be the noisiest online to try and improve influence scores and grab some freebies.

It’s why many people are pushing back on influence scores, by dropping out of the system altogether, or simply refusing to care.

And while some brands are still willing to take a risk on signing up to offer free perks to those that play the game in the hope of getting more return for their money, many others are bypassing the score takers and going direct to the source.

This is where the Instigator is the new power, and the one that should be followed and courted.

Because the Instigator has always been around, long before any social influence “metric” was thought of. The Instigator has been the real influencer, and caused actions and reactions far larger, and in greater numbers, than the perceived influencer.

And they continue to do so, long after the last Klout Perk has shriveled up and become the butt of online jokes at the irrelevance.

So who are the Instigators, and why should you (as a brand or business) care?

The Trust of the Instigator Community

Instigators are the drivers of actions and conversations, and it’s down to one simple fact – they have the innate ability to create conversations and actions based on those conversations, as opposed to being a shill for a brand.

And their community knows this.

Instead of slapping the latest affiliate ad on their site for a product they’ll never use, Instigators always show both sides of the coin. They offer the good and the bad of a brand, product or service.

They treat their audience as equals – because their audience are equals. And, by being treated as equals and partners in the conversation, the audience of an Instigator takes the message further than any brand could (arguably) hope to see from an influencer campaign.

Because many brands are focusing on the wrong platforms. They’re looking to Twitter and Facebook, and throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars into Sponsored Tweets and Stories.

In the meantime, the real action is happening on blogs and inside forums – and only the smartest brands have cottoned onto this. And it’s (more often than not) not just the “accepted influencers”, or usual suspects, that are driving this action.

Take a look at Ken Mueller, who drives lively conversations across his blog comments and Twitter around his ideas. Or Jack B., who also gets smart people, that would be classed as influencers, discussing the merits of his thoughts on his blog and across the social web.

Because here’s the simple fact any marketer worth their salt will tell you – word of mouth and getting people talking about you is the real relationship to the sale.

Ad spend may get you awareness; great customer service will keep customers with you. But getting the buy? That’s the final step between desire (ads) and decision and – again, more often than not – this is where the conversations, pros and cons around your brand influence that decision.

The Social Influencer Is Dead – Long Live the Instigators

You can still chase the influencer model if you wish. After all, there’s some merit to knowing how someone is perceived online, and if they can drive interest in your perk, giveaway or new promotion.

But if you want real results and real long-term buy-in, you’ll be chasing the wrong crowd. The term influence has already been tainted to the effect that people are now wary and gun-shy when they hear it.

That’s an issue that won’t go away until the algorithms are more solid and locked down.

But that’s okay – because influencers are short hit affairs. The Instigators – the people that instigate immense conversations and let them run free, and then see them propagate even further around the web – are the real influencers.

They’re the folks that are making people think. And when you think, you look for a solution. And if you’re a brand with that solution, you’ll be instantly on that person’s radar – as long as you know where that person has come from. And, chances are, it’s not going to be a social influencer.

Time to rethink who you’re looking to connect with.

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139 Comments on "Social Influencers Are Dead – Long Live the Instigators"


Interns' Choice -- Week of 6/25
1 year 18 days ago

[…] that can happen in a blog post is a good debate. And this post from Danny Brown titled “Social Influencers Are Dead – Long Live the Instigators” delivers on that front. I even added my two cents, disagreeing with Danny about his […]

beebeeuphq5
2 years 8 months ago
DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@jdojc Pfft, they don’t care about stuff like that …. 😉

SInfluencers
2 years 9 months ago

At Social Influencers we don’t use algorithms or statistics alone to select the people that are going to share through a social medium on behalf of a brand or business for us. We are not a sign up service that works on an affiliate model. At Social Influencers, pairing up “influencers” with brands or products that the influencer actually likes/uses is one of our goals. And something that our staff looks very closely at when pairing up an influencer with a business. This is for several reasons, mainly that it will be beneficial to a brand or business to have someone that actually like their product/service spreading the word, and at the same time the influencers are happy to do so because they believe in what they are saying. Spreading the word about a product or service that you like is an age old tradition. The only difference is, now, you get paid for it.

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@LilFel @klout @midnighthaircut And now they even ignore your requests to block them. Not good.

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@midnighthaircut Cheers Hauled, thanks for the share. Great thoughts being shared in comments, topic I’m really interested in.

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@midnighthaircut And that was meant to be Hayles- damn auto correct :)

midnighthaircut
2 years 9 months ago

@DannyBrown Haha, nice. We’re including the article on the Edelman blog today. I will send you the link!

