The dimensions of influence

I recently discovered that I had made the inaugural version of The Br200 – Brand Republic’s list of the web’s most influential bloggers. Leaving aside the fact that it is a) industry specific and b) English language, it is still an achievement I’m surprised at and proud of. As more blogs get submitted, I’ll inevitably slide down the list to somewhere approximating my Ad Age Power 150 position, and so I’ve taken a screen grab to prove I once reached the giddy heights of 113.

The Brand Republic top 200 influential bloggers

There are a couple of reasons for my surprise.

Firstly, I’ve never considered myself as influential. I’ve always been open with saying that I started this blog primarily to formalise my own thoughts. The feedback I’ve received and connections I’ve made as a result have been very gratifying, but this wasn’t what I set out to achieve.

The second – and more important element – is the nature of influence and what it actually means.

Wiktionary defines it as “the power to affect, control or manipulate something or someone”.

It may be me being semantically pedantic, but I don’t agree with this. Outside of mind control, it isn’t possible. David Armano has his six pillars of influence but these still require receptive agents. And ultimately, people are autonomous. They can choose to be influenced, but I can’t automatically influence them.

As such, influence has to be derived, rather than measured directly. If ten people have been influenced by me, that can be converted to saying that I have influenced ten people. But it cannot be initially assumed that I am an influencer of ten people.

This leads onto the major question within this blog post – what is influence?

It is a tricky area.

One company that has done a lot in this area is Klout. I’ve read various discussions (notably the Bieber furore) where they have been very open in saying it is still a work in progress. I agree. For instance, being labelled a “celebrity” while having a Klout score of 41 seems somewhat contradictory. But can the definitions ever get adequately resolved?

I consider there to be five distinct dimensions of influence, which can be combined to infer an overall influence level.

Of course, I haven’t magicked these up independently. In addition to Klout, my primary influences have been:

Furthermore, I’m positive there are many other sources that I’ve absorbed over the years. I’m also positive that I will continue to be influenced by the many writers far more intelligent than I am.

Obviously, these dimensions come with the caveat that they are working definitions and ripe to be amended, altered, ripped apart, iterated and improved upon.

The five dimensions of influence:

  • Direct reach – how many people have been influenced directly
  • Total reach – given follow-on word of mouth (through social media or otherwise), what is the total reach of your message (“true reach” according to Klout). You could reach ten people who do nothing with the message, or a single person that passes on the message to thousands
  • Identity of influenced – how powerful (and “influential”) are the people receiving your message – is it a chief executive who might tell five equally powerful and affluent people, or someone who might tell twenty people – none of whom find your message relevant
  • Direction of influence – influence is assumed to be positive. This is a fallacy. If a divisive entity endorses something, it could actively turn others away. An additional dimension that can be wrapped into dimension is how aligned the direction is – for instance if I make a recommendation in sector A but it is made in sector B.
  • Outcome – it could be an action (e.g. purchase, viewing), discussion (recommending, promoting, a factual statement) or a thought that is stored in the subconscious

These five dimensions can be combined to infer a level of influence. The big question is how – which factors are more important, and to what extent?

I’ve attempted to display these dimensions graphically to illustrate this difficulty.

Consider these two examples (click to expand):

Dimensions of influence

In the above Example 1, only one person is being influenced. However, that person has a wide reach, is influential themselves and has been strongly positively influenced to take an action, Compare this to example 2.

Dimensions of influence

Here, many more people have been influenced but the pattern is more mixed. Some people have been negatively influenced, while some of those that have been positively influenced haven’t been prompted into an action.

