Who is an Online Influencer?

Post by Ray 4 years ago - social media marketing - 37 Comments

Google+ Hangout Influencer


Is an online influencer someone that gets you to do something or to do something differently?


This is not my area of expertise which is why I refer to people like the following to enlighten me:

Mark Schaefer –  Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing (affiliate)

Jure KlepicParadox of Online Influence (one of many great articles on the subject)


Daniel HebertWho is an Influencer? An Ongoing Debate Daniel is co- founder of Steamfeed.com and also works at, InNetworks as their Influencer Relationship Manager


Each has a different spin on what an influencer is and how to measure influence.

I encourage you to check out their writings. Mark’s book is an examination of online influence scorers and the impact they have on marketing and the workplace.


Jure, on the other hand, has a bone to pick about how these “scorers” such as KLOUT and KRED define influence.

In short, he says their measurement system is flawed because they’re measuring the the wrong thing.

They define influence as the ability for someone to drive actions as opposed to change behaviours.


I was very pleased this week to have Daniel Hebert join us for our weekly Google+ Lunch Hangout (for subscribers to my G+ Tips Newsletter) where coincidently, the topic of the day was “Influence”.

I wanted to get a sense of how people in general feel about the issue.

Do they even think about it?


What is an Influencer?

Daniel defines influence as:

Influence is the art of creating action. In the case of social media, this could be creating action personally, or on behalf of a brand.

Does this mean an influencer is someone who can persuade you to share, “like” or retweet their content?

This is pretty much how KLOUT measures influence.


When influence is taken “offline” does the definition change?

Is it the ability to change “behaviour” as Jure suggest?

Maybe the definition of influence changes depending on the context – digital verses in real life (IRL), Facebook “friend” versus real friend.


As a kid, I was influenced by my parents, my teacher and my peers.

They were personal influencers who definitely had an impact on my behaviour.

Unless you knew them personally, there’d be little chance that they’d have any influence over you. 


My York University Canadian History & Culture Prof., Paul Kennedy may though.

He has his own radio program, Ideas and is well known among the CBC, NPR literati.

So, if I introduce you to him online and he then recommends you attend a lecture series, you just might because we’re friends and you trust me. And he has the social proof to give you confidence in his expertise.


Mentors change my behaviour, they’re people I look up to.

That’s why I subscribe or sign up for their sessions.

Do I consider them influencers? Certainly.


Would they be considered so by KLOUT? – If they have a substantial online presence.

I may have retweeted their posts or shared their articles, but until I invested something more than a click of my mouse, they have little affect on my life choices.

Online influencers can motivate you to do something, real influencers motivate you to become something. 

I wrote a post a couple of years ago which asked the question: Does Klout have Clout?

Not a lot has changed since then.

For better or worse, brands do put a value on your KLOUT score.

Is their standard for online influence more “bitcoin” than gold?


Here’s a few influencers that I shared on my Hangout…

Online Influencers

 Twitter:     Mark Schaefer    @markwschaefer

Blogging:   Stanford Smith   @pushingsocial

Facebook:   Keri Jaehnig       @kerijaehnig

LinkedIn:    Viveka vonRosen @LinkedInExpert

Google+:    Strategy connecting:  Martin Shervington

                 Hangouts / YouTube: Ronnie Bincer

                 SEO/Authorship:        Mark Traphagen

Who are some of yours?

Update: Daniel kindly clarified his position on “influence”. It’s included in his comment below but I want to be sure you see it so am reproducing it here:

The art of creating action doesn’t stop at retweets and likes – comments, signing up for newsletters, entering a giveaway, downloading a file, buying a product, writing a follow-up response, etc., are all actions that Klout cannot measure, but are definitely part of influence. Action and behaviour tend to go closely together when it comes to online influence. Perhaps my definition should be changed to “Influence is the art of creating action, or changing behaviour…”

About Ray Hiltz

Thanks for dropping by. I'm the Director of Digital Marketing for Image-24.com. My background in business includes non-profit (performing arts), restaurants and Promotions. Having moved on from my own strategic consulting company, I now write about what interests me. So in this blog, you may read about my thoughts on marketing, health issues and business culture. You can follow me on Twitter @rayhiltz or @image24Call

37 Responses to “Who is an Online Influencer?”

  1. jureklepic

    Hi Ray, 
    Thanks for
    sharing my article. See the problem we have today is that but everyone is
    trying to change the definition of influence in its core, from some known
    experts to tools that you are mentioning in this post. 
    Definition of
    Influence is really simple – Influence is power to sway. But more
    important then knowing definition is to understand influence.
    Understanding “influence”
    in contemporary online/and mobile life, means understanding contemporary
    notions of identity and identity construction.

