Passion, Influence, Relevance and Bubbles


Yeah… bubbles. Stay with me… you’ll see 🙂

After another furious #blogchat on Twitter where smart people were discussing the differences between passion and influence as it pertains to blogging and why (if?) it mattered, some things I’ve been thinking about began to crystallize. And because it’s what I do when that happens, here I am writing about it.

Before we dive in, thanks to @spikejones for inspiring some of this, @MackCollier for #blogchat (and lots of inspiration over time) and @edosegal, who wrote the ambient streams post I read recently.

First, some definitions (well, mine, anyway):

Passion (in the marketing sense) = commitment to/attachment to a brand, product, idea or position regardless of compensation.

It’s a feeling, an internal condition. It cannot be manufactured or externally created. Passion is a choice the individual makes… I choose to love Godiva dark chocolate. Godiva hasn’t asked me to love it, paid me to love it, and doesn’t particularly care that I do so… I, on an individual level, am not influential in their marketing planning. (Oversight on their part? Perhaps… )

Influence = ability to affect other’s perceptions or awareness.

Influence CAN be purchased/created. It’s an external perception… Billions of ad dollars are spent every year trying to influence the awareness and perception of potential customers. Is it possible for an individual blogger to have influence in a space he or she is not passionate about? Long term, I think the answer is no. Bloggers who have influence in a particular space usually have earned that right through good information, solid community, earned respect. Not always… because, as we’ve already said, influence can be purchased. Programs and tools and schemes exist to “grow your blog” and “get thousands of followers” to jump-start influence.

At least initially. Some of the current “stars” of the social media world, for instance, may not be around in a year or two. If they aren’t passionate about the relevant, interactive web, they will run out of things to say that resonate with the community marketers are hoping to reach through their influence. If they stop resonating, they will lose influence, and their relevance.

Someone who is passionate about an idea or product or brand keeps on learning, and loving, and sharing experiences and interactions born of the love affair. And those shared moments will typically only resonate with those who are interested in the same brand or idea. Maybe the audience isn’t in love yet… maybe just experimenting or looking for a first date. That’s where passionate people and influence intersect.

I can be influenced only by those people or messages I choose to pay attention to. Repeat… I can only be influenced by those people or messages I choose to pay attention to.

Why do I care what TechCrunch thinks in general about [insert brand here]? I don’t. I don’t care about what TechCrunch thinks about a lot of things. But I <3 Apple products. I tend to pay attention to what TechCrunch says about all things Apple… I am passionate about that brand and TechCrunch’s opinion is more relevant to me when they are talking about Apple than when they are talking about XBox360. I choose to pay attention… and then TechCrunch has a chance to influence me and my opinion.

What is missing from all this influence and passion is a way to filter relevance. It’s a fact that humans filter information and stimuli all the time. The web’s current model is based on active search:

Random thought triggers question…

Brain can’t supply answer…

Enter phrase into Google, or more typical for me, Twitter (or your weapon of choice)…

Scan results… (FOR WHAT… ?)

Click on choice that seems THE MOST RELEVANT to me (I trust the source/know the source or believe Google’s method for determining importance and value)

The future of the web, I believe, won’t be based on active search, but on ambient streams. Already, who I choose to follow on Twitter creates ambient streams that bubble up the information I care about. As more and more of the web dabbles in relevance… more information will find us rather than us going to look for it.

Who we choose to be influenced by (who we let control our information streams) will matter a great deal more than it does now. I suspect we’ll get more picky, too. More fragmented as a marketplace, more determined to know what we want to know and not see the rest. How will we determine who makes the cut? Passion… who we believe. Influence… who we trust. And relevance… who we perceive to “understand who and where we are in life.”

Already, the web can tell where I’m located, who is tweeting or geotagging near me, what sites/locations/stores I’ve visited recently (and if I positively or negatively reviewed them), and who I’m choosing to be influenced by (who am I connected to on Twitter, Facebook, Ning groups, LinkedIn, etc). How far off is that one app/program/site that will analyze that info, assign relative relevance scores to the possible streams of info, and show me what is relevant to me based on ME, not on Google’s basic algorithms?

Heady, and scary, stuff. What do you think… what’s next?


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