Exclusivity is the key to influence

Online_InfluenceWhen the issue of social influence is discussed, it usually revolves around how many people you know, how often you post content and so on.  Some new research from Berkeley suggests however that it isn’t how many people are in your network that makes you influential, but rather how exclusive you’re being with your influence.

The research, conducted by Zsolt Katona, could prove a blow to services such as Klout, who tend to rank influence by the size of your network, and the influence of those within it.  Katona believes that measuring influence is rather more complex than this rather crude approach.


One key factor in ones influence is how exclusive one is.  For instance, if you have a wine expert that is quite happy to bestow their ‘influence’ upon a wide range of companies, they are significantly less influential for each of those companies than if they applied their influence exclusively to one of them.

The same applies for the people they influence.  If an individual is influencing a group of people that no other person is influencing, then their power rises accordingly.  If lots of ‘influencers’ have access to your target group however, then that power is dissipated across them all.

The report made an interesting discovery in the number of influncers in a niche however.  It found that the most power was when there were few influencers in a niche, but the next most influential ratio was when there were an awful lot of influencers servicing a community.  The least valuable scenario was somewhere in the middle.

All of which sounds quite counter intuitive.  Katona suggests however that this occurs because when there are a lot of potential influencers in a community, the company won’t have to invest as much time and energy into reaching consumers because there are literally so many people out there ready to inform them of the best things to buy.

So, the next time you’re looking to do things like blogger outreach, it pays to look a bit more widely than just how big someones network is, and look at the bigger picture of how many other people are doing a similar thing to them.



4 thoughts on “Exclusivity is the key to influence

  1. Interesting research, Adi. Intuitively, I'd say it makes sense that you are more influential if you are an expert or thought-leader in a field where there is less competition. For example, if you try to find a social media "expert" nowadays, there are many and tools like Klout, Kred or PeerIndex can help somewhat in identifying some. But more and more, influence and expertise lies within a niche, so one would probably want to look into a social media expert + food, or social media expert + ballet, and so on. Doing so will most likely go according to the findings of the Berkeley study, whereby the more expertise is within a niche, the more "exclusivity" shall be perceived.

  2. I agree with Frederic. I think influencers talking about a certain niche within a niche exert the most amount of influence and that's the same thing that this research reveals because a niche within a niche is small enough hat there would be relatively fewer influencers:) I hope this makes sense. Anyway, with the latest Google update it seems that Google is now looking more at not the number of followers you have but the quality of the people following you.

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