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@midnighthaircut Cool, cheers sir, appreciated and look forward to it :)

midnighthaircut
2 years 9 months ago

@DannyBrown Hey Danny! Here’s the link to Edelman.ca, mentioning Influencers Are Dead: http://t.co/D0xqYySw Let me know what you think!

mretecki
2 years 9 months ago

@ThomasMarzano @DannyBrown @marineltwit that’s one of the strangest tweets/titles I’ve ever seen! Grabbed my attention 😉

ThomasMarzano
2 years 9 months ago

@mretecki @DannyBrown @marineltwit good post!

mretecki
2 years 9 months ago

@ThomasMarzano @DannyBrown @marineltwit Indeed.

marineltwit
2 years 9 months ago

@ThomasMarzano @mretecki @dannybrown indeed, very nice one Mr. Brown (always wanted to say that, Reservoir Dogs :).

xDanMorgan
2 years 9 months ago

@ThomasMarzano Spain or Italy?

ThomasMarzano
2 years 9 months ago

@xdanmorgan you really have to ask? lol…. Italy of course!

xDanMorgan
2 years 9 months ago

@ThomasMarzano depends which spanish team shows up, the italians have been consistently impressive you can’t say the same for the spanish…

xDanMorgan
2 years 9 months ago

@ThomasMarzano I think the Italians can sneak it, 2-1 w/ a late winner when spain are happy to go to extra time, come on #balotelli!

ThomasMarzano
2 years 9 months ago

@xdanmorgan indeed!!! but I am Italian… so fingers crossed!

Erik_HPU
2 years 9 months ago

@marineltwit *lui is*,wat is een instigator in het Achterhoeks?

marineltwit
2 years 9 months ago

@Erik_HPU superboer natuurlijk :)

Erik_HPU
2 years 9 months ago

@marineltwit Goed! Je mag verder naar de #volgenderonde…

Erik_HPU
2 years 9 months ago

I may be excited by something tweeted to me online, but if my wife says no, my wife says no. @marineltwit

ErikaAntoine
2 years 9 months ago

@lecairn merci pour le RT :-)!

Mark Longbottom
2 years 9 months ago

Makes sense but then you always do is that because you’re influencing so many people……. Only joking you’ve put your neck on the line  so many times you’d have to be seen to be instigating debate. Your wife has control, but when you’re here you have confidence and belief in what you say – simply being you has made all these people stop by and want to talk too.  Simple human behaviour that some marketing bods will try and re name and re create and re sell and then do it again and again knowing in their heart of hearts they are worse than Homer Simpson…….. Do wish i had read and commented earlier in the week now :)

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

Mark Longbottom You know, that’s the saddest thing, mate – the fact that marketing as an industry has to lock something down into a definition. Why can’t we just let it be?(And, yes, I’m aware of the hypocrisy in that statement given my thoughts here – gah!) :)

bradleyjaypatterson
2 years 9 months ago

“Because here’s the simple fact any marketer worth their salt will tell you – word of mouth and getting people talking about you is the real relationship to the sale.”   Amen.  I’m going to stop calling myself a community manager from here on out.  I’m an instigator now!  Thanks for the great post, Danny!

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

bradleyjaypatterson Hey there Bradley,I don’t know, sir – knowing the CM’s I do, you’re already a key part of the relationship to the sale! Glad you enjoyed the piece, mate.

bradleyjaypatterson
2 years 9 months ago

DannyBrown yeah… when it comes down to it, it’s a game of “is it the finger pointing at the moon” or “the moon”… build a good product, put people at the center, and take care of them in unique ways and whether it’s called an influencer/instigator/community manager, it’s all how ya do it.  I’m instigating from here on out 😉

jeremywoolf
2 years 9 months ago

@billrice Thanks for the RT Bill. Great to see people challenging the notion that noise = influence…

tracey14
2 years 9 months ago

People who are their own brand have the flexibility to be a bit controversial and experimental. If more companies were willing to try doing the same and focused on genuine content instead of flashy content, we’d definitely see more instigators out there.

CompanyFolders
2 years 9 months ago

Thanks for sharing this! If only more companies cared about instigating over influencing, we’d have much more high-quality content of real value on the Internet. The problem with instigating, however, is that it can’t be faked and not a lot of companies have the patience to stick with something that requires so much effort without a guarantee of a payoff. That’s why I feel like some of the best instigators out there are either people who own their own business, are self-employed or do blogging as a side endeavor because it takes a level of creativity and boldness that can’t always be reached at the corporate level, where content has to create results and stick to a particular brand identity. However, people who are their own brand have the flexibility to be a bit controversial and experimental. If more companies were willing to try doing the same and focused on genuine content instead of flashy content, we’d definitely see more instigators out there.

