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How Do You Measure Influence?

If you’ve ever met me than you know that I’m not a big fan of “status quo” and when I ventured out to ask “who is the most influential man in social media” and “Who is the most influential woman in social media“I received a lot of backlash on Twitter.  Without knowing exactly what the result of doing this would I decided to proceed and over the last three weeks there have been over 30 women and over 70 men in Canada who were nominated.  In the first 2 days of opening the voting for the men there were 250 votes.

Part of the backlash came from other Twitter users asking “How do you measure influence?” which is a great question.   Wikipedia says “Social influence is when the actions or thoughts of individuals are changed by other individuals. Examples of social influence can be seen in socialization and peer pressure. This is the effect of other people on a person’s behavior.”

A valid concern that many had was wondering if this was going to be a popularity contest, to which the help of Postrank has been enlisted so that we could run each nomination through their tool which helps to measure engagement.  Or in their own words, “measures engagement by analyzing the types and frequency of an audience’s interaction with online content. An item’s PostRank score represents how interesting and relevant people have found it to be. The more interesting or relevant an item is, the more work they will do to share or respond to that item so interactions that require more effort are weighted higher.”  As well each nominated person will gain points for their efforts to educate the market place about social media through organizing and speaking events.  This one is important measurement to me as it shows who is actually willing to give back to the system and make it better.

After reading some of the comments that have come in so far, I think we’re on the right track here, but I’ll let you be the judge for yourself….

  • “Michelle Blanc has the greatest influence, I think, in the offline world (at least in Quebec but more and more in the ROC) due to her long-term collaboration with mainstream and professional medias — and an outstanding one online. I highly support her principles of trust and transparency and her views on open source technologies as a fundamental resource of our digital economy. Also, she dares to share her transitional feelings (this is not easy) as deeply as her professional thoughts. Finally she is also followed by many citizens in the Francophone world where she promotes Canadian values and excellence.” – Christian Aubry
  • “If influence means mentoring (which I believe it does)then the obvious vote should go to Connie Crosby. Connie has influenced, encouraged, and mentored many, men and women, to take up the social media mantel in their lives. Thanks for everything Connie.” – Shaunna M
  • “My vote won’t remain anonymous as this is something to broadcast: it goes to Shannae Ingleton. She has done quite an amazing job at bringing women together through creative events such as Literary Journey & What Women Want, and then bringing women together through her blog. It’s only the beginning for her. Although i’m positive the other contenders who are up for this must be equally driven & successful women :), the title of “Most influential” should go to Ms. Ingleton.” – Daniele D
  • “Cool list. Without question, I voted for Brett Gaylor – pretty f*igging revolutionary work. That’s what new media is all about” – Chris Aung-Thwin

Somehow these 100+ people (and I’m sure many others across Canada who weren’t nominated this round) have managed to transcend borders and make an impact personally and professionally on the lives of their listeners, readers and viewers to the point where they influce their audience.  It has also been great to hear about all the new “Facebook friends”, new Twitter and RSS feed discoveries.
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Jacquelyn

Social network analysis actually allows for measurement of digital influence, but you’d need access to all non-public data to pull it together. Ah, how I dream of an open source world…

Ari Herzog

It’s simple, Dave. You can’t measure influence anymore than you can measure the impact of your favorite shirt hanging in your closet? Maybe you wore that shirt on days you won the lottery; maybe you wore that shirt the same day you met your wife; or maybe you never wore the shirt but someone gave it to you as a gift and while it doesn’t fit right, you feel guilty tossing it.

Influence is measured different ways by different people. You can run metrics to get an idea, but like you indicate with different reactions on Twitter, nobody can agree. Like you can’t agree why that shirt is hanging collecting dust.

Ari Herzog on Twitter

RogerB

So I look at influence more from a corporate perspective. How does 'influence' (eg. of a 2.0 campaign or a social network maven) impact sales. nThat for my money is the clearest measure. To Ari's point… that lucky shirt may/may not be influencial, but all that matters in a capitalist market is whether you will buy a 2nd shirt n nOver the years, a couple things we've tried include: n- Surveying customers to determine what they believe influenced their decision. This doesn't pinpoint individual influencers, but helps discern categories – eg. should I invest in Analyst relations, TV ads, or trade shows. n- Analyzing influence on 2 scales… size of the audience impacted and relevance. It's the latter that most organizations miss. So it's nice a blog is read a 1000 times a minute, but unless the topic is spot on with your market, and/or your customer drivers (and they seldom are), then what's the value. n nThese may seem a tad off topic, but perhaps there's a nugget to be applied when considering how 'influencial' various individuals are in the social media space.

Alan Chumley

The word "standard" is jump in language. 🙂 n nHow do you measure influence? Well it depends what you're trying to influence. Opinion? Attitude? Trial? Purchase intent? Likelihood to refer? Sales? Advocacy (of your brand, of an issue, of a position on an issue) Some other behaviour. n nSo, the key is to set measureable objectives THEN find the right method and metric to determine whether or not you hit hit. n nStandards? No. Never. Nest practices and guiding principles? Always. n nSure you could do a standard if every social media campaign was the same. Some just want to get on-line while others are looking for engagement, advocacy, etc. n nWith any form of communications (I appreciate social media is vastly different) you really need to look beyond the how much and how good into the 'with what effect'. But even those 3 tiers work with social media. n nIdeally we should be looking at the full picture from presence and polularity to volume and velocity to sentiment to relvance to authority to engagement to advocacy to opinion to relationships and action. n nAnd, somewhere in there: the inter-relationships and inter-connectedness (via social netqorking theory and mapping that sociologists have been using for decades) of several blogs (etc.) with several others. What we're really talking about in social media are communities of interest.

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