Think about every decision you’ve ever made: where to eat for dinner, what type of skis to buy, what movie to watch, what to do in a new city.

Chances are someone influenced you to make that decision. 

Influence Shifting Online

10 years ago, a telephone call with a friend, watching a commercial on TV, reading a review in the paper would be normal ways to receive information. You would rely on this information to help make your decisions. More importantly, if this information came from a trusted source, a friend or expert, you were more likely to act on that information.

Today, this information exchange is happening at a faster rate.

It’s all happening in in real-time and at scale.  Want to know where the best Italian places to eat in San Francisco on a Tuesday night?  You could post a Tweet, update your status on Facebook, find a food Pinterest board, see the latest check-ins on Foursquare, or check a Yelp review. Within five minutes, you’d probably get the answer you want – from your friends and experts.  You no longer have to wait for a review of restaurants to come out in the paper.

Influence is rapidly moving online. This change in information consumption is becoming a bigger part of our everyday decision-making process.

Influence Online Shifting Marketing Dollars

Those that consume this information are made better off by believing they made a better-informed decision. Those that provide the information feel satisfied that they helped others make a decision, which also validates their expertise.

This exchange of information is extremely valuable not only to the actors involved, but to ancillary players as well. Word of mouth marketing is the most powerful form of marketing, since 6% of adults create 80% of material online and 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations. Meanwhile, only 33% trust ads. Brands and advertisers can take advantage with this change of information exchange online.

Everyone is influential about something and may want to share what their most passionate about. Whether it’s the mom who’s passionate about organic baby products, the retiree who’s into model trains, or the accountant who’s into handbags – their passions align with how they present themselves to the world. Social media platforms allow anyone to have a voice online. With technologies today, like Klout, measuring this voice, helping to amplify it, and helping others to engage enables those with passions to feel validated.

Not only that, brands and advertisers can engage with those who are passionate about their products.  Influence online matters because advertising dollars are moving rapidly into this sector. Brands want to engage with those who are most passionate with their products. Earned media (e.g. a recommendation from a user) is worth more than paid media (an ad) or owned media (company website) and by measuring influence online, brands can use this data to inform their marketing budgets.

It’s Early, But Conditions Look Good

Overall, it’s early days in the influence game online.  As more social networks emerge and more people engage with social networks, influence online will be increasingly important to understand.  It’s a complicated problem with consumers, brands, and big data all involved, but it’s a problem that will inevitably be solved.

---

Don Hoang is the Director of Business Development at Klout. Follow him on Twitter.

Flite's Guest Blogger series features the industry's top thought-leaders to share insights on display advertising, agile marketing, and innovation.