There are so many discussions lately of what makes a person and influencer and a lot of people and brands are swarming around the people they have determined to be influencial. And it's not completely wrong but influence is so much more complex than that. To me services like Klout and a whole host of others miss the entire point by assuming that one person alone is influencial. That is rarely the case.
Let me explain. When making a judgement about something - at least for anything more complex than following and opening a shared link - people rarely hear about it from one person and then go buy or consume it. The process is more like this: they become aware of it through a whole variety of ways - media, friends, advertisements - and then they might hear a friend mention it. Then they hear someone else talking about it. Then they take a closer look. Then they ask someone and do some research. Then they might not do anything for a bit. Then a need arises and they go do something about it. Now, tell me who was the 'influencer' that caused them to take action? The truth is, it was no one person alone.
Instead, it takes a network and a flow of influence to create action and it is hard to tell which part of that flow had the most relevance to the individual taking action. The other paradox is that the more one individual influencer pushes something, the more their recommendation gets called in to question because it often looks (and is) biased in some way. So pushing individual influencers to talk about your thing more is actually counterproductive.
So what is more effective? If you are trying to get someone to take action, you want to target the entire network of inputs that surround them. It is just as important, perhaps more so, to get the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th people around someone to recommend something as it is to get one person to do so. By targeting dense sub-networks of individuals you can affect awareness much more than by targeting the hubs of multiple sub-networks.
To illustrate this point, image we have 6 sub-networks all with 100 people in them each. Each sub-network has a clear 'leader'. This obsession with influeners would suggest that you should target the 6 leaders. To me you may pick up actual action from the 6 leaders themselves plus, a small handful of others - perhaps double. So you have reached 12 people, and paid for 6 of them to do something. I would suggest that instead, target 4 secondary influencers in one of the sub-networks and you will get the action of a much bigger percentage of one sub-network - as much as 25%, maybe more and paid less to get that action. The ROI is much better. Why? People heard about something from a handful of people, not one and the people they heard the information from were perhaps more creadible then from the leader, who is always targeted for sharing information and thus is always sharing stuff but it's not always clear what the motives are or how strong the personal recommendation is.
After all, the popular girls are only popular if they have a posse. The posse matters a lot. Without their support, there would be no popular girls. Followers matter as much as leaders... we just forget that.
We should be thinking about creating networks and flows of influence, not piling on to already overwhelmed 'influncers'.