Although they are referred to in this article as “a new kind of web site”, most academic librarians have used or are familiar with social bookmarking sites – or those that combine social bookmarking and social networking. What is a hidden influencer? Someone whose contributions to sites such as Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit or StumbleUpon (see the article for more information) gather so much buzz that they gain the power to influence others or cause them to take action. This applies somewhat more to any site where individuals vote to determine which stories rise to the top of the heap. On Reddit, one of the most influential users is a 12-year-old who submitted stories that discussed Microsoft Vista’s security flaws and price tag, which attracted approving votes from more than 500 users.
Influencers can impact on others in different ways. Last week the popular YouTube video on Web 2.0 no doubt influenced hundreds of thousands of indivduals to think about Web 2.0. This may be one reason why academic libraries should be doing more serious exploration of localized social sites that allow the user community to share news and information about the library, its resources or perhaps campus issues as well. Rather than our own often unsatisfactory efforts to influence users to take advantage of library resources and services, perhaps we need to tap into the powers of hidden influencers. Imagine the power of a hidden influencer recommending the library for a particular type of research or sharing news about a beneficial service the library offers. If an English teacher’s mention of an arts and crafts project on Digg could cause a Web site selling some of the ingredients needed for the project to rapidly sell out, imagine the impact influencers could have on promoting the academic library.