Twitter follower numbers as a proxy of influence


How many Twitter followers do you have?

One of the reasons Twitter is important is that it is introducing the concept of assessing people’s degree of influence. A person’s number of Twitter followers is increasingly being taken as a proxy for their influence. If the only thing you know about someone is that they have 5,000 Twitter followers (or 50), you can make some preliminary assumptions about their influence.

Of course Twitter follower numbers is a hopelessly flawed measure for many, many reasons, and pretty much everyone knows that. However it’s often all you have.

Relatively few people have blogs, and in the broader population not many people know about blog ranking engines such as Technorati and Wikio. Everyone understands that numbers of Facebook and LinkedIn friends don’t indicate much other than how inclined people are to connect online.

Today Twitter follower numbers is becoming even less accurate as an influence measure due to extensive gaming.

Systems such as Twitter Grader and Twinfluence take into account other factors such as who your followers are and how they behave, follower/ following ratios, retweets, conversational activity, and so on to give a more accurate view of influence.

However not everyone is on Twitter and has much time to spend on it. That doesn’t mean they are not influential – just that they are not bringing to bear their influence through the channel of Twitter.

It is inevitable that broader measures of influence will be developed. Of course these can only be valid within a specific context, so the best measures of influence will provide a single slice view.

The fact remains that Twitter follower numbers has provided us with our very first proxy for influence, however crude, however flawed. We now as a society have seen our first measure of influence. This will accelerate the creation and uptake of more sophisticated measures in the very near future.

We will explore the idea of measures of influence – and the business models that surround them – at Future of Influence Summit 2009.

The rapid rise of the sweet, sweet spot where influence meets advertising


At Future of Influence Summit at the end of this month many of the most prominent people in the influence space will get their heads around where the space is going.

Given what I’ve been seeing and hearing over just the last few months, it is clear that an important part of this is the sweet spot where influence meets advertising.

A good overview of the space and two of the leading players in the space – 33Across and Media6Degrees – is provided in a recent article in New York Times titled The Online Ad That Knows Where Your Friends Shop. The article concludes with:

Margaret Clerkin, the head of the invention group at Mindshare, a division of WPP’s GroupM, who works with clients including Unilever and Sprint, said she wondered whether the approach would work for every category.

“The theory feels strong that in this very social environment that people are influenced more by their friends than they are by advertisers and brands,” she said. She plans to test Media6Degrees and 33Across later this year.

“I think the validity of that is going to end up being tested by brand and by category,” she said. “I can’t believe you’re going to see the same ratio in buying a bar of soap that you are in buying a car. The influence rate is going to be so much greater as the price tag of the product goes up.”

A recent article in AdWeek, Connect the Thoughts, also examines the space in some detail, describing some of the key ideas:

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Influence research: what drives people to Digg stories


In the lead-up to Future of Influence Summit 2009, we will be pointing to some of the more interesting research into the influence space – there will be a wealth of insights coming up so keep posted even if you can’t make it to the event.

Let’s start with one which is a little outside the mainstream, drawn from the report Social Media for Marketing: An Analysis of Engagement and User Behavior, created by new media research company One to One Interactive.

Digg was one of the first “influence aggregators”, bringing together the opinions of many to guide what content people read. In addition, the Digg ecosystem is a great example of an influence network. Research in early 2007 showed that 30 people were responsible for 30% of the stories that made the front page of Digg. Their personal influence networks generated waves of behavior that resulted in stories becoming very popular.

Today Digg’s prominence as an influence aggregator has waned relative to the growth other channels, most notably Twitter, however it is still a powerful force that concentrates vast amounts of web traffic to those stories the community push to the fore.

One to One Interactive uses a proprietary methodology that uses physiological data (breath rate, galvanic skin response, heart rate) in addition to eye tracking information and self-reporting to assess engagement. They did the study on a number of respondents who visit Digg an average of twice a day to see how the engage with the site.


Source: Social Media for Marketing: An Analysis of Engagement and User Behavior

The above diagram from the report shows part of the research that resulted in the second insight below, that headlines are the most important factor in driving attention and traffic to stories.

These are the four key insights generated by the study:

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Dialogue with Dave Snowden at KM Australia on success in a world of infinite information


Knowledge and complexity guru Dave Snowden (@snowded) recently tweeted me to ask if I would like to have an on-stage conversation with him to close the KM Australia conference. Apparently the session as originally planned didn’t pan out, so I’m the last-minute back-up plan.

In a brief Twitter exchange we decided on a discussion topic of :

“How to build organisations that succeed in a world of infinite information”.

I think the idea is we’ll walk on stage and have a conversation. I think it’s fair to say that Dave is forthright in his opinions, so it should be fun. :-)

It will be quite a while since I’ve been to a knowledge management conference.

Working out who influences the influencers


Travis Murdock has a nice blog post: Who influences the influencers? (which, tellingly, I found from @louisgray on Twitter).