    Identity, ideas of person and self are culture constructs, they are ideas and
    values that are part of our culture.  The ethnographic work that i have
    carried out most especially on mobile brands and on online behavior suggests a
    shift away from a view of the person as “a bounded, unique, more-or-less
    integrated motivational and cognitive universe, a dynamic center of awareness,
    emotion, judgment, and action organized into a distinctive whole and set
    contrastively both against other such wholes, and against a social and natural
    background.” (Geertz 1983:59). This is the classic anthropological definition
    of individualism – the identity ideal of the West for so long.
    Social media reveals a new world of the “relational self”:

    Emerging mobile technologies especially support what anthropologists would call
    “relational” self ideals.
    The mobile vanguard is
    constantly connected to and connecting with one another via these technologies
    Sharing opinions
    Trying to reach consensus
    Sharing news of each others’ lives
    Forming Facebook and other social media communities
    Lives and selves become reflections of the lives and selves of others 
    In the mobile and online life people appear to define themselves by relating to
    I would suggest to look at online influence by viewing the phenomenon through
    the lens or prism of emerging “relational” self ideals – these ideals are
    re-emerging, rather than emerging. They are a throwback to previous notions of
    the person, notions dominant in previous historical eras. To a time when people
    defined themselves primarily in terms of their relationship to others and to
    the traditions, offices and roles that mark out the operation of society. 

     Klout satisfies the top of Maslow’s hierarchy: that of
    self-actualization.  The feeling of having Klout is one of empowerment and
    also a bit of transcendence – getting beyond oneself.
    Maslow, of course, is one of the oldest tool kits in the book, thus again
    proving that we don’t need a whole new construct to understand humans and
    technology because humans species haven’t changed and the same
    anthropological/sociological tool kit perfectly well explains changing
    In my opinion, part of Klout, even with its current lack of definition (and as
    we have discussed is more a form of awareness than anything else) is so hyped
    because of the personal delivery of Maslow’s highest state of
    self-actualization – Building YOURSELF through making social connections or
    seemingly interweaving your wills into your own agendas. 

    I can say that so far only Danny and Sam came very close to understanding
    influence as whole. Both are looking way beyond just awareness and i think
    that framework that Sam and Danny developed and are working on it will be
    essential tool for every CMO out there. 
    At SXSW this year where i
    was talking about influence i did present latest study that was
    carried out with regards to importance of Klout, Kred or PeerIndex scores in
    marketing strategy. The key learning from the study was that the
    influence score accounted for only 3% of the variation in “response”.
    That is, 97% of the differences in behavioral response were driven by factors
    other than social influence. The mere fact that someone sends and has
    ability to share a message is too simplistic in social media. Just cause a message
    goes out in the “ether” doesn’t mean it has any impact at all. It is just
    broadcast. There are many other factors that relate to see if a message
    that is sent is actually received, seized upon and integrated. So the idea that
    because a “sender” has a high influence score is influential is what we prove
    against. Many other factors (time, type of message, object…) have greater
    I am more then happy to
    share study with you if you want to see and dig into.

    • jureklepic Great comment Jure! I’d be interested in digesting that study – I’m always looking for studies around Influencer Marketing, trying to get different perspectives from different people 🙂 You can email it to me!

    • jureklepic Thanks so much for this very thought provoking reply, Jure.
      The concept of relational identification resonates particularly with me and wonder if the difficulty brands have with social is it goes against the traditional capitalistic/individualistic culture they’re evolved into since the Industrial Revolution.
      There’s been much talk of the “social revolution” but little published about the cultural ramifications of that.
      As a Canadian, we’re used to defining ourselves in relation to others, especially that “elephant we’re in bed with.”
      I would be very interested in digging into your study.
      Thank you again for giving me much to think about.

      • AskAaronLee

        Danny Brown Ahhhh!! jureklepic took the words out of my mouth… nahh who am i kidding, I aint no smarty pants … two thumbs up for the comment.