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

CompanyFolders Great point – fluidity and lack of fear factor often comes down to being “small enough” to do so. Though there are some great examples of taking risks – Skittles turning their corporate site into a social hub, for instance, or Pepsi taking their Super Bowl ad budget to social media.I guess if we start to recognize these risks more, and laud them, we can move away from the crappy scoring alternative. Here’s hoping.

Simon Quance
2 years 9 months ago

Great perspective and thought provoking POV (plus a great read). Practically speaking I guess a healthy mix of approaches to both influencers and instigators is required – dependent on aspirations of the client, or more to the point – the aspirations of the person holding the budget. (Ego can be a terrible distraction from the right strategy).  I guess all SM practitioners have some influence on shaping those aspirations?

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

Simon Quance Hey there Simon, Aspirations definitely play a big part – you may want to just get a quick hit, and for that, “influence” (as it stands) works.For the bigger picture – P&L, financial reports, stakeholders, etc – the premise of the Instigator makes much more sense.Cheers, mate!

collentine
2 years 9 months ago

Saying that social influencers are dead is a bit exaggerated. Still more important for brand salience that instigators are.

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

collentine it depends on how you define “important”.You can have all the buzz and awareness that normally comes from an influence program; but if there is no profit behind it, you won’t last long.That’s the beauty with instigation – action to follow as opposed to buzz to go “ooh, ahhh” at with little behind it.

Julie | A Clear Sign
2 years 9 months ago

Hi Danny,In the end, that is what I always do and what I expect others do as well – we read, follow and get to know the people who fascinate us and make our brains wiggle around.  Over time, that may change as we grow, but some people just stick with us no matter what.  I am always thrilled when I discover someone brilliant and genuine.

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

Julie | A Clear Sign Exactly, Julie! The amount of blogs I’ve unsubscribed from because they follow the herd and don’t offer original thought… here’s to good choices and genuine content. :)

rdopping
2 years 9 months ago

Bou-yah! Before I say ANYTHING here I have to say Livefyre on Android is the crappiest thing ever. I wrote a comment on my smartphone and the biatch lost it for me. And I was on a friggin’ roll too!I have to say I like what you are saying here and I didn’t read all 92 billion comments but where is  ginidietrich  Gini D in all this? Eeerily silent. Weird that. She has to fit the mould of your so called instigator, no? Anyway, I how much it sucks to be such a fanboy so I will leave it alone. I just think that the example is clear and relevant.I am also surprised that there hasn’t been a ton more controversy here. Sparring so to speak. I do see lots of people piping in about their definition of an “instigator” and that’s my general problem with all this rabble-rousing. There are no regulations, rules, guidelines or the like and to me that is a good thing BUT it puts us all in an awkward position of siding with an opinion and defining meaning based on our own sense of purpose.I’m not a big fan of the numbers but then again I am also not trying to “market” a product or company. It seems to me though that there is a fickle attitude to describing how people (the general public who are basic neophytes in the on-line world – me included) are “influenced” by the experts or bloggers or “brands” or companies pushing their products at us. Isn’t the “instigator” just the next craze of the blogosphere? The next best thing? The new “influencer” just with a different metric?Did someone say that whatever works for you works for you? And if you don’t like it, lump it? Sure, but you can’t can you? Precisely because of what this post is about. The shit-heels the live and die by the numbers being influenced by some investment banker somewhere with his ROI stick pounding the brand on the head every 5 seconds. And the people who realize that there are real people out there are doing it in a different way but aren’t they all after the same thing? Isn’t the endgame the same? Question: How many “altruistic” bloggers, brands, marketers, etc are there out there? 

ginidietrich
2 years 9 months ago

rdopping Sometimes Danny has to stop talking about me so people don’t think we have something going on on the side. The truth of the matter is, I have a thing going on with his wife.

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

ginidietrich rdopping It’s true; I’m left with the kids while Jacki Brown Bowchickawow and Gini do whatever it is they do.

TheJackB
2 years 9 months ago

ginidietrich I just want to know if Jack Bauer is involved….

ginidietrich
2 years 9 months ago

DannyBrown Just use your imagination. 

