Guest Post by: Monica (Market Sentinel)

The ultimate quest of anyone using social media to market their goods is to achieve “online influence” over the marketplace. But don’t confuse influence with popularity, especially on Twitter.

This week, the Telegraph reported on an influence study that revealed popular celebrities with millions of followers – Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, and Stephen Fry, to name a few – had very little influence on trending topics in online conversation.

Online influence in fact came from people with much lower profiles but who were “experts” in their own fields.

The study came from research at Northwestern University in Illinois which used “specialised mathematical algorithms” to rank the most influential people tweeting on the hot topics of the day.

The study reveals something we’ve been talking about a lot recently: the importance of context. Influence is not about who you are, it’s about who you are in relation to a topic.

Alok Choudhary who led the research at Northwestern University in Illinois, puts it this way:

“People think that just because you have a huge number of followers you may potentially be an influencer, and that is not the case…influencers are those that dynamically change the opinions of people on specific topics, or the topic of the moment.

If someone from BP is tweeting about the oil spill, for example, his opinions are likely to carry much more weight and be of much greater interest than those of Ashton Kutcher, who has a legion of followers.”

What is the lesson?

Building influence isn’t a matter of accruing followers and posting lots of tweets. You need to stay aware of the trending topics, listen to what people are saying, and respond in kind. The good news is: you don’t have to pay a million bucks to Lady Gaga to post a tweet about your product. There are more productive ways to build influence, and it begins with understanding the contexts of conversations around whatever it is your trying to sell.

For more on influence, check out Prof. Choundhary’s Pulse of the Tweeters, a website that uses “Data Mining, Sentiment Analysis, and Network Analysis algorithms to mine millions of tweets and find the most influential users on Twitter.” Neat stuff.

Original Post: http://www.marketsentinel.com/blog/2010/10/popular-twitter-users-have-little-influence/

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