Facebook’s New Patent: Influence is only part of the equation

This came over my newsfeed this morning: Facebook Patents Clever Way To Advertise Just To Important People. The TechCrunch article elaborates:

The idea is that Facebook could watch the rate at which a piece of content like a link is shared, then figure out whose posting led to a sudden increase in share rate in their network. Those people are the influencers, and the people that they discovered the content from are the experts.


Facebook could then target those people with ads and presumably charge businesses a boatload to reach them. It makes perfect sense. Why would it cost the same amount to reach someone famous, powerful, or widely cited as someone whose endorsement won’t sway people?

In essence, Facebook is looking at marketing to “influencers” with a hope to stimulate (and no doubt measure) virality. Based on our research and experience, this is only part of the “secret sauce” in using social media influence.


Canadian Social Media Segments


As per our (zinc tank‘s) Canadian Social Media Segments (click above to expand), this will be akin to targeting Front-Liners. Thus, akin to the Diffusion of Innovations, the Front-Liners are the “early adopters” of ideas/products/services worth sharing on Facebook. However, such mavens only have influence over a certain categories and types of information.


Reality: Influence is contextual.


As I outlined in a previous post about Snapchat, the success of this platform (and its evolution as it is currently pivoting its business model) was its ability to connect with the Socializer segment. Thus, the collective action of members of this segment was able to stimulate rapid adoption of this platform.

Another example is social media in emergency management (#SMEM). Given my experience in the Calgary floods of 2013, I have had the opportunity to connect with the SMEM community. In times of crisis, the challenge of authorities is to connect with the Friendlies (i.e., those whose primary form of social media is anchored to Facebook). These are people who may have a low involvement and/or connection with a crisis, but play an important role in sharing and amplifying the message of authorities. And only when this has taken root, do Front-liners, who have a strong contextual relationship to the crisis, and bring their influence to the situation.

It is my educated guess that this is a start for these new marketing tools. Over time, Facebook will get a better handle on influence and context, and refine their targeting algorithms and ad sales accordingly.


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