Monday, November 19, 2012

Doug Reviews Influence

There is an eerie experience that some people have every day of their life that I have had only a couple of times, ever. It’s actually pretty cool. Let me tell you about two recent instances. The first time, what happened was I made a joke that I thought was worded pretty well and captured both the essence of a common experience we all have, but also painted a vague enough picture that the person hearing or reading the joke could insert their own unique imagination to make it humorous to them. I made the joke through a text message to a friend.

A couple of weeks went by, and suddenly, during a conversation with another friend, the same joke was told to me as if I was new to it. I laughed and marveled at the way good content gets around.

Then recently, I came up with something humorous and posted it to the social news site Reddit. I won’t tell you what it was and I won’t reveal my Reddit username. I like the anonymity afforded to me there. Anyway, a few days ago while browsing Facebook I saw a friend had ‘shared’ a humorous post. To my surprise, it was my original post from Reddit, now making the Facebook rounds. When I saw all the likes and replies to the comment, I was thrilled. I felt I had influenced, if just for a moment, the thinking of some folks on both Reddit and Facebook.

The experience got me thinking about the circle of influence we each have. There are certain people for me, in real life and online, that if they make a recommendation there is no way I am not following up on what they suggest. I trust the judgment of these people so much, I buy/watch/read/listen to/participate in whatever they suggest. Some of you reading this are specifically the people I’m talking about.

Imagine if we could all be assigned an influence score. The score would be based on the level of influence we each have as a percentage of the whole. You would essentially take the size of potential influence a person has, how active they are in attempting to influence members of their pool, how successful they are in actually affecting the consumer behaviors of their circle, and then compare it against their similar sized peers and create a stack ranking, assigning an individual influence score. Every single person would have a score.

Obviously, very little would change: big celebrities would get big bucks to endorse certain products or services. Trained actors would be in commercials peddling their employers’ wares. Vince would continue to sell the Slap Chop.

But what about on the micro level? Wouldn’t marketers be interested in finding the highest ranked influencers in smaller subsets to endorse their products, promote their politics, spread their religion, etc? Wouldn’t potential employers want to see these numbers and actively recruit the most influential people? I know that in my capacity as an “employer” I would find this metric to be extremely fascinating.

It’s basically taking the concept I frequently tease (Facebook Diet Shake Salespeople) and applying it to everything that generates any form of income or increase. I make fun of those Facebook Sellers, but obviously what they are doing is working. Obviously they are getting more people to buy their shakes or attend their fitness classes. Why not tap into that same influence model, pay ordinary citizens for the impact they can have and use that model for everything?

And instead of paying citizens, it seems like it would be possible to create a global “rewards program.” Instead of rewards for being a member of some club or a frequent flyer, why not use data from each person’s influence score to provide discounts based on the impact that person has on goods and services?

“Privacy! Rights! Protect the children!”

Bullcrap. If you think you have those things, you are naïve. Based on my spending habits, web-browsing history, voting records, income, tax returns, court records, and borrowing patterns I am an open book to anyone with the right access to that information.

Look, this is already happening to some extent. You know those ads that show up on the sidebar of your email account? Those ads are there based on the content of your emails and the history of websites visited. Why not simply attach all of my personal information to my secure consumer profile, factor in my influence score and give me discounts based on the success I have getting other consumers to use certain products?

It would work like this:

1)      Doug posts something on Twitter about how his family uses Huggies Diapers because they are so much more absorbent and easier to put on than Pampers.  

2)      This information is immediately added digitally to Doug’s profile with Huggies, which sure enough, checks out. Doug buys a thing of Huggies every three weeks.

3)      Over the course of the next few weeks, Huggies adds new customer profiles to their database based on new purchases. A small percentage of those new profiles fall into Doug’s circle of influence. The computer generates Doug’s influence score and applies the algorithm to his profile.

4)      The next time Doug buys Huggies, the computer automatically processes a $2.47 discount because Doug is such a good little diaper salesman.

5)      Repeat this process for every product ever made.

At first, this would cause an increase in the asinine referrals made by all of us in our respective news feeds. However, the economics of content and interest would soon balance that out so that we would only recommend great products and not risk being unfollowed, defriended, or otherwise shunned by the digital community.

Or maybe I’m just tired of buying diapers.

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