Last week Brian published our list of 2015’s most influential marketing technology professionals.  It was a popular post based on traffic and social shares, but also apparently a bit controversial.

As with any list, there were those not mentioned who felt slighted.  There were also observers who complained about the validity of the Little Bird methodology and the credentials of some on the list.

No list or methodology is perfect.  One of the inherent flaws in most of these online lists is that they too heavily weight factors that can be seen online – followers, regular online engagement, etc.  Just because someone is a martech master doesn’t mean they spend all day on Twitter!

But this also brings up the difference between influence and expertise.  In an ideal world, they would be directly tied together.

But I think we all know people who have massive expertise yet little influence, for a variety of reasons.  They may shun the spotlight, fail to leverage amplification channels that could put more focus on their work, etc.

On the other hand, we all know people who have little expertise but massive influence.  Those who fully leverage every channel to build their brand but have little below the surface.

In the end, they both matter.  And you need them both, but usually for different reasons.

Those with expertise make you smarter. They make your team smarter, your strategies better.  They do the learning for you to accelerate your own path to innovation and success.  They are educators, accelerators, forward thinkers.

The influencers (independent of expertise) may or may not have the smarts, but they do have a channel that can amplify your own message.  Like it or not, if they have influence then by definition they have people listening to them.  What are influencers (from a pure marketing perspective) if not channels to reach your target audience?

You can say someone with just a couple years of experience doesn’t deserve to be on a “most influential” list.  But if they’ve worked hard to build themselves an audience, why not?  If they’re earned the attention of your prospective customers, can you afford to ignore them?