Social Influencers Are Dead – Long Live the Instigators


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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 – are 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.

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.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown is partner at Bonsai Interactive Marketing, a full service agency offering integrated, social media and mobile marketing solutions. He is also founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a social media-led charity initiative connecting globally and helping locally.


  1. Corporate brands are pushing the idea of turning all their buyers into shills for their products because they believe they can get thousands to work for free. This is the opportunity for wise small businesses to focus on QUALITY instead of quantity.

    The way to do that is to find at least one blogger who is respected in a niche related to your company and hire that blogger to get other bloggers they already have relationships with to create an organized roll out of blog posts promoted across social networks.

    Companies need to know one thing about this: they have to be willing to spend money. There are few causes that busy, social media savvy bloggers are going to want to dedicate their time to for free and your business is highly unlikely to be one of them.

    If you are an ethical company with quality products or services that bloggers will not mind being associated with you don’t need hundreds or even dozens of bloggers on board. You only need three to five who understand SEO, compelling copywriting, proper use of anchor text and who have significant social media accounts who are widely read by the other bloggers.

    You have to give them access to whatever you want them to write about because we can not write anything very compelling unless we actually use it ourselves. As Hubspot so wisely advises, “Don't dilute your high-quality content with mediocre or low-quality content.” There are NOT hundreds of great bloggers in ANY niche. Just focus on the best and the others will follow.


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