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.