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Though most marketing executives (84%) agree there is a correlation between one's ability to drive action (influence) and one's reach, 90% draw a clear distinction between influence and popularity, and cite the quality of content as the most important factor in building influence online, according to a survey from Vocus and Brian Solis.

Fully one-half of surveyed marketing execs say creating, posting, and sharing compelling content is the single most important action people or brands can take to increase their influence online, followed by authenticity (31%), and depth of conversation (10%).

Online fame (1%) and connecting with famous people (2%) are significantly less important to marketers.

Below, other findings from the study titled Influencer Grudge Match: Lady Gaga versus Bono, by Vocus and research partner Brian Solis.

What Generates Measurable Outcome, Influence?

Most marketing execs equate influence with the quality of connections to a given network: 57% say an individual with a tightly focused network of friends, followers, and fans would likely have a more measurable effect on outcomes than a person with a larger number of loosely connected friends, followers, and fans. 

Asked to consider which factors contribute to making a person or brand influential, marketing execs cite the following:

  • Quality (vs. quantity) or focus of the network (friends, followers, fans): 60%
  • Quality of content: 55%
  • Capacity to cause measurable outcomes: 55%
  • Depth of relationships: 40%

Similarly, marketing execs say the top reasons people follow others on social sites relate to the quality and caliber of content shared:

  • Content is relevant: 62%
  • Person posting content is a thought leader: 51%
  • Relationship and personal connection is important: 43%

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Measuring Social Media

Views vary on effective social media campaign measurement. Most marketing execs say action, such as a purchase or a download, is the most important measure of effectiveness in social media (29% of execs rated action 1 out of 5), yet 36% also rank action as the least important.

The number of views (11%) and click-throughs (11%) are ranked equally measurement effectiveness, followed by numbers of Twitter retweets and Facebook Likes (8%).

Paying for Influence

Some 57% of marketing execs say they would be willing to pay for an influencer to help them "drive actions or outcomes."

C-level execs are the most willing to pay for online influence, followed by upper-management staff (60%), mid-career supervisors (55%), entry-level account execs (54%), senior-level director/managers (52%), and students/interns (50%).

Across job functions, search and SEO professionals are the most willing to pay: 83% of such execs say they would pay for an influencer to help them drive actions or outcomes, followed by ad execs (78%) and marketing professionals (61%).

Social Media and PR professional tied for fifth place (52%) in willingness to pay for online influence.

About the data: Findings are from a survey of 739 senior-level marketing and communications professional from August 25 to September 10, 2010.

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