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

rdopping Hey there mate,I think that’s more to do with the beta version of Livefyre at the minute, as the previous production version was fine. But I’m on Android 4.0 and noticed that it’s nowhere near as smooth as the previous one – will let Jenna Langer know (i can’t tag anyone  else from Livefyre at the minute). Will also drop feedback in at the end of this comment.I’d hate to think of instigator as the next “buzzword” – I’ve been using it for while in private discussions, and to be honest, all they are are people doing things naturally – instigating discussions and causing people to think.It’d be pretty sad if a company wanted to bastardize that to allocate another metric to score on…

rdopping
2 years 9 months ago

DannyBrown Totally agree. I just hope it doesn’t get to that. It chafes me to see stuff like that.

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@HeatherSMarsh @geoffliving Thanks, Heather, appreciate that and glad it resonated, some great thoughts being shared on both “sides”

KenMueller
2 years 9 months ago

Thanks for the mention, Danny. The thing about blog comments was a long time in the works. I was blogging over a year before it really started to take off. And I learned a  lot from folks like you and Gini Dietrich , and I also give credit to the folks at @livefyre for creating such a dynamic commenting system. It’s work, but it’s fun work!

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

KenMueller Oh, for sure, mate – Michael Schechter once asked me when i first started getting “regular” comments, and I know it took a while (don’t have the exact dates). But that’s the beauty of organic growth as opposed to one from a quick buzz – it sticks around.Cheers, sir!

Mark_Harai
2 years 9 months ago

Online influence has become nothing more than a popularity contest. An instigator on the other hand is driven by a desire to do good. The first is built on ego, the latter, integrity. One is shallow, while the other is of substance.I’m not saying folks seeking to be popular don’t have integrity or substance, but those with integrity don’t do things to be popular, they do things to improve, progress, and advance whatever it is they’re working on for the greater good of all.The right choice is obvious here, but human nature can sure get in the way of good common sense. Thought-provoking post here Danny!

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

Mark_Harai Loving this quote, mate:The right choice is obvious here, but human nature can sure get in the way of good common sense. Especially when freebies and “my K is bigger than your K” is involved. 😉

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@TylerOrchard Thanks, Tyler, and liking the “brand-pawns” description, very apt! :)

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@gpritchard @rockstarjen Cheers, Genevieve – does seem to have sparked a nice discussion, which is always good to have

rockstarjen
2 years 9 months ago

@dannybrown @gpritchard just reading through the comments now. many good points. might have to chime in today. :)

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@rockstarjen @gpritchard Agreed, love the points of view and additional thoughts from both sides of equation :)

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@RealMediaKC Smart marketers will identify (through legwork) who’s worth connecting with and work *with* them for everyone’s benefit.

RealMediaKC
2 years 9 months ago

@dannybrown Completely agreed, but it’s a tough sell!

HennArtOnline
2 years 9 months ago

Hi Danny! As always, I continue to learn from you! And most importantly, I LOVE how you make me think beyond what was, what is and what it could be! Cheers and many thanks! -Henie

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

HennArtOnline Thanks, Henie – one of the things I love about blogging, and especially the comments afterwards, is how it really forces you to think. We can’t ask for much more than that!

HennArtOnline
2 years 9 months ago

DannyBrown Yes, and you do it so well! Thanks again for this reminder since I have been remiss in the area of blogging! Would really love to catch up via Skype soon! Have a fantastic day, DB! Hugs!

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@HennArtOnline Thanks to you for sharing, miss – be nice to move away from the influencer craziness.

HennArtOnline
2 years 9 months ago

@DannyBrown very welcome DB! Can’t wait for ‘instigator’ to become the new black! :-)

HennArtOnline
2 years 9 months ago

DannyBrown Agree! But how does one create that balance (and move away subtlely) until something solid can be utilized? Especially when some of us depend on it for our jobs? Good to catch up with you, sir!

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

HennArtOnline Once we start realizing it’s actions taken that create value and profit (for a business), as opposed to reactions and buzz, then we can begin to see what the social influencer model really is… 😉

HennArtOnline
2 years 9 months ago

DannyBrown Exactly! All the online “noise” guised as influence is really just “activity” with no solid return until, as you say, “action” is taken which results in that elusive “social media ROI.” (There’s another term, ROI…drives me mad!)

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@HungLee Cheers, Hung – and LOVE the use of “cut of your jib”, not enough people use that today! :)

HungLee
2 years 9 months ago

RT @dannybrown: Cheers..and LOVE the use of “cut of your jib”, not enough people use that today! :) <– we should campaign for it’s return

DannyBrown
2 years 9 months ago

@HungLee HA! I’m all for that – show me the sign up page :)