Lodestar Universal recently embarked on a study to understand the growing power of the 'influence economy'. The project profiled consumer advocates and tested their ability to recommend or advise against opting for a particular brand or service. This study was executed across 29 countries and included 17,000 active Internet users. The study looked at respondents who claimed to strongly influence in 15+ product categories to announce the emergence of a 'Super Influencer'. This is a new kind of influencer, who puts social media to work, rising above the clutter of mass influence to spread opinion far and wide.
A key topline finding from the study showed that 'Super Influencers' are not college-going teenagers, but educated, influential senior managers. They are more likely to be male, 25-34 years, mid- or senior influential office workers. They are also more likely to be highly educated. Basically in the knowledge heavy, written world of the web, intelligence and computer literacy are major factors in spreading significant influence. Another finding was that 'Super Influencers' lay down the trend. They fit the typical profile of early adopters who are likely to try new products, take risks and share their opinions with friends. Their influence is not confined to the web. They are more likely to be asked by friends and family face to face on products and brands. They are not afraid to take risks. They are sociable and embrace life both online and offline.
The study also shows that 'Super Influencers' are the lead content generators. The most defining aspect is that they are extremely heavy users of social media, particularly in terms of content creation. They are much more likely to blog, upload videos and photos and comment on sites and social networks. Social media is providing them with the tools to create and share influence and they are doing so in massive numbers regardless of subject matter. The top indexing social media channels for content creation are uploading video, writing blogs and leaving a comment on a blog site.
The new Super Influencers are also the lead content generators. Social media both enables the sharing of influence and attracts those who wish to publish and have their opinion shared and they are utilising this opportunity to the maximum. This set rise above the average for commercial messaging, advertising and PR. The Super Influencers are much more likely to be motivated by overt commercial messaging; celebrity endorsements and direct recommendations online and in the media. Most importantly, however, they are much more likely to want to share opinions because a brand is fashionable or their friends are not aware of the brand. Basically, they are more overt about trying to cultivate external opinion.
Super Influencers are found across the globe, but skewed to emerging Internet markets in Latin America and the Asia Pacific. In Brazil, 24 per cent of active Internet users fall into the 'Super Influencer' category. They are followed by India, Mexico and Pakistan – demonstrating how Internet users have found their voice, thanks to massive use of social media in these markets.
How does the advertiser succeed in the Influence Economy? Nandini Dias, COO, Lodestar Universal, replied, "By adapting to five fundamental changes. Anyone can influence anyone: we now trust strangers as much as our closest friends. Friendship is no longer face to face – it's becoming distant and virtualised. Everybody is an influencer: 1.5 billion people online in 2008. The power to influence no longer belongs to the 'expert' or to 'those in the know'. New Super Influencers rise above the masses: Not all consumer influences are equal. A new breed of Super Influencers has been created by the tools of the social media revolution."
Dias further explained that the new influence ecosystem has fundamentally changed how products and services are bought. She said, "There is a new level of transparency and truth that all public institutions, companies and brands have to adhere to."