Popularity v. Influence: Are you the popular kid?

Cutome Made Cheerleading costume

Popularity is more sought after but influence is more important. Are people misinterpreting social proof?

There is always a battle between influence and popularity. Popularity is more sought after, but influence is a lot more powerful. Brands often play in both worlds. So which is more significant, influence or popularity?

How often do we get caught up in the desire for popularity instead of recognizing the importance of influence? Honestly, fairly frequently. But these two levels of social relationships can, and do, intersect. In the world of personal branding, popularity can also be influential. Take a look at Chris Brogan, Mari Smith and Chris Garrett.

At what point might you be sacrificing your influence for popularity? Social media mirrors everyday life, where the popular kids seem to have it all.  The trendy people in social media have the big numbers. We go to their profiles and see 30,000 Twitter followers or 10,000 Facebook fans. They have lots of tweets, everyone wants to follow them, and they seem to be the admired role models.

Twitter, in particular, supports the notion of popularity. When you decide whether to follow someone, you base that in part on how many followers and how many tweets they have racked up. .

Social proof is the idea that your popularity proves your influence. Although in a sense this is true, the equation is not that simple. Social proof is not just popularity, it is actually based around influence. Say that you have 20,000 followers and tweet a call to action like “Visit my new website.  If on in ten people respond, and even fewer retweet, your level of influence is low. So what value do your other 19,900 followers have? Very little. However, if you have 200 followers, tweet a call to action and 150 of them retweet and respond, your level of influence and the value of your followers are high.

The biggest mistake  people make in social media is that they see people with 30,000 followers and decide that to be successful they need to mimic them. They may get numbers, but they may not be implementing the engagement strategy that creates real impact.

It is easy to get numbers. Anyone can buy followers. I can have 10,000 overnight if I choose, but not one of them will read anything I tweet.

The magic combination is being both well known and influential. There are tweeters who have achieved this magic combo and create strong and powerful social media campaigns.

If you want to be successful you need influence, built on a solid reputation, more than popularity. That’s the real proof in social proof. Over time, with networking and a good strategy, recognition and status will come. But without influence you are just the lonely head cheerleader who has no real friends.*


*Disclaimer: Yeah, I know there are many cheerleaders who have real friends. My mom was a cheerleader.  I am just playing on the stereotype that cheerleaders are vapid and only looking for popularity. I’m sure there have been a few…