Influence Marketing : The Strategic Impact of TOP Charts

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The History of TOP Charts

If we can credit the music industry for giving birth to the first popular TOP charts, the phenomenon wasn’t unique to the industry for long. Film’s box office results and literature’s list of best-sellers quickly followed suit. These two cultural sectors ended up being among the most successful ones from the 1940’s and 50’s. A few years later, new mass media such as radio and television entered into the world of charts with the results from BBM (Broadcast Bureau of Measurement) surveys.

For each of these new twentieth century industries, influencer’s charts and lists have played a key role in a businesses’ commercial success and the economic development of their industry. TOP charts quickly became extremely popular with public consumers (who’s choices became easier to make), and were soon proven to be essential tools for brands due to their highly viral effect.

The Rise of the Billboard Magazine Empire

At the turn of the century, Billboard Magazine focused on Bailey and Ringling Brothers (a circus that traveled the entire country) patronage charts. From one city to another, these charts were only used to leverage promotional events and ticket sales. They quickly realised, however, that the attractiveness of these charts to the general public could also serve as an engine for other sectors.

At the same time, with the invention of the gramophone and radio, music quickly became popular. As early as the 1920’s, with the first popular Radiola broadcasts in France and KDKA in Washington, USA, Billboard Magazine took a musical turn and became as we know it today. Eventually, in 1936, the Magazine introduced its first “Hit-Parade” followed by “Music Popularity” in the early 1940’s. Later, in Elvis Presley’s heyday, Billboard finally published its “Top Charts” with 45s records and radio frequency sales (source: Wikipedia).

In 2013, Billboard Magazine is widely spread throughout the web, and continues to be an inexhaustible source of content and major strategic leverage for the music industry worldwide.

  401804686_8679b081da_m Top Charts: A Vehicle for Influence Marketing?

In recent years, companies such as Klout, PeerIndex, Empire Avenue and Kred, provide tools for measuring social media influence that have created a lot of controversy.

Each of these tools (available for free on the web) provides their own specific applications that establish a certain scale of measurement that can meet the needs of businesses and professionals. Depending on the objectives of a campaign, they have several advantages, but none of the proposed algorithms can fully meet client expectations.

At the same time, other players such as Traackr, Appinions and eValue (from Montreal’s PartaDialogue firm) offer new approaches. Based on innovative metrics that are more focused on the analysis of content and user engagement, these new start-up tools identify users according to their value, resonance and relevance of content by theme. Many experts believe these new tools and TOP charts mark the next major breakthrough in influence marketing.

Today, marketers and agencies are gradually beginning to realize the commercial potential of TOP charts. Influence measurement tools such as Klout, PeerIndex and Kred have quickly understood this potential and are offering applications to help them create influencer lists. As have Shyam Subramanyan and Nick Kellett, two Silicone Valley entrepreneurs who in March, 2011 launched, a site dedicated to social list enthusiasts.

In 2013, the new science of marketing will continue to evolve and these tools will improve. Their development teams will focus on new features that will significantly increase their value in the eyes of web professionals. They will gradually gain the trust of influencers while refining their algorithms. Additionally, lists of influencers will prove to be increasingly popular with professionals and businesses because they will finally establish a direct link between true social media influencers and their content with the frontline users.

What is your opinion? Do you think ranking lists can act as strategic levers for web professionals and businesses? Or do you fear that they contribute to the birth of an unnecessary and inappropriate star system in the world of social media?

Raymond Morin
Raymond Morin contributes a monthly column on Social Media Influence. Raymond is a francophone author and speaker who has 20 years experience acting as a senior strategic consultant and coach for organizations, SMBs and independent professionals. Author of the books «Culture Web à la portée des PME» (2001) and «Comment entreprendre le virage 2.0» (2010), he has also contributed to several magazines and bloggers platforms over the years. His upcoming new book in French, entitled «Generation C et l’influence des consommateurs branchés», is prefaced by Neal Schaffer, and will be also published in English and Spanish during the next year. +Raymond Morin
Raymond Morin


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  1. says

    Great post, Raymond!

    I have always believed rankings and charts have value as long as they provide an unbiased, holistic appreciation for a given topic or specialty. If I have no clue what’s hot these days in indie-pop music, I will search for a top 10 chart on Billboard (or other similar music industry charts) and will be able to discover new bands and songs.

