Influence is not a zero-sum game so analyst influence is not necessarily diminished by the rise of bloggers

icon-social-media-blue.jpgA common thread in blog postings is that because bloggers are becoming more influential, analysts have to becoming less influential. Also, not a week goes by where we hear that some vendor executives – who often loathe the communications and tech industry analysts – have said that analysts and AR are less relevant due to social media. The common underlying idea is that influence must be a zero-sum game where there is a finite and fixed amount of influence in the universe. If one group increases their influence then other influencers have to see their influence decrease. Nonsense. 

The amount of influence is not fixed, but can grow and morph over time as we pointed out in the SageCircle’s Fog of Influence. For instance, the New York Times has seen its paid circulation decrease steadily to about 1 million today. Does that mean that the Times’ influence has decreased? No. Because now gets about 25 million unique visitors per month according to Nielsen/Netraings, NYT’s reach and influence is actually much greater than the hardcopy-only days. Also think about all the bloggers, radio talk shows, cable networks, podcasts, magazines and others that use or discuss NYT content. Obviously things are not rosy at NYT due to revenue and profitability decreases. However, these problems are attributable to changes to the newspaper business model, not because its influence has decreased.

The same situation is happening with the industry analysts. While there is an explosion in on-line information and opinion about IT and communications, the industry analysts are in a good position to maintain or grow their influence. The smaller analyst firms and single practitioners can use social media to increase their influence through increasing their visibility and share of voice. While the largest firms are often criticized for being slow to use emerging technology, they can also play the new influence game as is demonstrated by Forrester with four blogs in the top 15 on the Technobabble 2.0 Top 100 Analyst Blogs list. Furthermore, the major firms have the brute force advantages when it comes building their influence:

Grow influence through brute (sales) force: There is nothing more influential than having tech buyers as clients and using your research to make buying decisions. All the major firms, but especially Gartner, have been growing their sales forces focused on enterprise IT departments, knocking on more doors and expanding their client bases. For instance, Gartner grew its client base by 700 companies in FY07, with 400 coming in Q4 alone as sales reps hired in early in the expansion started to become productive.

Co-op the blogosphere through brute (hiring) force: Bloggers are influential, ok we’ll hire them. Forrester is the example here with the hiring of Jeremiah Owyang of Web Strategy by Jeremiah fame. The second smart thing that Forrester did was let Jeremiah keep his blog. If the firms decide that they cannot grow blog presence organically they are in the position to throw money at the problem and hire prominent bloggers.

Build social media presence through brute (capital) force: While Web 2.0 and social media tools, platforms and services are relatively cheap, they do require effort and skill to implement. The larger firms can invest in specialists and tools to repurpose their intellectual property and promote analysts into a major presence if they so choose.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that analysts will automatically lose influence
  • Educate executives that the rise of the blogosphere does not automatically doom the analysts
  • Track analyst firms’ investments in social media to determine whether the firms are working to ensure that their level of influence does not diminish
  • Track changes in the analyst firms’ client bases to determine whether IT buyer-based influence is waxing or waning

Bottom Line: There is no guarantee that any particular analyst firm will “get it” when it comes to the Fog of Influence and take the steps necessary to maintain or increase its influence. However, it is not inevitable that analysts have to lose influence. AR teams and their colleagues in corporate communications and PR agencies need to continually monitor their markets to ensure that they have an objective view of the shifting influence landscape.

Question: AR Teams – Do you have executives that express skepticism about the influence of the analyst?  Analysts at major firms – Do you perceive that your firm is taking the steps necessary to maintain a high level of influence? Are you taking steps to maintain your personal brand and influence?

Do you have trouble convincing your executives about the influence of the analysts and the ROI of AR? SageCircle can help

SageCircle can provide you with the 3rd party perspective to reinforce what you are already telling your executives. Some of our services that can help in this situation include:

To find out more information about how SageCircle can help you take your AR program to the next level visit our website at, email us at info [at] sagecircle dot com or call 650-274-8309.

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