Under the Influencers

Posted on Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Part of building and participating in a community is the influence we have on others. With the advent of social media and more personal interactions, people have risen to levels heretofore unexpected. Influencers help to sway the activities of a community and stars arise that influence at the highest level. Rachel Happe (Co-founder of The Community Roundtable) and Marshall Kirkpatrick (Vice President, Influencer Relations, Analyst Relations, and Competitive Intelligence at Sprinklr) join Mary & PJ to talk about the difference between influence and popularity, and what it means to be an influencer.

Show Notes

Key Quotes:

An influencer is someone who has won the respect, interest, and attention of other subject matter experts in a particular field or context. [At Sprinklr], we measure that through analysis of the Twitter follow relationship through a specific model called Social Graph Analysis. -Marshall Kirkpatrick

[If] you’re just looking at follower counts, then it turns into “Oh! They must be an influencer! They have 110,000 followers.” And… maybe! but if it’s not consolidated into one [topic] space and half of them are bots, what’s it going to do for you? -Rachel Happe

To be a deep influencer, you have to engage in dialogue with people. You have to be able to challenge them effectively, which means you also have to be supportive… meaning, if they don’t know that you’re supportive and you challenge them, then you’re just an asshole and you’re not going to change their opinion about anything. That requires a relationship and you have to be open yourself to being changed. You can’t approach it with “I’m going to proclaim my expertise to the world and they are going to sit back and listen!” Relationships are influence. -Rachel Happe

In order to be an influencer, you have to be willing to be influenced. You have to have the capability and flexibility to say “Yes, I’m going to promote this product or work for this company, or work with this project…” but at the same time you have to be open to the idea that things might not be perfect in the world. -PJ Hagerty

Words are hard. Saying “In my experience…” or “In my expertise, that doesn’t look right”, which is different than saying “That’s wrong.” -Rachel Happe It’s the gentle way to continue a conversation! The first is saying “Lead me to your way of thinking… help me understand” whereas “You’re wrong” ends the conversation. -PJ Hagerty

The main difference I’ve seen between people who have a lot of followers and people who are influencers is that influencers are able to understand the power that their platform has and use that to engage people, to encourage conversations, to encourage diversity, to encourage greater thinking about issues. -Mary Thengvall

A big part of the value of these thought leaders and influencers that we haven’t touched on is not so much in the way they can move the outside world and the web that we’re all a part of… but there’s a huge source of value [for businesses] that comes from connecting with these thought leaders and influencers that can be derived from learning from them. -Marshall Kirkpatrick

I would suggest that there’s an opportunity there (when there’s a “flash” of influence that catapults someone onto a platform with many Twitter followers) to build a relationship. There may be a signal-to-noise ratio that you need to be cautious of – perhaps only 1/10 of those people will be able to sustain the platform – but early access and development of a relationship, especially with someone that you like, who winds up growing into a position of thought leadership, means more time spent around their work and a more impactful relationship. -Marshall Kirkpatrick

In order to draw people to a community you need to figure out who influences them. If their top influencers aren’t also in the community, those individuals aren’t going to be aware of your new community, let alone interested in joining. -Rachel Happe

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Marshall Kirkpatrick

Marshall Kirkpatrick

Marshall Kirkpatrick is Vice President of Influencer Relations, Analyst Relations, and Competitive Intelligence at Sprinklr.

Rachel Happe

Rachel Happe

Rachel Happe (@rhappe) is a Co-Founder and Principal at The Community Roundtable, a company dedicated to advancing the business of community. The Community Roundtable collaborates with clients to develop proven, practical strategies for better engagement. Clients rely on TheCR’s models, research, and networks to take their communities to the next level.

Rachel co-founded The Community Roundtable to support business leaders developing their community, collaboration, and engagement strategies. Clients including SAP, AAAS, EA, Ciena, the Canadian Medical Association, and Hitachi Vantara benefit from Rachel’s ability to make sense of abstract trends and her ability to see the implications that technical and operational decisions can have on people and processes.

Rachel has over twenty-five years of experience working with emerging technologies including enterprise social networking, eCommerce, and enterprise software applications. Rachel has served as a product executive at Mzinga, Bitpass, & IDe, and as IDC’s first analyst covering social technologies. She started her business career as an analyst at PRTM.


Mary Thengvall

Mary Thengvall

Mary Thengvall is a connector of people at heart, both personally and professionally. She loves digging into the strategy of how to build and foster communities, and has been working with various developer communities for over 10 years. After several years of building community programs at O’Reilly Media, Chef Software, and SparkPost, she’s now consulting for companies looking to build out a Developer Relations strategy. She’s also the author of the first book on Developer Relations: The Business Value of Developer Relations ((c) 2018, Apress)

PJ Hagerty

PJ Hagerty

PJ is the founder of DevRelate.io and a board member of Open Sourcing Mental Illness. He is an organizer of DevOps Days Buffalo, CodeDaze, and ElixirDaze. PJ is a developer, writer, speaker, musician, and Community Advocate. He is known to travel the world speaking about programming and the way people think and interact. He is also known for wearing hats.