another look at internet or online influence

Before we unveil the latest edition of the Top 25 Influencers in Recruiting tomorrow we take another look at influence.

Increasingly, what’s online is the influence that really matters.

The last time we published a list of influencers was in August, 2011. In the intervening five months, there has been an explosion of services that measure and evaluate an individual’s influence online. From the obvious contenders (Klout, PeerIndex, mBlast, Kred to the sort -of-in-the-game offerings from CrowdBooster and EmpireAvenue).

The debate about influence, is now the topic of sessions at conferences, the source of increased sales of heartburn remedies and the cause of long harangues. Topics in the debate range from the relevance or lack of relevance in the measures to whether or not what is measured is actually influence. In the conversation, scant attention seems to be paid to the ultimate utility of measuring the phenomenon.

Sometimes we hear the disappointment in the voice of someone whose name wasn’t included. Sometimes we hear the voices of 20th Century influencers whose opinions decreasingly matter. Occasionally, we hear the voice of someone who gamed the system and didn’t figure it out all the way.

It’s not clear what we measure in these exercises. It’s clear that the combination of links, content, audience and network create a world of possibilities. Anyone who ends up on these lists has an impact on the way that the world views the subject at hand. A simple way of thinking about it is that these are the voices one is most likely to encounter in the search engines.

Increasingly, what’s online is the influence that really matters.

We’ve discovered some interesting things along the way:

  • People who have the discretionary time to write and publish are the ones whose names turn up. People who do not write and publish may have influence within their organizations (and perhaps some impact regionally). But, without the ability to publish and participate, it is difficult to have sustained impact. In shorthand, that means that academics, consultants and marketing folks are likely to have a disproportionate impact.
  • Seasoned, highly visible members of the ‘echo chamber’ also seem to fall out of these analyses. It takes a certain level of discipline to continuously use the keywords that define the entry level of the game. Seasoned consultants, analysts and academics are involved in conversations at the next level.
  • Impact is fleeting. Social media is unforgiving. If you haven’t published regularly and recently, you disappear.

As we’ve been noting, influence itself is a scalable concept that covers the smallest of networks through the largest of networks. Our definition, “the ability to increase the likelihood of action” is a little lighter than “must have observable consequence” idea put forth by some critics.

Like the actual act of hiring used to be in Recruiting, the problem isn’t that there isn’t an impact, it’s that you can’t get that personal with current tools. The influence is there, it’s just hard to measure for a couple of reasons: the influenced person may not be aware of the influence, the influenced behavior may not be visible online, or the influence is something that inhibits behavior.

Currently, it is not possible to begin to measure influence in interpersonal (extremely local) relationships. That doesn’t mean that the data isn’t there. It just isn’t publicly available in a useful form. The flows of SMS message, Skype calls, eMail and other electronic breadcrumbs precisely show who influences whom. It’s just a hassle to discover it.

Electronic communication has so completely permeated the fabric of society that many heretofore unmeasurables are becoming quantifiable.

Tomorrow, we’ll be unveiling the latest edition of the Top 25 Influencers in Recruiting. We’ve taken a new approach which produces some interesting results. Stay tuned.

For a couple of pieces that really illuminate the question, see:


The latest Pieces on Influence

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