In a recent , unveiled the results of its recent study, , which examined what it means to be influential and how can drive affinity among by better understanding the intersection of content, influencers and brands.

I attended the session, and heard from both Rob McLoughlin, SVP Consumer Insights at Buzzmedia Influence, as well as a panel of Buzzmedia’s Buzzmakers – a network of influential Millennials with a strong social reach that partner with Buzzmedia and other brands on various projects.

The Digital Quicksilver study consisted of two main research elements: six focus groups, which then informed a national survey, both conducted among socially active Millennials.

Trust, credibility and authenticity are the most important elements that impact whether a brand, content or person is considered influential. Yes, these are words that marketers throw around a lot, but these are words that also have meaning for Millennials.

These values must be present in each the brand, content and influencer in order to drive action – they must work together in a logical, synergistic way in order to have impact. Trust is a precondition, and non-negotiable for Millennials, especially given the proliferation of content and sources. However, credibility and authenticity are built over time; they must be earned and managed with care.

One Millennial who participated in the focus group research said “A brand is a part of your life that you will actually argue about.” When consumers have strong relationships based on trust with the brands they love, they are willing to defend them and fight for them.

Millennials has strongly formed opinions about what they believe influential brands should be. They want influential brands to be creative, innovative, compassionate, stylish and humorous. And they should also be social. 76% of Millennials follow brands via social media – making this a critical way in which brands influence consumer perception. Millennials welcome content from useful brands, but will only share it if worthy, so careful attention must be put toward producing worthy content.

Through this research, Buzzmedia also developed a spectrum by which to analyze influencers based on two scales: topic expertise and fame. They found Millennials value topic expertise above fame when seeking information. “Influencers need to be intimately involved in the sphere of activity they are representing – not just brought in because they are popular.” However, the key to igniting consumer passion about brands through influencers comes full circle: topic experts can only be impactful for brands if the connection is believable and authentic.

My key takeaway from the panel is that relationships are key and with relationships built on trust, credibility and authenticity, influential brands can sway Millennials to action.

CO-AUTHORS: Gretchen Hutter and Natalie Wilson

Source: Social Media Week 2013 Buzzmedia Panel