What are the first thoughts that come to your mind when you hear the title of “influencer”? For people active on social media, an influencer is someone who has established credibility, a large audience, and the ability to influence others by virtue of their trustworthiness and authenticity (1). The influencer phenomenon has become so big on social media that influencers are often organized across a spectrum based on the number of people that follow them (2)(4).
The chart below describes the different points on the spectrum based on the number of followers and common characteristics of the influencer/follower relationship.
For example, a mega-influencer with over a million followers may enjoy celebrity status and receive large financial rewards (up to $1M) from sponsors for each social media post that promotes a product or campaign. However, the influencer/follower relationship is distant at this level with very little engagement between the two parties which decreases the actual influence of a mega-influencer.
In contrast a nano influencer has less than 1,000 followers, but often maintains more influence. This increased influence comes from an influencer/follower relationship that is more engaged and sustained over the long-term. Also, the influencer is often local to the follower’s community.
From my experience, the same principles that influence someone to follow another person’s attitudes and behavior on social media can also apply when leading people to learn and adopt new attitudes and behaviors. Influencers in both realms need credibility, an audience, trust, and authenticity. The difference between the two scenarios is that leaders of organizational change need influencers/follower relationships at all four levels of the spectrum and the influencers need to be aligned around the same vision and work in concert to reach that vision.
Organizational Change Influencer Spectrum
When organizations undertake large-scale change initiatives, the change is led by leaders at the enterprise and business unit levels of the organization. At these levels, leaders carry a high amount of influence, but often lack the ability to form close relationships and engage closely with employees at the local front line levels of the organization. For this reason, successful organizational change also requires leaders with influence at the micro and nano levels to guide people through the change.
Department and work group leaders work with employees on a daily basis, create leader/employee engagement, and build long-term relationships. By virtue of their work at the micro and nano levels, these leaders have greater influence because they have earned employees’ trust and are better able to relate to the employees and communicate the impacts and benefits the change will bring.
One Final Comparison and Parallel:
Experts in social media and influencer marketing know that people are more likely to be influenced by the opinions of peers – who they trust – before they make a purchasing decision. Consider these research statistics (3)(4):
• 70% of people seek the opinions of others before making a decision to buy goods and services
• 72% of those who seek opinions from others seek opinions from their own social media contacts
• 82% of people who receive a recommendation from a micro influencer for a purchase follow through on that recommendation
Thus, I believe that people are creatures of habit and they will continue to look to others – especially their peers – before taking action. This principle is consistent whether people looks to others before making a decision to purchase a new product or a decision to embrace a change that will transform how they work. As a result, wise leaders will build a spectrum influencers at the mega, macro, micro, and nano levels to guide people to adopt and sustain their organizational change initiatives.