If you did a tag cloud on what was being bounced around the social media echo chamber in the last 14 days, the word “influence” would probably be the largest. Yes, even larger than “Old Spice.” Whether it’s the sadly lacking Fast Company Influence Project or the various voices in the social world trying to defend or attack it, we’ve suddenly become obsessed with measuring influence, finding out who is influential and figuring out how to generate influence.

Not a bit of it matters. If you’re looking at influence, you aren’t looking deep enough. It’s like judging a car by its color and not its engine. Influence is only a coat of paint. What drives influence is trust. He who has earned the most trust wins.

Do you trust Guy Kawasaki? Perhaps. But when you find out he has a team of people tweeting on his behalf, your trust in him is likely diminished. He has influence, but not as much trust as some. Do you trust Perez Hilton? I sure hope not … or at least not for most things. But Perez Hilton has a great deal of influence.

The difference in influence and trust is the difference in quantity and quality. Perez Hilton can get you a lot of eyeballs, but are they the right eyeballs and will they do anything with your information? Louis Gray won’t get you a lot of eyeballs, in comparison, but the ones he gets are golden. He gets them because his audience trusts him.

Stop looking for the candy apple red and start looking for the V6. It will make you a smarter PR pro.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • lvyuyin

    Cheap Gucci ShoeskingdomGucci its gorgeous China Air
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  • Kelley

    Thanks for this topic and the comments..as I'm interested in helping marketers connect with women on health….I say “Trust is the New Black Dress”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=135348116497699 Mara Lewis

    I couldn't agree more!

    The value of having a transparent, one-on-one conversation is incomparable in terms of creating credibility. You never know who is actually behind a tweet or wall post…but when you are chatting face-to-face, you know the communication you're getting is quality stuff.

    It's hard to have this type of rich relational marketing in standard social media channels – BUT that is soon to change! Live video chat offers a new opportunity for brands to create customer loyalty. Check out “SpeedFeed Video Chat” on Facebook. The beta version is available right now at http://apps.facebook.com/speedfeedlive/ To learn more about the SpeedFeed business model and plan to create live market channel engagement, go to http://www.crunchbase.com/company/speedfeed.

  • http://www.2seo.com/ Teena

    Very true indeed and I only trust people that has already proven themselves, content that truly comes from people who already has a name to start with not in terms of popularity but a track record. Excellent article.

  • http://www.2seo.com/ Teena

    Very true indeed and I only trust people that has already proven themselves, content that truly comes from people who already has a name to start with not in terms of popularity but a track record. Excellent article.

  • http://twitter.com/Kliejay Klieon John

    I like this post because I had never really though of it in terms of the difference between trust and influence. But depending on your objective I imagine it sometimes doesnt even matter. If my objective is spreading the word about something (a special promotion, for instance) do I really care about picking out the trusted sources over the influencers? I want perez cuz he has lots of followers. I dunno how prudent I'm being here. Thoughts?

  • http://twitter.com/Doug_MindofMktg Doug Goldstein


    Couldn't have said it better myself. You really nailed it.


  • Coachsue

    You know, I've been trying to peg this feeling I've had about this for some time and you just nailed it. Thanks for creating clarity for me. Now I can move on from this and trust that what I seek will be revealed by the trust I create in myself via authenticity.

  • http://interactioninstitute.org/blog/ Gibran Rivera

    You just started to earn my trust with this very right-on post!

  • http://xeesm.com/carlosrhernandez CarlosHernandez

    Recently, I was asked if the very popular names in social media circles was the best way to promote a product or service. My reply was a “No”. Why? Because they usually come with an army of detractors. As one begins to become aware of an individual's questionable ethics, it extends to their trustability factor.

    The game of golf is a good teacher. If a player needs to cheat on the course by “cutting corners”, i.e. moving the ball or not taking the appropiate penalty score then it highly likely this will also occur in their personal and business life.

  • Courtney

    Really great post, Jason. How do you measure Trust? At Traackr, we measure it through reach (traffic to their site), resonance (engagement with their community) and relevance (variable based on goals of outreach). With these measurements, people like Perez Hilton would only make a list of influential people if that list was identifying celebrity gossip influencers – which, in all honesty, could be useful for some people. However, the fact that Louis Gray could be just as important and influential is exactly what these measurements allow us to uncover.

    • http://www.louisgray.com/live/ Louis Gray

      Who is this Louis Gray guy? Never heard of him. :-/

  • http://www.estudentaid.com/ Student aid

    I think the way we operate our biz and conduct ourselves for the long term is what creates trust and influence, and that is exactly why I myself follow, admire or seek out. Just get out there and do good. There is no competition. There is no need to measure. No amount of titles, scores, badges, mentions or recognition need affect how trusted or influential – or whatever – anyone is. Ideally, each of us goes out into the world and we each do our absolute best with full integrity and professionalism.

  • http://www.WebDesignWebsiteDevelopment.com Web Design Services

    Excellent post! Too many have mistaken this now all powerful concept of “influence” and confused it with credibility and trust.

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  • Networlding

    Thank you for calling attention to the Fast Company contest. I am a huge fan of Fast Company. I was one of their panelists on a nationwide tour years ago talking about their amazing presence. I am what they thought they were doing with this recent contest but it is one of the worst I have seen and it has turned lots of social networking zealots into, well, I don't use those words in public. I've been around as long as anyone building online trust and your post helped me tremendously reconnect to what matters most. This is my first time visiting your site. Keep up the good work!

  • http://mimosaplanet.com James M Cooper

    Hey Jason,
    Sure, Trust begets Influence. Trust is the outcome, in part, of openness. Trust is the long game.

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