Measured Influence

On January 3, 2012, in HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser


Influence in HR and Recruiting

For nearly two and a half years, we’ve been measuring and talking about influence. As services like Klout, EmpireAvenue, and PeerIndex have come along, influence measurement has taken on a new credibility. It’s also taken some pretty silly turns.

Yesterday, we looked at a word cloud that showed the trending topics in the online universe that cares (publishes) about HR and Recruiting. The underlying structure is pretty straight forward. The size of the word is a function of the number of times it was mentioned. A word cloud gives you a picture of the terrain: the more the word is uttered, the larger its representation.

Within recent memory, this was better than anyone could imagine. Successful dissemination of a message was measured by the number of press clippings. Tracking the number of mentions of a story was an admittedly impossible task. Press clipping services (later, media monitoring services) prospered by helping organizations understand some of what was being said about them. Polling companies tried to grasp the trends that drove popular sentiment.

Today’s measures are an outgrowth of that clipping service mindset. In theory, you can start to calculate the impact of a piece of text (and it’s author by proxy) by looking at references, tweets, retweets and so on. This is what is meant when online influence is measured.

Even though we’ve been working with the issues for a while, it’s still very early.

What can be measured today is a very narrow and specific form of influence. The combination of content, repetition, references and distribution is the stuff that makes it likely that you will get one point of view or another. Much of what is called ‘influence’ is  the likelihood that you will find person X’s material at the top of the search engine results. In this way, so-called influence is little more than a second cousin of SEO (and you can sort of tell that by the way people try to game the analysis.

Recent studies from Harvard and Pew are starting to suggest that influence operates differently online than we’ve been led to believe. Friends don’t inherently influence the way that friends absorb new ideas.

In the flow of ideas, there are a spectrum of kinds of people. Curators identify and move information to audiences. Creators build the material that gets circulated. Lots of people straddle the middle between those two points.

Over the next year, we’re going to look closely at the types of people who move ideas around our industry.


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