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The face of the influencer is changing. The elected official or high-ranking local businessman that was the influencer of the past has been replaced by a highly connected network of social-media-savvy individuals. A recent study by the University of Oxford showed the impact of how information – and misinformation – that is spread far and wide with support of Facebook and Twitter algorithms is shaping public opinion. These social media sites are used by real people and by automated accounts to like, share and post. These accounts can game algorithms to push content onto curated social feeds and drown out real, reasoned debate between humans in favor of a social network populated by argument and soundbites. In doing this, they can make online measures of support, such as the number of likes, look larger – crucial in creating the illusion of popularity.

What does this mean for the energy industry? It means the battle is still local but it’s also social. It means that it’s imperative that the industry understand how their opposition is winning – not only in how they reach millions of people but also the messages they use to engage and sway opinion. Gone are the days of fact-based, ‘you need us’ messaging. Gone are the days of focusing only on the ultimate decision makers. To stay relevant, to stay solvent, to become wanted … the industry must take a page from the opposition’s playbook and utilize social media to spread its messages to the new influencers’ networks.

Written by Kristi DesJarlais, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Houston at Saxum

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