While the world tries to determine whether social media celebrities count as real celebrities, there is little controversy around the idea that the social media famous have a big role to play in motivating the shopping behaviors of others. Everyone wants to be like the cool kids, but online, figuring out just who those cool kids are is a little easier said than done.
So, of course, Facebook has just patented a new way to do it.
How does it work?
First, Facebook watches the rate that certain types of content (links, videos, etc) are shared before figuring out whose posting led to a sudden increase in share rate in their network. Those sharers are the influencers, and the content creators are the experts.
Facebook is then able to target those very special people with ads - and presumably charge more for those ads, since theoretically the famous and widely cited are more valuable brand ambassadors than those with little influence or expertise.
Spotted by PatentYogi, the “Identify experts and influencers in a social network” patent was first submitted by Facebook’s ads head Andrew “Boz” Bosworth in 2011, but was just granted this week. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have also received patents for “Influencer Marketing,” though the technique for identifying VIPs seems to be unique to Facebook. .
Facebook’s method is different because it does not care as much about the size of a potential influencer's network, only how likely he or she is to cause others to actively engage with shared content. On Facebook's new system, a user with a smaller following could be an influencer in a specific topic if his or her word inspires others to share. And the patent further identifies experts because they are the content creators who first get influencers to share.
Facebook doesn’t always productize its patents, but this one seems reasonably easy to integrate. The social network could sell these expert and influencer demographics to advertisers at a frothy markup with its category targeting tool. Facebook’s method also doesn’t require participation - or consent, for that matter.
So, if you’re famous and on Facebook or just Facebook famous, good news - the social networks has just found a new and better way to make you profitable.