The Pyramid of Relationships with Social Media Influencers


relationships with social media influencers

Last year at this time, I began to present some online elements of my new book: Generation C – Influencer Marketing at the Digital Age, which has just been published (in French*) at Editions Kawa in France. Starting with the centrepiece: The Pyramid of Influence in Social Media, corresponding to the five levels of Maslow’s needs. One can follow the evolution of digital learning users, and compare it to that of influencers. (see also: The pyramid of influence in social media)

The digital learning curve influencers

In this pyramid of social needs, I illustrated how influencers and users (professionals and companies) follow the same curve of influence, but do not use the same platform at the same time or the same way. This is where the digital learning curve differs.

Initially, for the first two levels of needs on Maslow’s pyramid (basic physiological needs and safety), influencers and users are practically at the same stage. Their influence is almost zero; they discover a new ecosystem and come out of their comfort zone to adapt to new platforms and new communities. Users will first use the basic tools (Google, Wikipedia, emails) for practical and customary purposes, before worrying about spam and their image on Facebook. Influencers, unlike users, will establish their strategy, carefully choose their platforms, and then build their digital identity and secure their presence in social media.

It is at the third level of the pyramid that influence really begins to manifest in social media, for both users and influencers. Once confident in social networks, professionals and entrepreneurs are more likely to adopt different social platforms like Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn to reach their customers and influencers. Depending on the context of an influential marketing campaign, it’s time to build the relationship with influencers in the industry.

The fourth level of the pyramid (self-esteem in the scale of Maslow’s needs) is where influencers and ambassadors truly meet. At this point, influencers are producing podcasts, publishing e-books and giving lectures. While ambassadors are publishing on emerging platforms like Instagram or Pinterest. Once they regularly publish content, the level of influence of ambassadors and influencers converges. Some users may have more influence than some experts. This is where a contextual analysis of the social capital, is necessary to identify the type of influencer that will best match the campaign.

Finally, it is mainly the fifth level of the pyramid where you find celebrities. Their influence in social media is based solely on their previous fan base and visibility. A marketing strategy focused on advertising around the celebrity or fame. A social marketing campaign that will have a massive crowd impact but only with the fans (or followers) of this star. The identification of the message should be so strong that this crowd will adopt the brand. If it’s not, it’s just like buying Twitter followers. At this level of the pyramid, the real influencers give keynote lectures and teach at universities. The new stars of social networks are invited talk about their experience, and publish in turn e-books or blogs. It’s the perfect time to share and collaborate for content co-creation.

When and what kind of relationship develop with influencers

Last November, Caroline Baron, at Augure France, issued a new pyramid which provides more details on the relational process with influencers. Based on the results of a study conducted in February, which established the three priorities of companies with influencer marketing (identify, interact and measure), Arnaud Roy, VP Marketing, has developed a pyramid of relationships with influencers that clearly explains what motivates different types of influencers, and what kind of relationship can be expected.

It describes the three types of influencers in his pyramid: at the first level are prosumers (or connected consumers estimated at 50 million). The second level is made up of opinion leaders (Brian Solis or Garance Doré), and there are roughly 500,000 of them. At the top, celebrities (George Clooney or Roger Federer) in the sum of 50,000.

For one, as for the other, the objective of the process is the same and meets the three issues identified by the companies that participated in the study. Once the influencers are identified in the pyramid, it’s in the process that we can find differences.

With the connected consumer, we aim to capture their attention and encourage them to share their experiences of the brand in their community (recommendations). With opinion leaders, the goal is to create a long-term relationship with experts to jointly create value and visibility (credibility). For celebrities, the goal is to develop a relationship (contractual or otherwise) for the promotion of products or services and to support the brand publicly (popularity).

Similarly, what motivates influencers also differs. The prosumers, who identify with the brand, will expect to obtain benefits (discounts, samples, prizes). Opinion leaders will be more motivated by the added value it can bring to their influence with their audience. For celebrities, it is the compensation that will prevail.

Moreover, these influencers do not use the same distribution channels; connected consumers will be on popular social networks, and also on sharing sites and newsgroups. Opinion leaders will be present in blogs and professional websites. Celebrities will be in traditional media, and sometimes on social media.

Depending on the objectives of the campaign, it is essential to adapt the type of relationship you develop with influencers. With prosumers, we can develop the relationship around samples and contests, while with thought leaders it will be co-creation of content, participation in events, testing of new products and interaction through blogs. With celebrities, the campaign will rely primarily on advertising, participation in events and product placements.

How to Measure the ROI of an influential marketing campaign

Depending on the context, the key measures of return on investment should also differ according to the type of influencers, contrary to what Arnaud Roy presents in its graphics. With connected consumers, measurement will result in new business opportunities. With the influencers, the ROI will be calculated at the rate greater commitment and signed contracts. With celebrities, the return will be measured primarily on the established traffic and media coverage. Because they do not use the same distribution channels, and they do not reach the same people, the results of the campaign can’t be calculated in the same way.

And, as I mentioned above, it is only the third level of the Maslow pyramid (the need of community) where we can really start to measure the influence in social media, and see how the message reaches the community. It is at this point that the influencers publish blogs and participate in discussion groups, and the prosumers begin to share links on Twitter and videos on YouTube. Which together represents approximately one-third of users.

At the third level of the pyramid of influence (which is the first level of the pyramid of relationships by Augure), the return on investment is  calculated primarily from the connected consumers with quantifiable results. From the fourth level of the pyramid, the ROI is measured more by assessing the impact of influencers in terms of credibility and reputation gained. It is at this level (the need for self-esteem) that the most active users stand out as influencers, publishing original content on their blog, or on popular sharing sites like Instagram or Pinterest. At this level, according to recent studies, we find at most 10% of users. The extent of the influence must be based more on qualifiable metrics, more contextual in relation to the objectives of the campaign.

Ultimately, at the top level of the pyramid, (the self-realization in the scale of Maslow), are celebrities. Opinion leaders give lectures and teach in universities, while users (professionals and companies), who have climbed the rungs of the pyramid, are invited to the media and publish books on their experience. At this stage, there are no more than 3% of the users. The measurement of ROI at this level is calculated more in terms of media coverage and goodwill. It then uses key performance metrics that are easily quantifiable. (see also: How to define the influence in social media)

The influence marketing in the digital age: a new science

Influence marketing in social media is a new marketing approach that is more consistent with new paradigms of the digital age. This is one of the main themes that I discuss in my new book: Generation C – Influencer Marketing in the Digital Age, which has just been published (in French) by Editions Kawa, France. Foreword by my friend and mentor, editor from Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer, it will also be published in English this year.

In this book, I describe the process of influence in social media and present content marketing best practices. I also offer some exclusive graphics, like the pyramid of influence, which is a collaboration from Maximize Social Business (I also wanted to point out).

 (see Génération Connectée – Le marketing d’influence à l’ère numérique)

Do you agree with the advanced concepts of influence in the pyramid? Tell us what you think and share your opinions with our readers.

Image courtesy of

Maximize Social Business