Skip to main content

Social Media Influence Manifesto

Yikes. Is it really that long since my last post here? Funny how 5 years ago you would be lambasted for “not getting it” if you didn’t post at least once every day, yet now look at us.

However, I digress. Picking up on the theme of influence, everything I do in my role as community manager for Hill & Knowlton seems to come down to measuring social media influence. So here’s my Social Media Influence Manifesto, encompassing all the things I believe to be true about how influence plays out online.

  1. Influence is determined by the receiver not the transmitter. Attempts to measure influence based on volume of output are misguided and futile.
  2. Influence is contextual. People are influential about something. Knowing what that ’something’ is, is the key to accurately measuring influence.
  3. Value is a proxy for influence. Things that people are willing to reward carry more influence for them.
  4. Influence is about behaviour. To be influential, the receiver has to do something, whether that’s change their opinion, buy a product, or pass on a joke. Measure the actions.
  5. Influential people do not influence everyone. People can be influential without influencing.
What this means for networked communications is something I intend to explore further. Let me know you thoughts on this manifesto.

Social media influence cannot be measured

A few different projects have got my mind focused on influence this week. The first is planning the research design for the centrepiece of my book on social media in B2B (can we measure the influence that social media platforms have on the different staging of the B2B buying cycle?). The second is connected with our cooperation next month with Twitter at the Cannes Lions.

In both contexts I am reaching the conclusion that influence cannot be measured, and thus is a futile metric for exploration. Sure, you can ask people how much influence something has or has had, but do they really know? And what is influence anyway? In my mind it is a power that makes someone do something, not a property that any individual possesses. Invariably when an individual does have influence, it is only over a specific thing. Even the most influential people in the world (politicians, one could argue) have no influence over whether I will buy a Sony or a Panasonic television this weekend.

In a public environment, you might (just) be able to attempt to measure influence by looking at people’s networks, the re-communication of their utterances, but to me this is just reach. Someone who says something that reaches 100,000 people is no more influential than someone who reaches just 100, if all of the latter act on that communication but none of the former do.

In short, influence needs to be measured in context and at the receiving end not the transmitting end. That is not something you can do by looking at their blog posts, tweets or Facebook profile.

So do we continue to try and measure things that cannot be measured, or do we measure things that can be measured and can give us as marketers comparisons that we understand.

I think it’s the latter.