  2. Hi Ray,
    Great conversation starter, and good to see Daniel and the IN platform getting airtime. samfiorella and I chatted with him yesterday and saw an early look at what should be coming everyone’s way this summer, and they definitely have some great ideas regarding influence and making it both substantial and qualitative.
    The topic of influence is a fluid one for sure. Klout, as the early player in the space, have certainly made a name for themselves, but we (Sam and I) see them measuring popularity and reactions versus true influence. They also measure limited data, and that skews their metrics from the start.
    The big problem, if you like, is that influence marketing today is primarily placing the influencer (whoever he or she may be – blogger, social media power user, etc) at the centre of the marketing circle, which is a big reason why many influence campaigns don’t see any significant return.
    Once you move away from that mindset and think with the customer in mind, and how they influence decisions and are influenced by different factors and people, then we can start to truly understand this space and its implications for business.
    Sam and I’s imminent http://influencemarketingbook.com digs into this very approach and moves beyond social scoring and into true business frameworks and results, helping brands understand influence marketing and how to use as a lead generation/customer acquisition solution, as well as improving the value of the customer life cycle. We’re looking forward to sharing it soon. 🙂

    • Danny Brown samfiorella Danny Brown Thanks for the additional insight, Danny. And as I mentioned in my reply tosamfiorella, I look forward tohttp://influencemarketingbook.com/, the book. 
      Your point about placing the influencer at the centre of the marketing centre underlines my opinion that influence building (gaming) seems to be a closed sport. Influencers trying to out influence other influencers. 
      What my hangout demonstrated (on a very small scale) is that people not as invested in the marketing space still define influence by its traditional meaning – the ability to cause change and our behaviour and choices.
      In the meantime I encourage everyone who is interested in the subject of Influence marketing to join your https://plus.google.com/communities/100377272745240856217

      • newraycom Exactly. When everyone is an influencer, is anyone really an influencer?  Influence in marketing cannot be defined by delivering the widest reach or greatest eared media but by the decisions they sway and the transactions they create.  Great discussion.

      • newraycom samfiorella Thanks for the kind words, Ray, much appreciated sir.
        One the things we wanted to be sure to explore in the book (and we dedicate a complete chapter to it) was the emotional resonance that influence can invoke. How does the human psyche define what is influential and what is not? How does the same action create two very different reactions in people with similar outlooks and interests?
        The research for that chapter raised some fascinating insights, and I think that ties perfectly into your comment about influence causing change in behaviour and choices. Both Sam and I are very much in that mindset with you, and I think this is another key reason that backs up your thoughts on influence building as a game.
        Here’s to the future. 🙂

  3. I’m happy to see so many people delving into the definition of what is and isn’t influence. There is so much disinformation out there, which has been perpetuated by scoring platforms and the growing “become an influencer for personal gain” industry. 
    Sensei Inc and ArCompany released a study based on the survey of 1300 marketers and public relations professionals around the globe. Regarding definitions, the results showed a clear distinction between “influence marketing” and “social influence scoring.”  Another interesting insight was the fact that marketers defined influence marketing a customer acquisition strategy, not a branding exercise.
    If you wish, I can share the link to the report with your audience.  Thanks continuing the dialogue around this growing topic.

    • samfiorella Thank you for dropping by, Sam. 
      I just happened to see the article in the Globe and Mail yesterday with the link to the report pdf: http://www.senseimarketing.com/influencemarketingstudy2013-PR/
      I’v flitted around the periphery of this subject for as long as I’ve been involved in the social space, and still haven’t been able to clearly get a handle on it.
      I’m reading the report now and what jumps out at me is the scepticism marketers have with regard to social scoring as opposed to influence marketing.
      I look forward to the release of: Influence Marketing, your new book written in collaboration with Danny Brown.

      • newraycom samfiorella The results were definitely eye-opening, Ray. While Sam and I have seen skepticism at close quarters, this has primarily been from folks who share our thinking around scoring, so that was bound to be biased. With the survey being open to anyone, it offered a chance to see a non-biased view from around the globe from people who work around influence every day, amongst other business tactics.
        It’ll be interesting to see how the results shape how influence is both defined and discussed in the months and years ahead.

  4. Thanks For sharing this info Ray, this topic, although being clear, has been unexplored by me. I am going to read more about it. This actually can be a great question for the next Social Media Breakfast.
    I enjoyed meeting Daniel Hebert in your last ‘sold out’ hangout. I love spending lunch time with friends talking about topics where I can learn something more!

    • luislondon Thanks, Luis. As always, you bring a lot to these hangouts.
      As I mentioned to Daniel, the question reflected in the title is a genuine one. I’m exploring the topic as well and trying to get a handle on the seemingly fine line between affecting changes re “actions” and “behaviours”.