    Likewise in social media, if I wanted to know who is “influential” about movies, travel, or knitting, it’s great to have access to charts built via Klout, Kred or PeerIndex on these specific matters. At the end of the day, though, these tools give you an overall impression on who is deemed “influential” on a certain matter. Good marketers or PR specialists will still want to validate and spot check results and see if indeed these sources are reliable if, for example, a brand wishes to organize a blogger outreach or media familiarization trip.

    These lists and influence scores are great tools, but they remain just that: tools. We still need to make some sense out of them and adjust according to personal or business requirements.


  2. says

    ranking is required to attract the attention of influence marketers – no reward for being cool, no draw… There will always be people who game the system and people who follow blindly – there is no substitute for due diligence

  3. says

    The “hit-parade effect” has 2 main points:
    – it is somehow a self-fulfilling prophecy
    – it is subject to manipulations, a treachery which masks the real hit-parade that normal consumers would vote

  4. says

    The top list and influence scrores have their own obvious importance. However, much work is needed to evaluate the ‘real’ influencer, instead of that ‘influencer’ who has simply learned the art of gaming the charts. Maybe the three new tools that you have listed will be able to provide more meaningful result.

  5. says

    Customer Confidence, Being Real, Actual Delivery, will always beat any gimmicks or marketing facade or hype.. Eventually Clients Will always believe and pay. for what is real and if they don’t , well that is a toatl ball game altogether

  6. says

    very, very good article – i agree when you say…[…] In 2013, the new science of marketing will continue to evolve and these tools will improve. Their development teams will focus on new features that will significantly increase their value in the eyes of web professionals. They will gradually gain the trust of influencers while refining their algorithms. Additionally, lists of influencers will prove to be increasingly popular with professionals and businesses because they will finally establish a direct link between true social media influencers and their content with the frontline users.[…]

  7. says

    You said that the invention of the gramophone and radio, popularized music? Well until the person or company can find real tangible results with whatever ranking tool it is, it will be difficult to have confidence in any tool.

  8. says

    All solutions will be flawed; however, I believe the desire to quantify (even that which is unquantifiable) is so strong in our culture(s) that these indices will not stop. Those that stand on the side in protest, may be right, but they will be consider “un”-influential. My two cents.

  9. Dirk says

    Since they can be manipulated…and they are… they’re only good for the fools.
    Is the same with social proof.

  10. says

    Great article Raymond. I believe new players will come up with better algorithms to give more meaningful measurements which will force already existing players to modify their algorithms or risk getting left behind.

  11. says

    Thanks Raymond! That’s a very interesting comparison to those old media ranking systems. The trouble that a lot of people get into when using Klout, for instance, is ranking themselves against everyone else. Just as in your example, the music industry did not rank every single song against every other song – they were categorized for more realistic comparisons. That’s what I advise my own clients and reader to do if they’re looking at an influence measurement. Compare yourself to others in your industry. That way, it doesn’t matter that Justin Beiber outranks me in Klout – what difference does that make. What matters to me is how my Klout score compares to other professionals in my industry, and how that score is trending.

  12. says

    Excellent tie in showing the historical power of Top 10 style lists and how they now are used, as well as the sites that create the competition levels, to drive engagement.

  13. says

    Thought-provoking article. As many have said in the comments, each of these charts are easy to ‘play’ and the problem becomes one of quality vs. quantity. I also believe that ever since the Industrial Revolution we have focused excessively on proof, measurement and science where charts like you have mentioned were important. However, we are now swinging towards an environment of empathy, caring, even love in our products and services. These are very difficult aspects to measure using algorithms, so my personal belief is these charts will fade to black and intuition will start playing a bigger role in assessing someone’s true leadership potential.

  14. says

    Top charts certainly influence our choices whether we like it or not. I tend to avoid music in the top 40… so I guess even in negative sense it’s influencing ;)

  15. says

    Brands and agencies have looked for ways to find and target influencers since before the Mad Men days. Flawed as the current social media ranking sites may be, they aren’t likely to go away. Instead, I suspect they will become more sophisticated and harder to game. While that won’t address everyone’s concerns about the ethics of ranking, it should at least become more accurate over time.

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