Is Social Influence Really Hyped?

by Prasant on March 28, 2022

in Insights

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In the initial weeks of March, SHRM released a report, in a first-of-its-kind effort to identify and measure the Twitter influence of conversationalists in the Human Resource (HR) space. The report consisted of 20 top HR influencers on social media and has Kavi Arasu holding the top position followed by Vineet Nayar, Gautam Ghosh, etc. The report was undoubtedly a unique one but then just considering Twitter activities and listing them as HR influencers was really surprising. Later Brian Solis,  Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group released a report, in which he clearly stated in bold that tools like Klout and Peerindex don’t measure your online influence. Techcrunch also covered the key takeaways of the report.

This clearly indicates that ‘Social Influencers’ is a way misunderstood term and monitoring only one network would not justify it. Moreover, the inputs being provided by apps are nothing close to be trusted. But before that we need to ask  ourselves - do we really understand what is influence and what makes one an influencer? I tried to do a little research about this topic by asking the influencers themselves.

Here’s a brilliant definition of ‘Influence’ that has been shared by Kavi Arasu, the top Twitter influencer in HR:

“‘Influence’ is about being able to ‘alter’ / ‘reinforce’ / ‘augment’ / ‘educate’ a set of people on a subject / brand / project / product etc!  It takes time to become an influencer. Engagement, conversation, relationships and prima facie a degree of ‘authority’ over a given subject needs to be built. While the CEOs of a large company could have many thousand followers on Twitter, someone out of college can also have as many,. Perhaps more!  Anybody who fundamentally is keen on building a conversation and relationships on the fundamentals of sharing and openness will wield the power to influence!”

Gautam Ghosh


It takes time to become an influencer as it takes a lot of effort and patience to build a community of like-minded people. However I have felt that in recent times the whole terminology of ‘Social Influencer’ is really hyped and in some cases misused too. In the game of chasing numbers and followers, we have forgotten that social influence has more to do with conversations rather than just being a score. Similar thoughts have been shared by Gautam Ghosh who thinks that the whole influence thing is overhyped, despite being judged the third influential in the SHRM report. He explains further,

“There are various types of influencers that get lost somewhere. The person who shares information that I would not have come across, the person who shares ideas that I would not have thought about and the rare person who combines both of them.What currently is happening with influence is, as Brian Solis said in his latest Altimeter Report is just measuring “social capital”. Brands however confuse that with influence.”

Indeed, there are lots of influencers who get lost somewhere. And moreover you can’t just determine a person’s influence just based on a single network. For instance, the recent SHRM report or the Pinstorm influence report target certain networks only. SHRM, which used various quantitative and qualitative influencer tools such as Twtrland, Tweetlevel and TweetReach heavily focused on Twitter ignoring other important networks and blogs. Pinstorm takes the average of Klout and Peerindex and judges the influential people in India, which I think needs to be revised now. So this leads to an obvious question -  of what importance do these reports hold then?

Gautam thinks that,

“These reports are helpful to brands if they understand that they are not really looking at “influencers” but people with high “social capital” – and they should understand how to use this information – and what they want as an outcome. Is it visibility? Is it trail? Or purchase?”

That is the big question we need to ask ourselves. What do we want to do with the score, strangely determined by apps? Brian makes a beautiful point in the underline statement, as shared by TechCrunch.

What does a “74” mean to your business goals and objectives?” should be one of the first questions you ask. Then choose a service with the data to power your influence plan.

Kavis Arasu


Besides, one must also respect the influential powers that one has earned from their community otherwise word gets out quickly and this reduces the degree of influence someone holds, thinks Kavi. He further adds that,

“It is obvious that this and any other sphere of influence can be misused. While the common form of misuse is more on the lines of a ‘commercial’ nature (promoting a specific brand /message, etc. without mentioning it as a paid promotion), there could be other forms as well. False information, malicious propaganda, etc. are also not completely new.

My own take on this is that Social Media has ‘self correct’ mechanisms in place. Such ‘deviants’ have a great chance of being spotted here and word gets around quickly, significantly reducing the degree of influence the person held. Having said that, such misuse is indeed present and perhaps thrives as well.”

I believe it is high time we stop focusing on numbers and start focusing on conversations and content instead, as only this would lead us to healthy relationships. At the end of the day, what matters most to any business is trust and relationship, for it to succeed.

So are you measuring the numbers of your social influence or as put by Kavi, do you think it takes the vicious circle of conversations and content, to build your social influence.


Founder and Blogger at Lighthouse Insights. Loves to experiment in social media and believes social media is a game changer for SME's.

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