Online Influencers in Employment Law
We’re continuing to mine the social universe for clues about and insight into the subject of influence. Since we began the HR Influence project back in 2009, the world has become more sophisticated on the topic of online influence. Where reach, relevance and resonance were once acceptable limits on the conversation, things have changed in interesting ways.
Our early models of influence made a critical assumption; that all people use social media in the same way and for similar purposes. If that were true, then all utterances in social media can be stuffed inside a relatively simple formula. As the marketplace conversation about influence grew in its understanding, those limits became very apparent.
You can not tell what tweets, facebook postings, blog entries or other social media instances mean or infer. You can only count them. Some people have lengthy conversations in Twitter, some broadcast. Some writers publish every day, some weekly, some erratically. Some believe that a network is measured by the number of members, others think it’s all about quality and relevance.
To date, there has been little in the way of effective study about the myriad ways in which people use social media. Generally, tools that attempt to measure influence, the spread of ideas or buying habits among connected people arrive at divergent conclusions. Anyone who has participated in our industry’s debate about influence is aware of the range of motives and understandings that dot the conversation. So, tools that claim to measure influence are all limited by the bias of their assumptions about behavior in social media.
That means its really complicated to try to figure out the answer to a question like “Who are the most influential lawyers in HR?”
While LinkedIn could help provide the answer to the question “Who is a Lawyer?”, the service runs a tight universe from which useful information rarely escapes. Deep analysis of the social graph tends to operate outside of the purview of the former PayPal mafia. Good answers have to be constructed from information that is at least somewhat readily available.
So, for this version of the Top 25 in HR Law, we’ve focused on the people who speak about the law and HR. These are the people who regularly write, facebook and tweet about the fundamental legal issues in the industry. Some of them are lawyers and many are not.
To do the research, we used the services of SocialEars, the service from HRMarketer. The SocialEars HR edition is a database of content and data about the authors of the content. Sources range from Twitter, Facebook and blogs to a host of online publications and business periodicals. Rather than focusing on purely social media forms of communication, the SocialEars approach attempts to paint a clear picture of what’s available to be read, who wrote it and who is talking about it.
The SocialEars data collection and algorithm development process involves a complex cycle of data acquisition and analysis. One of the questions they try to answer is “If I want to be heard on subject X, who should I be sure to talk to?”.
More so than any of the other ‘influence’ measurement schemes, SocialEars acknowledges that authors move around at the same time as the industry conversation changes. They steadfastly refuse (in spite of a lot of prodding) to try to measure ‘influence’. Rather, they work to identify the key voice on a given subject at a given time. An author registers in their system if they cover a specific topic in a specific time frame.
Mark Willaman, SocialEars CEO says, “In addition to providing an author’s TFF ratio, LinkedIn network size, Klout and Peerindex scores, SocialEars scores authors on an extensive combination of factors, the primary two being their engaged reach (e.g., the extent to which other people share their content, thus lengthening the conversation) and the popularity of their original content. This calculation includes our own proprietary listening, conversation and social quotient that factors in author-reach, conversation depth, content type, quality and relevance.”
We generated a list of keyword phrases that seemed to generally cover all of the important topics in employment law (see below). We then segmented those keywords into nine categories. We limited the search to the last 90 days. Each keyword phrase was sifted, scored and aggregated into the nine categories (see the spreadsheet for full scoring details). The results are published as the Top 25 list. Additional scoring and Twitter handles are available in the spreadsheet.
We made one additional decision in the final scoring. SocialEars tracks both publications and people. At this point in the application’s development, content can be attributed to either, not both. Since this is a list of influential people, we removed periodicals from the list.
The distinction between people and periodicals is fading pretty quickly. There are no unnamed authors in the Harvard Business Review, but few of them publish regularly enough to impact social media. Over time, we’ll get clearer about the role of periodicals.
Of the Top 25 on the list, slightly less than 35% are practicing lawyers. About 15% are content curators (like William Tincup and Brian Wempen). Curators are critical parts of the ecosystem because they help people find content by tweeting links to content they think is important. The other 50% are split between the editors and publishers of industry magazines and consultants who specialize in specific aspects of the law.
There is a ton of legal information and opinion online. As you can see, most of it is not generated by lawyers. This is predictable and bears a strong resemblance to the way that lawyers work in HR.
Generally speaking, lawyers decide things. HR promulgates those decisions. When the lawyers legislate (they love to create policies), the HR folks enforce and educate. When the lawyers litigate, the HR folks spread the lessons learned (when they are transmittable).
So the fact that one in three of the top 25 voices in Employment Law is actually a lawyer is what you’d expect. A lawyer’s ability to communicate and discuss is circumscribed. HR folks are not bound by the same set of issues.
- John Sumser
Founder and Editor in Chief, HRExaminer.com