Weekly Web Watch: Knowing what motivates online opinion makers is real secret

A few weeks ago I was less than complimentary about a survey of ’e-fluentials’ carried out by Roper Starch Worldwide for Burson-Marsteller (PRWeek, June 26). The report did have some interesting findings, but what most irritated me was that it was of little practical help to PR professionals who increasingly face the challenge of how to influence different categories of e-fluential. It didn’t tell you what to do.

A few weeks ago I was less than complimentary about a survey of ’e-fluentials’ carried out by Roper Starch Worldwide for Burson-Marsteller (PRWeek, June 26). The report did have some interesting findings, but what most irritated me was that it was of little practical help to PR professionals who increasingly face the challenge of how to influence different categories of e-fluential. It didn’t tell you what to do.

A few weeks ago I was less than complimentary about a survey of

’e-fluentials’ carried out by Roper Starch Worldwide for

Burson-Marsteller (PRWeek, June 26). The report did have some

interesting findings, but what most irritated me was that it was of

little practical help to PR professionals who increasingly face the

challenge of how to influence different categories of e-fluential. It

didn’t tell you what to do.



It stands to reason that in any group of people, some are going to be

more influential than others, if for no other reason than that they have

stronger personalities. But the key thing for PR professionals trying to

come to grips with the new online environment is how to get the ear and

confidence of those e-fluentials.



But having been rude about the Burson report, I neglected to provide

much in the way of positive suggestions myself. So here’s what I would

like to see a follow-up study investigating.



The section of the Burson report (www.efluentials.com) that I found most

interesting, and the one I would make the starting point for any

follow-up, was the one about e-fluentials’ consumption of information.

One of the key findings is the extent to which e-fluentials want to be

their own ’editors’ - they want to be their own information filters,

looking at primary sources and deciding for themselves what is

important. This is borne out in other findings as well. They are more

likely than the average Internet user to visit corporate, non-profit and

government Web sites as well as individuals’ Web sites. Most Web users

seek out the familiar when they go online. E-fluentials don’t. And as

one would expect, they are avid participants in just about every kind of

online discussion and active communication. This is all interesting and

useful.



But I want to know more. And here’s where a follow-up study would come

in useful. (Are you listening, Burson?) I want to know a lot more about

their use of media and their consumption of information, both on and

offline.



Where do they go for their own advice? Who do they trust? What are the

online information brands that hold sway over them, if any?



Where do they hang out online? If I want to make an impression - if I

want to do the online equivalent of community service PR and make it

have an impact on people who are going to spread the word - who should I

be talking to? But before I can start doing things like that, I also

need to know what kinds of things the e-fluentials will respond to. For

that I need to know what motivates them.



What emotional or psychological rewards do people get out of

contributing the user reviews at dozens of e-commerce sites? Of course,

e-fluentials are not a single, homogenous group. The answers to the

above questions will vary depending on the kind of people you need to

reach. Future research should tell us about the different types of

e-fluential: the die-hard fans who create shrines to their heroes all

over online communities like Geocities and Tripod; the angry people who

create CompanyXsucks.com and then dig in for some digital guerrilla

warfare; the review-aholics who love the thought of other people reading

their views on sites like Epinions.com; and the techies who discuss the

future of the Internet at sites like Slashdot.org and others.



Stovin Hayter is editor-in-chief of Revolution. He can be contacted at

stovin.hayter@revolutiomagazine.com.



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