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Can’t seem to find ROI from so-called social media influencer? You’re not alone.

Ancient Greeks created fictionalized representations of naturally occurring phenomenon surrounding human frailties and called them myths.

And just like Homer, social media researchers are spinning tall tales about digital shaman, and their unseeing hands behind viral videos, trending Tweets and Facebook frenzies. The heroes and heroines of these exaggerated stories are known as “social media influencers,” and their power is legendary if it has yet to be truly proven with scientific data.

The Social Media Influencer A-List

You’ve surely heard of them. They’re the social media A-Lister whose behemoth followings are touted by industry peddlers as a quick, fast and dirty way for your content to go viral, or your product to get sold or your name to be known. They’re so sought after, receiving fawning requests for guest posts or pitches to rival car salesmen for space on their blog that they warrant their own top-tier list ala People’s Most Beautiful People. Here are some of those Social Media A-Lister’s signaled out by Forbes’ blog post “Who Are the Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers..”The top 10 are:

Chris Brogan, Ann Handley, Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk, Scott, Stratten, Robert Scoble, Glen Gilmore, Liz Strauss, Jason Falls, and Mari Smith.

Social Media Influencer Giants Among Ants

These social media gurus are noted for their magic of self promotion and garnering large followings. But if you get the fabulous opportunity to get an outbound link from their websites will you achieve viral content bliss? Does featuring one of these prolific social media stars equal a better ROI?

Is the notion that social media influencers can drive consumers to purchase products, a truism or, a cruel joke played by companies such as Klout which depend upon you believing in this parable?

Social Media Influencer Myth

Our research shows that the social media influencer effect may be more fiction than fact. We’re not saying social media itself can’t influence consumer behavior. It can. And in certain, controlled scientific experiments written up in the Journal of Science of all places, it has. Yet, even the author of the Journal of Science article who conducted what’s probably the first-ever proven causal relationship between social media and consumer behavior says social media influence doesn’t reside with one social media megaphone,  but rests with bunches of people with diverse networks.

“Our study definitely shows causal effect,” says MIT-educated Sinan Aral, now an NYU assistant professor. Aral and his partners measured social media’s influence on Facebook users through an adoption of an entertainment app akin to Fandango. “We know that there is influence, that it affects people’s decisions, product adoption decisions. Does it prove that there’s influence for every single product? No!”..[but] the big influencer [phenonmon]…we found that this isn’t the case…where you’re looking for one person who can start a cascade…this is not what happened.”

Sooo…when you’re looking to get your content shared I’m afraid you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way. Pass it along and ask them to pass it along. There’s no short cut to virality. Read more with our guest blog post on the fabulous social media A-lister Liz Strauss’s blog.