What is an influencer?

In the physical world, an influencer is someone who has some form of meaningful communication and engagement on your decision-making process. For example, my younger brother might have told me about a great dessert (e.g. the gelato below) he had last night, and the next day when I am looking for a dessert after dinner, his conversation naturally springs to mind and lo and behold, I purchase that same dessert (given our proximity, I was in his sphere of influence). In this context, my brother would have a direct influence on my decision-making process (by providing key information to aid in my consumer buying process).

But what exactly is an influencer in the digital world?

According to Simply Measured, influencers online tend to exhibit three pillars that act as their “foundation for influence”: reach, resonance, and relevance.

Reach: refers to the ability to connect with your target audience, and is built upon popularity, proximity, and goodwill.

Resonance: refers to the potential reciprocal or engagement relationship between the content that is being shared between the influencer and the target audience. It is built upon frequency, period, and amplitude.

Relevance: refers to the creation of content that is important to the target audience, and is build upon authority, trust, and affinity.

The Pillars of Influence (Smitha, 2014).

So when I began my search for influencers in the education and technology realm, I used these attributes to help identify, filter, and select the key influencers below. I chose three of the most unique influencers, all of which are operating in multiple spheres of influence.

1. Khan Academy (Twitter Handle: @khanacademy; Facebook)

With 333,000 followers on Twitter, and 851,351 likes on Facebook, Khan Academy is a highly influential nonprofit organization with the mission of providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. The integration of education and technology is defined by the work that Khan Academy has done – instantaneous access to quality education for citizens of the world. However, by no means is Khan Academy attempting to replace traditional education – rather it is acting as a complement to in-class learning, substituting for in-class lectures, and allowing the classroom to become a safe space for applied learning, discovery, and exploration. The video below captures this message: Khan Academy Founder Salman Khan on Liberating the Classroom for Creativity.

By the way, Khan Academy’s YouTube channel has 2.2 million subscribers, with its educational videos (all levels of education – from primary school to university/college) being viewed nearly 495 million times. Talk about influence!

2. Discovery Education (Twitter Handle: @DiscoveryEd; Facebook)

Discovery Education is an fascinating influential organization with a strong history and reputation in education, but also capable of adapting to the digital world admirably. The organization has successfully innovated to bring digital technologies, digital textbooks, tablets, and streaming education directly into classrooms. The organization has a well-established social presence with 169,000 followers on Twitter and 40,922 likes on Facebook. This is an excellent flash video on the home page of Discovery Education that I would encourage you to view, as it encompasses the significant influence that the organization has had in the field of education over 25 years as well as the steps they are taking to prepare students for the future.

3. TED Talks (Twitter Handle: @TEDTalks; Facebook)

Lastly, I have chosen one of my long-time favourite influences in the field of education and technology: TED Talks. At a fundamental level, TED is all about sharing ideas, expertise, education, and thought leadership. This makes the organization’s tagline highly suitable as a key influencer in the space: “Ideas worth spreading.”

With 3.35 million followers on Twitter, 6,298,986 likes on Facebook, and a global ranking of 858 on Alexa, TED Talks has demonstrated a very strong role in acting as a key influencer in the field of education.

And perhaps most influential, is the TED movement around the world (often referred to as TEDx events). I will leave you with two mind-blowing statistics regarding TED’s influence:

1. TED Talks videos have been translated into 104 different languages. Talk about global influence!

2. TED Talks have been watched more than one billion times worldwide. Influence and impact!

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