Travis offers five tips:

1. Check who they are following on FriendFeed

2. Follow Influencer RSS reader feeds

3. Research Facebook events

4. Research ReTweets and @replies on Twitter

5. Follow the social brick road

There are a variety of other manual and automated ways to identify who key influencers are listening to and drawing on to shape their opinions.

What is critical about the idea of ‘who influences the influencers’ is that this intrinsically describes influence networks. Far too much influencer marketing is about finding the influence hubs and then trying to reach them.

The reality is far more subtle than that, in many ways. Influence flows through networks, and effectively working with influence can only be done by understanding influence networks, not the ‘hub and spoke’ model that many PR and marketing firms seem to base their thinking about influence on.

Far more on where influence is going at Future of Influence Summit in San Francisco and Sydney, coming up soon!

Online media and independents drive business software buying


SAP4SME, a diversified social media initiative from SAP to reach the SME market, is generating a variety of interesting content.

At 2pm US Eastern time today SAP is running a webinar: “The Stimulus Package: What Does it Mean for Your Business?” which examines how small to medium enterprise can best tap the US federal stimulus package (see also my earlier note on this).

On the SAP4SME LinkedIn group site there is a survey asking:

“Who do you trust most when making a business software purchasing decision?”

The results are very interesting, with 400-odd respondents, though it may not be a fully representative sample.


The stand-out most influential sources are the online technology media such as ZDNet, and independent bloggers and analysts, considerably ahead of the major analyst firms.

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“Influence is the future of media”


After three extremely successful years running the Future of Media Summit, held simultaneously in San Francisco Bay Area and Sydney, it is time to move on. This year the event, run by The Insight Exchange, will be titled Future of Influence Summit. This is because:


We have already begun to discover this through the now-dominant concept of “social media”. In the Future of Media Strategic Framework that was launched for our Future of Media Summit 2006 we described the (symbiotic) relationship between Mainstream Media and Social Media.

Social media is all about human relationships, about how we shape our view of the world based on our peer communication. The extraordinary breadth of information and opinion that we are exposed to today, combined with the ability to converse, means our own opinions are often driven more by peers than traditional sources.

In fact this shift to the social means that media is becoming far more about peer influence than information and reporting.

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Insights from Social Media Strategies event


Today The Insight Exchange ran its Social Media Strategies event. It was an excellent session, with some great case studies. Below are the rough notes that I took during the event – hopefully a reasonable representation of what we heard.

Aisha Hilary, Communications Specialist, New Media and Brand, SBS

Social media is the use of electronic & internet tools for the purpose of sharing and discussing information and experiences with others.

It’s not niche any more – there are 5.1 million Australians on social networks, 7 million sharing photos, 3.6 million sharing video, 4.5 million reading blogs and 1.5 million with their own blogs.

So why engage? To each out and connect to customers and audience, building awareness, providing unique and relevant content, and building loyalty.

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Launch of Social Media Strategy Framework


Today we launch our Social Media Strategy Framework. This provides guidance and a frame on how organizations can approach engaging with social media, following in the tradition of our highly popular frameworks such as Web 2.0 Framework, Future of the Media Lifecycle, and Influence Landscape.


Click on the image to download pdf

[UPDATE:] The image and file above is of the updated Beta version 2 of the Social Media Strategy diagram – see here for a brief explanation. Click here to download the Beta version 1 diagram.


The Social Media Strategy Framework has being translated into:

Social Media Strategy Framework in Chinese – ????????

Social Media Strategy Framework in Dutch – Sociale Media Strategie Kader

Social Media Strategy Framework in French – Plan Stratégique des médias sociaux

Social Media Strategy Framework in German – Social Media strategische Rahmenrichtlinien

Social Media Strategy Framework in Italian – Schema della strategia relativa ai mezzi di comunicazione sociale

Social Media Strategy Framework in Japanese – ?????????????

Social Media Strategy Framework in Korean – ????? ?? ?????

Social Media Strategy Framework in Portuguese – Modelo Estratégico dos Meios de Comunicação Social

Social Media Strategy Framework in Russian – ????????? ????????? ? ?????????? ?????

Social Media Strategy Framework in Spanish – Encuadre de Estrategia de Medios Sociales

Social Media Strategy Framework in Turkish – Sosyal Medya Strateji Çerçevesi

This is a Beta version, pulled together to release before The Insight Exchange’s Social Media Strategy event today. I can already see some improvements to be made, but I would love to get your thoughts on what’s wrong (and right) for this to be taken into account for the next version.

The Framework begins with LEARN, follows two streams of ENGAGEMENT and STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT, and comes together in the ongoing imperative to DEVELOP CAPABILITIES.

The five key points for each element are also written below.


Use social media yourself

Study relevant case studies

Educate senior executives

Hear from practitioners

Explore the latest trends

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