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Who's influencing who?

Bob Ambrogi (@bobambrogi) writes this morning that the nation’s two leading legal publishers (LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters) are holding competing blogger summits tomorrow, one in New York and the other in the Twin Cities. One even includes dinner off Park Avenue in New York City.

Bloggers, journalists, and other influencers have been invited to the summits as a precursor to LegalTech New York, which takes place Jan. 29-30. Executives from the LexisNexis Research and Litigation Solutions division, will discuss strategic and product plans for 2013 and beyond. Thomson Reuters is introducing “… [A] new class of products, tools, and technologies that we think will define the next generation of technology for the evolving legal marketplace.”

Maybe I’m cynical, but I wonder who’s influencing who here. And who’s being influenced in a way that can impugn their integrity?

Generally, companies use social media to reach and engage the influencers in an open medium via the Internet so as to build trust. The influencers then share the information and insight they receive with their audience via the Internet in a fair, unbiased, and if need be, critical fashion. It’s how influencers get influence – they establish trust by being part of real, authentic, and open conversation.

This form of social media works well for the companies and the bloggers. The companies’ customers see the company as being real and authentic, not pitching their product to a captive audience. The bloggers are seen by their audience as getting information and insight on the Internet, where the information is widely discussed and evaluated.

I am not sure who’s attending the blog summits. I didn’t get an invite and haven’t heard from anyone who did.

How credible would we see reporters if they took their information at an invitation only White House briefing and dinner, with perhaps only those reporters favorable to the President being invited and those attending knowing they’d not get an invite back if the reported unfavorably? How about product reviews coming from reporters and bloggers being heavily influenced by the manufacturer in a closed environment?

Things would at least look suspect.

I am not calling into question the value of LexisNexis’ or Thomson Reuter’s new products and services. Nor am I saying the bloggers and reporters attending are shills for the companies.

The marketplace has become a conversation where there is much to gained by all with an open, authentic, and real engagement between those with something to sell and those who may have an interest in buying. That’s why social media is taking off and advertising and PR is on the decline.

Bloggers and influencers on social media play a big role in this conversation both as consumers of services and in sharing information and insight with other consumers. They help fuel the dialogue of conversation between companies and consumers.

Social media gets warped if the influence gets out of hand.

What it’ll be important here is to see the bloggers blogging and tweeting tomorrow about the companies’ new product services with frank and open opinions which will then generate dialogue among the net at large, including LexisNexis’ and Thomson Reuter’s customers.