On Measuring Influence: A Snapshot from Social Media Analytics
My book included an entire chapter on Measuring Influence. I felt a book on social analytics would be incomplete without a chapter on Influence – but as posited in the chapter – a whole book could have been written on Influence (in fact, that book has been written, by Philip Sheldrake, it’s called The Business of Influence, which I’m looking forward to reading soon).
According to Gary Lee, CEO of mBLAST.com, measuring influence is not new and has been discussed for over 100 years and is discussed in more detail in Chapter 6:
In a 1898 article “L’opinion et la conversation,” later reprinted in his book, L’opinion et la foule, Gabriel Tarde wrote that conversations among people were what really allowed the media (aka newspapers) to survive. He wrote “if no one conversed, the newspapers would appear to no avail … because they would exercise no profound influence on any minds. They would be like a string vibrating without a sounding board.
Tarde felt strongly that only conversations among people about things they read in the media can complete the full cycle of “news,” as individuals read information, talk about it with others, and sway public opinion. Tarde’s was the first identified academic study of how people influence others. To go back even further, we could point to the book of Exodus in the Bible, where Moses was instructed to convey messages to the Israelites, who were wandering in the desert for 40 years; according to Lee, this may be the first published account of using an “influencer” to spread news.
I have to admit, Moses doing an early form of Public Relations by leading Israelites out of Egypt drew a smile as I read my chapter of influence (and still does); but if anyone was ever an influencer, it’s the founders of the major world religions such, Influencers such as Moses, Jesus, Buddha and so on – you can’t get much more influential than that!
…. But in order to measure influence, we need a benchmark to measure against; and, as of today, definitions and benchmarks for influence are undefined. According to Mike Arauz, a senior strategist at the firm Undercurrent, located in New York, “The most successful influencers [are those] who have found a way to channel their popularity and reputation into collective action. Perhaps they have a tribe of readers who buys every one of their books when they come out, like Seth Godin. Maybe they’ve used Twitter to inspire evangelists and get loyal customers, like Zappos.”
In Chapter 6, I took on the challenge of trying to measure Chris Brogan’s influence and how it helped spread the word with Stever Robbins’s 2010 book Get-It-Done-Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More? which Chris Brogan helped promote last year. I tried to measure just how much Brogan’s message swayed his followers, and when you read my book you’ll see how I measured that.
Perhaps it will give you some tools to measure your own influence, or the influence of others.