      • newraycom luislondon Hi guys.
        If you consider social influence (scoring) as Reactions – tweets, status updates, blog posts, etc. – whereas true influence instils actions that may even be against your normal behaviour or train of thought.
        A simple example – you’re driving and stop for lunch. You eat, are full, and continue the journey. Then you hear a radio ad for this amazing sounding burger (best in state!) and the ad (or announcer) makes it sound so desirable, you pull off at the next intersection and buy and eat the burger, even though your stomach is telling you no.
        If we take it one step further to define the difference between social influence (scoring) and true influence marketing, the very term is the biggest difference and why businesses are needing to move beyond social influence. Marketing is a business action of making sales and profits (influence marketing) versus simple amplification that brings in zero dollars but still costs money (social scoring).
        As samfiorella alluded to in his comment, a recent survey we carried out received over 1,300 responses from marketing and PR professionals across the globe, and the overarching insight is that businesses are no longer satisfied with scoring – influence marketing needs to be a true business strategy and tactic, with results, metrics, and clearly defined goals in place. 
        As marketers ourselves who’ve helped clients understans influence and its business value beyond scoring, we’re glad to see this shift in mindsets. It’s been a while coming but it would appear 2013 will be the year influence truly becomes accepted as a business solution.

        • Danny Brown luislondon samfiorella I see social scoring and influence marketing as coexisting strategies.
          If influence marketing is to work then the customer, who is “at the centre of the marketing cycle” needs to trust that source.
          Social networking is the medium for building that trust. I think a big problem is the inability or refusal for brands to see social media for what it does best, that is: brand awareness, community building and customer service. 
          Thinking aloud here, but a social strategy is the foundation upon which to build an influence marketing one.

        • newraycom Danny Brown luislondon samfiorella For sure. The way we look at scoring is they can be useful at identifying potential “influencers” to connect with at a large scale. PeerIndex have even said themselves (in interviewing for the book) that if you want mass data for 70,000 people on a topic, they’re your company. But if you want true influencers at the micro-level (the ones that truly instil actions and influence you to do something), then PeerIndex is not for you.
          This is pretty much true of scoring platforms as a whole – they can offer the 50,000 foot view, but the legwork and identification of those that are both relevant and can instil action is only just beginning.

    • luislondon It was nice meeting you as well Luis! I’ve seen you in my twitter feed before, but it’s always nice to put a face and a voice to a twitter handle 🙂

  5. Thanks for the big blow-up picture of me right at the start Ray – LOL! 😛
    It was a great chat, and it was nice to hear the perspective of others – especially from those that aren’t working in the social media industry! We tend to get caught up in our own theories as social media folks, but we’re actually a minority of online users. So it’s definitely nice to get “outside” perspective.
    Don’t get my definition confused with what Klout tries to measure, haha :). The art of creating action doesn’t stop at retweets and likes – comments, signing up for newsletters, entering a giveaway, downloading a file, buying a product, writing a follow-up response, etc., are all actions that Klout cannot measure, but are definitely part of influence. Action and behaviour tend to go closely together when it comes to online influence. Perhaps my definition should be changed to “Influence is the art of creating action, or changing behaviour…”

    I would add DannyBrown and SamFiorella to your list of people to watch on the topic of influence – they’re talking about the difference between influence marketing and social media scoring, and they have a lot of great ideas around the industry of Influence Marketing in general. 
    I’m closely aligned with their thoughts – I would say much more than Jure and Mark’s. They talk about it in a way that makes sense for business, and how influence marketing could be the tipping point of Social ROI. Very interesting stuff!

    • danielghebert Thanks. I needed an attractive image to pull more traffic 🙂
      The title of the post reflects a genuine question I have about online influencers.
      Thanks for clarifying your position on it and as a fan of Danny Brown, I am familiar with his position.
      I didn’t want to get into a discussion of metrics so much as I did want to examine how fluid the word the definition of the word has become since being associated with online marketing. Much as “social” has. 
      I hope people take time to read your comment. I took your definition from what you had said on the Hangout and checked it with a blog post you had written a while ago.
      I’m happy to add an addendum to the post just to be sure I’m not misrepresenting your opinion.
      Thanks again for the feedback and your participation on the hangout.

    • danielghebert One thing I would say is that jkcallas is very much on the same wavelength as you, me and  SamFiorella when it comes to influence, mate, and determined to help move the conversation beyond scoring, and into true business metrics and value. One thing’s for sure, the conversations that are happening today versus 12 months ago are where we need to be – thanks to newraycom for continuing with such a great conversation starter.

