Influence v Popularity For PR Success

Creating a buzz for your business does not guarantee your organisation customers. If your aim is to build awareness, simply reaching out to bloggers can result in coverage but when you want a profitable return, it is best to reach out to influencers. The use of the term influencer has become commonplace in public relations and marketing, but understandably there is still confusion around differentiating between popular bloggers and influential bloggers.

Here is a guide to help you distinguish between the two:

  1. What is popularity?


Popularity is a numbers game. A blogger with a large following, or high rate of web traffic and lots of undeniably popular. However, high web traffic does not mean anything if it only includes unique visitors who never return, or a large following which may have been bought to boost numbers. A blogger with a high number of followers may claim popularity, but if their followers do not regularly check their website or social media accounts, the blogger is not affecting their visitor’s willingness to alter their buying habits as they do not retain their attention long enough.

The movie Mean Girls illustrates the difference between the power of popularity and the power of influence. In the movie Cady Heron joins the most popular girls in the school dubbed The Plastics. Her influence in the group becomes apparent when one of her high school peers comments “I saw Cady Heron wearing army pants and flip flops so, I bought army pants and flip flops”. Fellow Plastics member Gretchen Wieners who is equally as popular struggles to influence the people in her high school to adopt the word “fetch”. Frustrated at Gretchen’s continuous attempts to get more people to use the word “fetch”, head Plastic Regina George snaps: “Stop trying to make fetch happen. It’s not going to happen!”

While Gretchen also has a number of adoring fans she is unable to convert their adoration into action. She maintains her popularity but has no influence.

  1. What is influence?


Influence is marked by an individual’s ability to persuade others. As seen in the Mean Girls example Cady was able to influence someone to make a purchase. If a blogger is able to affect the behaviour of others, they have influence. Look for signs of repeat visitors, a steady stream of shares and active engagement from their network to determine their powers of persuasion. In order to decide if you have your company aligned with an influential figure, monitor a potential customer’s inclination to repeat their actions. Unique actions by potential customers also indicate which individuals have appeal. People will talk about topics and individuals that genuinely interest them. If a potential customer and their network is tweeting about a purchase they made specifically as a result of a recommendation from an influencer, this indicates that aligning with that blogger or vlogger could bring profitable results.