‘Influence’ in social media terms was discussed a great deal in 2010 and seems set to continue to be debated in 2011.
As Brian Solis says, “unlike so many terms in social media, influence is not a new word invented or reinvented to suit the times. Its origin is Latin, “influere” which translates into something very interesting for the social era, “to flow into.” Almost everything we discover and share in social networks these days is done through our streams and to loosely translate the root of influence symbolises the ability to flow into the streams of others”
This idea does makes sense, however it doesn’t quite define ‘influence’ properly for me. There are lots of people ‘flowing into my stream’ (is it just me, or does that sound naughty?!) that are saying a lot, but meaning very little. They put out a lot of messages, but I don’t care about them (note to self: do a cull of the people I’m following on Twitter).
Wikipedia says that “social influence occurs when an individual’s thoughts, feelings or actions are affected by other people.”
This surely means that influence (on Twitter, at least) is actually impossible to calculate?
If person A on Twitter puts a tweet out saying that they had lasagne for dinner and it made two of person A’s followers hungry for lasagne….how would we know? Maybe only if they replied saying as such.
Who’s influential right now? Take a look at our Social Media Week Twitter influence leaderboard.
What’s currently out there trying to calculate influence?
Both tools calculate influence slightly differently and give you some interesting data. But what they both really miss is the context. For instance, Klout says that Leonardo Di Caprio is very influential, but I don’t think he’s ever changed the way I think about something or made me buy something.
There are various discussions around these tools, particulary around Klout, such as this piece from Matt Owen at Econsultancy.
How we calculated ‘influence’ for Social Media Week
With all of the above still in mind, we thought that the upcoming Social Media Week in London gave us an ideal opportunity to have a little bit of fun and see if we could have a go at tracking the influence of people tweeting with the hashtag #SMWLDN.
We have developed a ‘Social Media Week Twitter influence leaderboard’ which will track in real time the most talked about subjects, people and events of the week.
We’re going to be very open about our thought process and how we have calculated influence. This is because, of course, we don’t claim to have answered the question. This isn’t another Klout or Peer Index.
We’d like this to be a bit of fun for everyone (we know there are some competitive social media peeps out there who will try and tweet their way to the top! Ok…maybe I’m just talking about me…) and we’d like the Social Media Week Twitter Influence Leaderboard to add to the discussion around influence.
The numbers behind the Social Media Week Twitter influence leaderboard
We had a think about the metrics that are available to us on Twitter to see if we could determine who is the most influential person on Twitter that is tweeting with the #SMWLDN hashtag.
No. of followers. Yes, it’s a metric, but as we have said, it’s not the only one. Popularity doesn’t mean Influence.
No. of times the person has tweeted to the #SMWLDN hashtag. OK, that helps to show us how active they are being on the Twitter hashtag for Social Media Week.
No. of times those tweets have been retweeted. Yes, the equivalent of the Facebook ‘like’. A thumbs up for that particular message.
…but it would also be good to see what the reach of those retweets is, so we looked at the No. of followers that the retweeters have.
This left us with tweets that mention the original tweeter, but that isn’t necessarily a retweet (e.g. “Wow, @ally_manock ’s tweets today are fantastic. Plus, I hear she’s a lovely person too.”). Ahem. So, we have also looked at No. of mentions of the original tweeter.
Obviously, the one thing we can’t really measure is the holy grail. What was the outcome? The action? Twitter is a mash of comments, thoughts, ‘likes’ and ideas. It’s what has been actioned/affected by those words that is the true measure of influence.
What do you think is the true measure of influence on Twitter?
We’re looking forward to the panel debate around influence at Social Media Week on Thursday 10th February.
Azeem Azhar, CEO and Founder of Peer Index is on the panel and we’re expecting some lively discussion! It will be interesting to see if the tweets coming out of that session affect our leaderboard significantly.
As we said, we’d like this leaderboard to add to the debate about influence. Do you think it shows useful data? Are we missing something?
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bondidwhat/218782908/in/photostream/