      • Danny Brown danielghebert jkcallas SamFiorella newraycom I agree Danny – I align with his views much more than Mark’s. Yours and Sam’s views are the ones I align most strongly with, though. You’re doing great stuff to get people to think about Influencer Marketing from an ROI perspective 🙂

  6. connectyou

    A very good post!  Inclusive and fair as well.
    I like DanielGHebert’s definition of influence: “Influence is the art of creating action. In the case of social media, this could be creating action personally, or on behalf of a brand.”  
    I can see why brands want to know and understand social influence and influencers online.  Mark does a great job of covering the topic from a business perspective.
    Jure does have a point – To date, the platforms haven’t quite gotten it right.  Do I have a better answer?  No.  I hope we find one.
    Daniel seems to be doing a good job of studying and offering insight on the topic.  That is important, I believe, if we are to move the needle on the topic of social influence.  
    I am both happy and honored that you have included me on your list of influencers, and to be named among such a fine group!  Thank you, Ray, for our complimentary words and gesture here!!
    As I have stated,  you are my Google+ Guy, and my go-to source.  I have recommended you to others, and will continue to do so with big pleasure.
    Thank you for sharing,

    • Glad you like my definition Keri! 🙂 I’m studying a lot of different ideas in Influencer Marketing, and coming up with my own stuff too :). It’s an exciting industry to be in, as it is where social media marketing is heading. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out 🙂

    • connectyou Thanks, Keri. We are truly fortunate to have a community that includes amazing people with such varied areas of expertise.

    • connectyou DanielGHebert Hi Keri,
      I’d be more than happy to have our publisher send you a complimentary copy of the book when it’s released in the next couple of weeks. It ties in perfectly to your comment about jkcallas and how the current scoring platforms seem to be struggling, and offers a true alternative approach where measurement and results are not only achievable but explained and offered in a clear framework.

      • connectyou

        Danny Brown connectyou DanielGHebert jkcallas Danny, what a wonderful offer!  I admire your delving into this topic and offering a trustable resource.  I would be happy to read and examine the book and also write a review.  What steps should I take to make this easy? 🙂

        • connectyou Hi Keri,
          If you can email the best shipping address for you to danny (at) dannybrown (dot) me, I’ll have our publisher send you a copy. Looking forward to hearing your feedback!

    • jureklepic

      connectyou DanielGHebert Keri, Daniel, there is no such a thing as “art of creating action.” Actions and reactions dont put money into the bank account, persuasion does. The best way to look at this is from the ROI stand point. Yes Klout perks make a lot of noise, but funny no one every publish a case study on success, even Klout did not publish any studies in 3 years of their existence.  If you look at their “case study” under perk tab what you will see in the report is number of impressions generated and reach metric. And this two metrics are standard metrics for measuring awareness 🙂

      • jureklepic connectyou “Art of creating action” “changing behaviour” persuasion, influence… those are all synonyms, haha :P.
        I will have to re-word my definition, as I don’t think my point is coming across properly. By action, I don’t limit that to re-tweets and likes. Actions could be commenting on something, downloading a file, registering for a demo, subscribing, making a purchase, etc. I don’t want people to think I view influence as simple impressions – that’s not how I view it. I’m very much in the same mindset as you, with social media being able to generate ROI, and influence marketing being a part of that 🙂

        • jureklepic

          danielghebert connectyou Daniel sorry if i came across rude, that was not my intention. I could go very deep in explaining why just having ability to create action or even as some will say influence is ability to create content is wrong. In nutshell we have many forms of actions. In my work i look particularly in 2 form of actions when comes to social, passive and active.  Shares, tweets, likes, +1, comments and so on are form of passive actions where “purchase” indicates the form of an active action… Active actions are action that cause behavioral change 🙂

        • jureklepic Very much aligned with your reasoning 🙂
          I didn’t think you were rude at all! I just wanted to clarify my point-of-view, haha.

      • connectyou

        jureklepic connectyou DanielGHebert Jure, what are Klout perks?  (kidding)
        I think *one* way to look at this is from the ROI standpoint.  Not the only way.  Is the exploration of ROI valuable?  Yes. I am glad that you and others lead that charge.  
        While I respect that others may not share my view, I don’t believe that every action should be tied to a mathematical equation or bottom line.  I find that limiting, and not inclusive of an entire picture.  
        In real life, there is certainly an “art of creating action.”  Some people are artists and others are not.  If the real point is to drive purchases – real life action – then we cannot ignore it.  
        “Creating action” and “persuasion” are synonyms.  Quit splitting hairs.  🙂


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>