3 Reasons Popularity is Overrated

It seems that we never really lose our obsession with the popular kids. Case in point: the current marketing craze of finding and tapping into influencers.

It seems that we never really lose our obsession with the popular kids. Case in point: the current marketing craze of finding and tapping into influencers.

The Palms made big news last fall when it announced the launch of its “Klout Klub,” a program designed to serve up top-tier service and access to guests with high “klout” scores (a measurement of social media influence). And the hysteria around finding and befriending top “mommy bloggers” is nothing short of out of control.

So, is all this adulation for and effort toward winning over the so-called beautiful people of social media deserved or necessary? Consider the following three points to help you answer that question:

1. Domain specificity of popularity. The problem is that popularity is rarely absolute; rather, it’s domain specific. This even applies to high school, where the reputations of even the über-popular kids rarely extended beyond their class and almost never out of their school district.

Translate that to the real world: A Java programming genius has a following of hundreds of thousands across his blog posts and Twitter stream. He’ll show up as a highly influential individual, but his influence is grounded in his expertise. Will his fans and followers care what he has to say about programming? Absolutely. About his opinion of disposable razors? Not so much.

For every rule there’s an exception. And her name is Oprah. (You thought I was going to say Mr. Bieber, didn’t you? Actually, his popularity is extremely domain specific.) Oprah’s popularity is as close to absolute as you can get, and if you have a chance to get on her good side, do so immediately. But you already knew that. Moving on.

2. Reaching out to the popular may not be the best solution. The real question isn’t whether influencers are important — of course they are. Ask yourself what you would do for influencers that you wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do for the less socially skilled? Generally speaking, you always want to take an “inclusive outreach” approach — i.e., communicating with as many prospects, customers and influencers as you can, assuming there’s little or no incremental cost. That would be the case for much of what marketers focus on, namely using content, information or entertainment to promote a product, event or special offer.

Conversely, if there’s a hard cost involved or quantity is limited (e.g., a private event or physical gift), you have to rely on an “exclusive outreach” approach and limit the number of people with whom you’re communicating.

3. The real influencers may not be the most popular. Let’s say you’ve decided that an exclusive outreach approach is right for you. Before you resort to third-party services and elaborate algorithms and overlays to identify influencers, consider the possibility that you may already know your most influential advocates.

I recently looked at Twitterverse for mentions of our client’s brand and found that those who were tweeting had more than twice the number of followers than the average Twitter user. There’s a bit of cause and effect at play here. Those who are most active socially will often have the most fans and followers.

If you’re focused on an exclusive outreach program, start by looking close to home. You might be amazed at how many popular kids are already friends with you (well, at least with your brand). Don’t forget that the tried-and-true still holds: Always take care of your best customers, regardless of how they score on a popularity meter.

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