Which example is better? Honestly, I don’t know. And this partially illustrates why the concept of influence is fascinating and frustrating in equal measures.

sk

Links – 9th January 2009

Enjoy your Friday

Products

  • Jon Canter rants against the rise of personalised copy on product packaging. “We’re the couple who love to make crisps.” It sounds like a personal ad in Snackmakers Weekly: a couple seeks another couple who also love to make crisps, in the hope of meeting up in a car park in Colchester. (Comment is Free)

Social Media

  • Rick from Eyecube rails against the personal branding phenomenon. He argues (correctly, I believe) that it is about value and not chasing numbers
  • Alan Wolk talks about “Scoble blindness” – something which I strongly believe in. People within the tech bubble live complete different lives to the average member of the public, which often creates a disconnect between hype and reality. Even now, Twitter hasn’t crossed over (though @wossy, @the_real_shaq and @stephenfry may change that)

Consumer Insight

  • More Intelligent Life argues that rather than society dumbing down, we are in an age of mass intelligence – societal fragmentation has allowed niches to grow and flourish

Online resources

  • Getty Moodstream allows you to filter images and videos on a variety of settings

I would particularly recommend 10 constituents of the WOW factor, The rise of the personal media platform, “Scoble blindness”, How behavioural ad targeting punishes web publishers and The science of shopping

And check out my Tumblr for a few more links

sk

Links – 27th June 2008

Selected links from my del.icio.us feed:

Blog-related

danah boyd’s research on social networking sites

Questions about target audiences for newspaper websites (Guardian) – a more coherent and focused article than I managed here, where I raised several questions about the measurements and content for newspaper websites

Collection of podcasts and videos on the future of journalism (Guardian) – an excellent collection here. Kudos to the Guardian for the excellent quality of guests and debate.

Marketing wheel of misfortune (Armano) – a fantastic post of aspects to avoid/be wary of in social marketing

Photos are being taken from Flickr and sold on eBay (Guardian)

Colour psychology in marketing (Branding Strategy Insider)

Why USPs are still important (Branding Strategy Insider)

Traditional media not dead yet (New York Times)

How is the Internet changing literary style? (Steamthing)

Modelling the real value of social networks (Techcrunch)

The Petabyte age (Wired)

40% of viewing of the Mighty Boosh is done via the iPlayer (Guardian)

The power of consumer generated reviews (Amazon reviews of an overpriced product)

Is this the future of TV? (Mobayboy)

Dan Rather says American journalism is in crisis (Adbusters)

Will the Beatles be the next Guitar Her/Rock band expansion pack? (FT)

Random

Profile on Nelson Mandela (More Intelligent Life)

Graph Jam – excellent site where pop culture is displayed in graph format 

Will killswitches become standard features on technology? (Wired)

Rich people spend more time working (Washington Post)

10 breeds of inner boss (Any Wired)

The 20 most powerful celebrity makers (Observer)

Best desktop media players (Lifehacker)

Outcomes from all Mythbusters episodes

Photoessay of poverty in India (DeviantART)

Literature condensed to 3 lines or less (McSweeney’s)

Internet Movie Car DataBase

The life journey of a tick (Slate)

Custom receipt maker – for all those expenses needs

19 cinematic scene stealing cameos (AV Club)

I would particularly recommend

Blog-related: danah boyd’s research on social networking sites, Questions about target audiences for newspaper websites, Collection of podcasts and videos on the future of journalism and Marketing wheel of misfortune

Random: Graph Jam, Outcomes from all Mythbusters episodes and Literature condensed to 3 lines or less

sk

Links – 22/03/08

A couple of days late due to the MRS Conference and Easter playing havoc with my scheduling.

Blog-related

Random

A bit of a bumper week given that these links cover 9 days. In particular I would recommend:

From the blog-related side: Are brands out of tune with the global economy?, Analysis of the Twitter messages during the Zuckerberg SXSW keynote, How to make a video go viral, Will newspapers follow Google’s model? and Marketers biggest challenges with social networks

From the random side: Funny flow charts, Excellent write-up of a non-league football match and Examples of recreations of the Last Supper in popular culture

sk


Links – 13/03/08

I’ve been feeling under the weather recently. So while I have some ideas for blog posts, I haven’t actually written them yet. Sunday should be the time to rectify that.

I’m going to the MRS Conference on both days next week; please say hello if you will be there too.

Blog related links

Random links

Of these, my top 3 would be Why Indie bands sell out, Individuality within corporate blogs, and Alan Moore primer, with 100 NES games converted to Flash thrown in for a long lunchbreak.

sk