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The Growing Power of Citizen Influencers

Adjunct faculty member Mark W. Schaefer explores the power of social media users in his new book

With the click of a mouse, social media users can share just about everything on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and dozens of other sites. Information gatekeepers no longer control what content we consume and how we access it in this era of social media. And user generated content is going viral like never before, ultimately giving social media users the power of influence. In his new book, Return on Influence, Mark W. Schaefer explores the implications of these “citizen influencers” and offers insights into companies such as Klout that measure social media influence. Schaefer is an adjunct faculty member at the Rutgers Center for Management Development, teaching in the Mini-MBA: Digital Marketing programs.

Rutgers Today: How is social media influence measured?

Schaefer: With the broad access that we have today to high-speed internet and free, easy-to-use publishing tools such as blogging, Facebook and Twitter, everyone now has the chance to publish and share their content. How this content “moves” through the Internet, and how people react to it produces discrete, measurable events. In essence, we can begin to actually quantify one aspect of influence on a mass scale, which is vitally important for marketers.

Rutgers Today: What do you teach your students about social media in in the Mini-MBA programs?

Schaefer: Everything I teach connects back to strategy and measurable results. And I teach through stories and case studies which make it interesting and even a bit entertaining.  I have a lot of fun illustrating how companies are creating passionate communities around products like printers, scissors and microscopes. It’s about connecting to the people who love your company in a human and personal way.

Rutgers Today: What do you think the future of social media influence will be?

Schaefer: There are going to be so many changes happening quickly because a lot of money is being poured into this field right now. I think the most important near-term development is mobile applications of these tools, which will enable even the smallest businesses to tap into these powerful influencers. If you’re a restaurant owner, wouldn’t you like to know if a powerful food blogger is looking for a place to eat in your town that night? The other important development is connecting these conversations to sales, and that is beginning to happen already.

Rutgers Today: Klout is one of the leading companies providing tools to measure a user’s social media influence across his or her social networks. Will a Klout score ever be on the same level of importance as, let’s say, a credit score?

Schaefer: I think that is a very good analogy. A credit score does not tell us everything about a person, but it is a short-hand indicator of something that businesses find useful. These social influence scores are similar. It would be dangerous to make decisions on these scores alone, but they may be an indicator of a person’s relative effectiveness on the web.

Mark W. Schaefer  Learn more about the work of Mark Schaefer through his blog at www.businessesGROW.com/blog