The State of Influencer Theory Infographic

The State of Influencer Theory

The above infographic — “The State of Influencer Theory” (download here) — was published today as part of a primer on influence theory that appeared in SmartBrief on Social Media. The post updates a section of Welcome to the Fifth Estate to include leaderboard theory, such as Klout and Empire Avenue.

Addressing some issues pointed out in “Infographics: Art or Porn,” this graphic is designed by Jess3 (thank you, Jesse and Leslie), the industry leader in online data visualization. The infographic fits on one screen view. Because the graphic depicts people and theories, it is designed as a fun, cartoonesque map that illustrates the evolution of theory, creating a pop art element to it. The downloadable graphic is licensed as Creative Commons (with attribution), is high resolution, and can be made into a poster or screen wallpaper.

The key for the data elements in the graphic can be found in the companion post and is listed below:

The Tipping Point (2000) by Malcolm Gladwell – Movements are caused by three types of influencers; connectors, mavens (subject matter experts) and salesmen. Examples: Old Spice Guy, Dell Listens.

Six Degrees/Weak Ties (2003) by Duncan Watts — Data analysis shows influencers rarely start contagious movements, instead average citizens provide the spark. Examples: Egyptian Revolution, Tumblr – Digg Events.

One Percenters (2006) Jackie Huba & Ben McConnell – It is the content creators amongst Internet communities that drive online conversations. Examples: Lady Gaga, Ford Vista.

The Magic Middle (2006) by David Sifry: The middle tier of content creators and voices break stories and discussing that trickle up into widespread contagious events. Examples: 2008 Obama Election, Motrin Moms.

The Groundswell (2008) by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff: Movements start within communities, and leaders rise up out of the community, and can have many roles including content creator, critic and collector. Examples: Haiti Earthquake Texting, Pepsi Refresh.

Trust Agents (2009) by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith – Influencers are people who build online trust and relationships whose communities look to them for advice and direction. Examples: Gary Vaynerchuk (WineLibrary.TV), Republican Party’s #FirePelosi Campaign.

Free Agents (2010) by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine – These trusted influencers are independent of traditional command and control organizations, and crash into the walls of storied cultures. Examples: @BPGlobalPR, Robert Scoble at Microsoft – Channel 8

Leaderboards (2010-11): Influence can be quantified by online actions taken by a person’s community, including retweets, mentions, comments and more. Examples: Klout, Empire Avenue.

Because the article is meant to serve as an objective primer on well-discussed theories, there’s little opinion about which theories work and don’t. You do see some alignment in the graphic of top down versus bottom up theories, as well as the basic offsetting of these two theory families, with Gladwell and Watts taking opposite sides. However, there is much to say from an opinion standpoint, and it will be said here next week. :)

18 thoughts on “The State of Influencer Theory Infographic

  1. Pingback: The State of Influencer Theory Infographic « hit & link

  2. I have formulated a theory about the real way to success in Social Media/the online world. It all happened thanks to Friday Night Lights, a bowl of ice cream, and not looking at anything online during said time period.

    My theory is that in order to succeed over the long haul, it absolutely cannot be about YOU. It must be about community.

    With that rolling around in my head (I’m formulating a post on it as I write this, hamster picketing for more pay in brainz), I’m looking at this infographic and thinking that maybe Social Media started that way, and then around 2008 people started thinking, “wait, no, I can become big in this space!” I would need to read all of these books to justify that statement in an educational fashion, but it’s interesting to see, in the quick synopses you’ve provided, how starting with Groundswell the focus shifted from moving with your community to you as an individual doing stuff.

    I look forward to seeing if your posts reflect anything like that.

    • Sooooooo true, Margie, and it’s the reason (I feel) so many people are moving away from many of the early “names” in the space. They’ve moved from “we” to “me” – and not very subtly, either. ;-)

      • You’re on about your sheep again, aren’t ya? :) But I think you could be right…there might be cause for a Groundswell, Part II. Or Groundswell: Back to the Future.

        I don’t think folks like Charlene got it wrong 3 years ago, but I think now, with the way things have shaken out, people like me can’t compete or get heard just on our own merits. We really do need an army/community to cut through the many layers of granite over our heads.

        • Oh, I disagree Marjorie. I think you are heard. I read you, I know Danny, Gini and others pay attention to you, too. I thought you were a bit wet around the ears when we first began interacting, but you grew. The thing is you are more influential than you think.  I would think that you are more likely to see a trend than Big Blogger x. I think BBx is likely to see you and two others talk about it, blog about it, and claim it was his/her brilliance.

          None of us get heard — wait, scratch that — acknowledged by the elite-minded bloggers because that’s their positioning strategy. I know they hear us because of their nasty passive aggressive remarks.

          • Wow, that is an amazingly high compliment, Geoff! Thank you! And you are right – I do not mean at all to indicate a lack of appreciation for all of the many wonderful folks who have supported me, still do, and may in the future :)

            I guess what I mean is that when I moved over to Google Plus, I had to start building all over again. That was a huge shock to me. I thought credibility traveled with you from platform to platform. But that’s not really the case – you need to bring the people whom you find credible and who find you credible. It needs to be about the sum total of all of your experiences, not just about you.

            That is a lesson that I think a lot of people will have a hard time digesting because there is so much pressure to BE “the influencers” (like George Bush was “the decider”). Or like Obama was the winds of change in 2008. But I really believe that people like me who entered into the social media zoo within the last couple of years don’t have a shot at becoming the same kind of “big blogger” that exists now. I think that that model worked great for people but is now defunct.

            Just my opinion. We shall see!

    • I would not tip my hand, but I would say that there are some of these I take more seriously than others, and some I see as unoriginal almost plagiarizing their predecessors and all of that will become clear. I will also say give your historical knowledge of the biz, you may appreciate a metaphor made :)

      Note that 2008 was the year of the personal brand. I think that did more to destroy the fabric of social community in the marketing blogosphere than anything else I can recall.

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