Three Factors That Shape Social Media Influence

by Patrick on May 16, 2011

Do you know who Rafinha Bastos is? Unless you speak Portuguese you may not. However the Brazilian comedian and journalist is somebody everyone should know.

Because he is the most influential person on Twitter.

It’s weird that a person, who happens calls himself “The King of Twitter,” is indeed the King of Twitter. He doesn’t have a lot of followers compared to the heavy hitters- his 2 million followers is only a fraction of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber’s 9 million.

It is even more surprising that the most influential person isn’t an American but a Brazilian. According to Sysomos, about 50% of all Twitter users are from the United States, but Brazil ranks second making up 8.7% of the user base.

So why is Bastos the most influential Tweeter around? The New York Times Magazine, who asked Twitalyzer to conduct the research, wrote that influence was measured through mentions and retweets of a user’s messages:

The Influence Index doesn’t merely measure who’s talking on Twitter, but it also measures how much someone is affecting the conversation.

That is a very important statement. Sometimes we confuse celebrity or buzz-worthiness as influence. I bet people on Twitter talk about Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, but it doesn’t mean their tweets are necessarily resonating to us.

When thinking about this story, I thought of three factors that help shape this so-called “influence”:

Deep Relationships With The Audience

Who is the audience that you are attracting or trying to influence? Celebrities are personalities that attract mainstream appeal, thus rack up higher numbers when it comes to followers, but the relationships a mainstream audience will have to a celebrities will most likely be weak (as Malcolm Gladwell describes it) in nature.

A quick stroll through Rafinha’s followers reveals that quite a few fellow South Americans follow him. As a fellow countryman, Rafinha relates to Brazilian minority which makes up the second largest group of users on Twitter. He also breaks through to group isolated by a language barrier. If I am a Brazilian on Twitter where half the users speak a different language, who am I going to follower and interact with? Rafinha capitalizes on a niche audience in this case.

Follower Interaction

Interaction with followers was noted in the NYT article as an important influence factor but I wanted to illustrate upon it further. Personalities have often said that Twitter has given them a direct channel of communication to their fans but I’m surprised how many of them don’t really use it to directly communicate with fans.

When a celebrity retweets a fan it is often a self-serving/flattering comment that becomes a public act of feeding one’s ego. Most retweets from The Situation are just fulfilling fan requests to retweet them. It’s really not that influential unless you consider the ability to make users beg you for retweets influential.

Former NFL Player/Current NFL Commentator Cris Collinsworth has taken a different approach to interacting with fans on twitter- by having actual conversations with them.

Last week I noticed a chain of tweets from Collinsworth offering his take on the NFL Lockout. I found it insightful and recommended others to check him out. That started a conversation between Cris and I throughout the weekend.

I’m not gonna lie: it was cool to be able have a convo with the color commentator of Sunday Night Football and Madden NFL (and he wasn’t the first famous person I’ve tweeted with), but if you take a look at his twitter feed I’m not the only one he’s talking to. Collinsworth has only been tweeting since April but as you can see it’s paying off when you look at his follower growth on Twitter:

Having actual conversations with followers also helps to improve that weak-link relationship.

Effective Content

Now back to Bastos, he employs one of my three things that always  hits in social media: humor. Wishing your followers a good morning isn’t really content worth retweeting, but a one-liner is. Many celebs tweet to promote their brand, which is great and should be done, but to be truly influential you have to provide content besides where you can buy your designer perfume. Reading one of the original Twitter Kings, Ashton Kutcher, he provides both a behind the scenes look at his own life as well as links he finds interesting. Lance Armstrong and my pal City Girl both have dedicated their lives to cancer awareness, and both have tweets that share that message. You wouldn’t think that a dating blogger could be as influential as the most prolific biker in history but you can be.

In reality there’s nothing stopping you from tweeting like a celebrity, or even out tweeting a celebrity, because it looks like Twitter levels the playing field when it comes to us and them.

 

  • http://twitter.com/kontrary Rebecca Thorman

     Great post, Patrick. I love the synopsis on celebrity tweets – I’m curious, do you think humor is good for everyone? What if you’re not a funny person? I always struggle with this. I am silly in private, but have a hard time translating that online. And wonder if it’s even necessary?

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think humor is for everybody but it’s very effective with this medium- thank about Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, and other comedians that effectively use the medium.

      I would say you should be yourself and what you are comfortable doing online- the key really is value. You have to provide value to your audience, maybe it’s entertainment value, news value, or thought value.

  • http://alyssa-pridgen.blogspot.com/ Alyssa Pridgen

    Great post! I know a lot of people who think number of followers = influence. But, as you pointed out, there are other, more important factors.

    • Anonymous

      Exactly, sure it would be easier if you had 9 million followers but it’s not a given.

  • http://flavors.me/40deuce 40deuce

    Great post Patrick.
    I’m actually not surprised that Brazil is home to the the top tweeter. From my experience, people in Brazil are very into Twitter and love using it to interact with everyone, so to crown one of them as having the most influence over people isn’t all that surprising to me.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  • http://flavors.me/40deuce 40deuce

    Great post Patrick.
    I’m actually not surprised that Brazil is home to the the top tweeter. From my experience, people in Brazil are very into Twitter and love using it to interact with everyone, so to crown one of them as having the most influence over people isn’t all that surprising to me.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Sheldon- really enjoyed the information you guys collected! 

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