In 1968, Andy Warhol said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. Last month, I had the honor of playing a small part in a big story that demonstrated the power the SAP Mentors (the most influential SAP Community Network members) yield in the SAP ecosystem. This ‘campaign’ even created its own hashtag on Twitter (#nataschatoteched) which according to my latest count produces over 1,300 hits on Google.
At the request (or should I say challenge?) of John Appleby (one of the SAP Mentors that fueled this story), I felt compelled to share some of my thoughts on the relevance of Andy Warhol’s famous words in today’s social-everything world. So, what are the differences between a celebrity and today’s influencer?
- True influence: While celebrities may have very large mass appeal, their ability to influence someone to take an action they would otherwise not have is low. I recently read this Mashable article quoting a Twitter study that found that the true influence of today’s celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Lady Gaga is very low, despite their very large following on Twitter.
- Mass appeal versus opt-in: The emergence of mass media in the 1960s produced many celebrities that had broad appeal and cut across demographic and geographic boundaries. It was very difficult not to have heard of The Beatles in the 1960s, but how many people had heard of Don Knuth, known by many as the elder statesman of modern computer science? Today’s influencers have a much narrower sphere of influence, but are nevertheless known, respected and followed by an audience who chooses to listen to them.
- Focus on relationships: In an opt-in environment, influencers have to work much harder to stand out and have to focus on building trust-based relationships with their audience. Since we all have the option to opt-out, authenticity, trust, and relationships become very important.
So while most influencers today may never reach Jim Morrison’s fame and notoriety, I would argue that their true influence is much higher. What do you think? Would you rather have your fifteen minutes of fame or help (a.k.a. influence) others to make the right decision?
Natascha Thomson says
Interesting blog, Ted,
the question is, did I have my 15 minutes of fame or am I an influencer :-)?
Ted Sapountzis says
Thanks, i will let your imagination run wild…perhaps you are both
John Appleby says
Meant to reply to this ages ago! Great blog.
I think one key thing you have missed is that quality is much more important than quantity. It’s all about who we influence, not how many.
I think this transcends to the concept of a rock star. It’s now possible to be a rock star inside a community rather than a global rock star, and I think you’re very much right that global rock stars don’t have such a high influence because we don’t know them as individuals and therefore don’t have relationships of trust.
Suppose in my field of IT that I have a few CIOs of large global organizations reading my material. If this is the case then I have a much more relevant true reach than if I have hundreds of my peers following it.
To add to that we’re into the era of social network analytics. The current tooling is very basic and it doesn’t take into account a lot of important stuff like Google, Blogs and other content but how long will it be before those sites are trawling the net finding out who, and how we influence people?
And how long before the populus catches onto this, and works out how to influence your ability to influence. Interesting times are ahead.
Ted Sapountzis says
Thank you for your comments. You are correct that I did not call out quality explicitly (and probably should have), but for me this is a key pre-requisite for today’s influencers. Given that we all make explicit choices as to who we want to be influenced by, quality of the content in my mind is a key ingredient of what drives us to swarm around certain individuals. And yes, we are so early early in this journey that even the most ‘advanced’ tools like klout today, not only do not incorporate all our social activity, but have quite a few gaps even for the parts they do cover.
I look forward to see how this plays out in the next 3-5 years. I think we will be looking back at today’s tools as our children do at typewriters today (I had a lot of difficulty trying to explain the concept of this primitive ‘word processor’ to them).