I just read a post by Noah Brier in which he quoted the below from the SocialFlow blog regarding how we consider social influence which I thought was quite good and got me thinking about how we measure and define influence.
“As we build out digital social spaces, we must not get derailed by metrics of status affordances that have taken center stage. Just because we have easily accessible data at our fingertips doesn’t mean that we have the capacity to model and place a value tag on human behavior. Followers, friends or likes represent an aspect of our digital status, but are only a partial representation of our general propensity to be influential. Keith Urbahn wasn’t the first to speculate Bin Laden’s death, but he was the one who gained the most trust from the network. And with that, the perfect situation unfolded, where timing, the right social-professional networked audience, along with a critically relevant piece of information led to an explosion of public affirmation of his trustworthiness.”
With all the data that digital media affords, there is a danger that we can get caught up in the numbers, measuring people and their behaviour is never going to be an exact science. Whilst we can take the data available as part of the picture we must remember that there are many external factors that can affect influence. People are complex things and we must be careful to place a numerical figure on behaviour implying causation.
With that in mind, below is a simplified model which can help as a framework along with the data available for examining a situation of influence. It is hard to project forward many of the factors at play but can help along with the data to put together a picture.
Any situation of influence involves 2 parties, influencer & target.
1. Influencer’s ability to influence relies on:
Credibility (what they know): The influencer’s expertise or perceived expertise by the target on the subject matter.
Social Capital (who they know): What standing does the influencer have in the community, do they know and associate with people that support the area of influence in consideration.
Bandwidth: The extent of the influencer’s ability to transmit their knowledge through their network of channels.
2. The target’s likelihood to be influenced by a specific influencer:
Relevance (the right information): To what extent do the target’s information needs coincide with the influencer’s expertise and subject matter.
Timing (the right time): The ability of the influencer to deliver the information to the target at the time when the target needed it.
Alignment (the right place): The extent of the channel overlap between the target and the influencer across their networks. If the two parties overlap on many channels, the expectation would be an increased situation of influence.
Confidence (the right person): How much the target trusts the influencer with respect to their information needs. This comes back to the influencers credibility and social capital in the eyes of the target.