Laurie Ruettimann, The Cynical Girl

Last night, I started wondering why Laurie Ruettimann isn’t at the top of all of the influence lists we publish. There’s something wrong with any measure of influence that misses key industry players and their contributions, I thought to myself.

Laurie’s traffic and follower counts are enormous. Any time she takes a position, it creates a conversation. And, she knows, better than almost anyone out there, how to build a conversation into something that’s interesting to read.

And, she’s everywhere.

It’s hard to imagine a more successful social media brand development than the work that Laurie has done over the past several years. She saw the opportunity, got there first, experimented broadly (and continues to) and routinely sets a role model for one form of social media celebrity.

Wondering whether there is something wrong when she’s not on the top of the list seems like a fair question.

I was prompted to think harder about this when I received an invitation to join mBlast, another new service that measures social media influence. Built for Marketing and PR folks, mBlast’s service mPact is designed with all of the reporting and analysis tools you’d need to manage marketing campaigns for and about influencers.

(At least part of the market’s curiosity about influence has to do with consumer buying behavior. The idea is that there are some people whose recommendations the market will follow and that you can identify them by examining their social media footprint. The notion, which works well in the consumer universe, is somewhat less applicable in a B2B setting. Commercial purchasing is not quite as impulse driven as consumer behavior.)

I opened an account on mBlast. Not only wasn’t Laurie on the list, I couldn’t find anyone I’d ever even heard of. The primary categories of Human Resources and Recruiting were completely dominated by voices far outside the industry. With a little tweaking (the service allows very modest filtering), I was able to create a list that included Jessica Miller Merrell and John Zappe along with the swarm of other journalists I’d never heard of.

mpact by mblast - online influence

A search for "Talent Management" on mBlast produced a few familiar names. Josh Bersin, John Sullivan, Jessica Miller-Merrell and John Ingham showed up sandwiched between writers in the general industry press. Still, no Laurie, no Kevin Grossman, no Sarah White, no usual suspects.

mBlast is showing something really important about the HR idea marketplace. It extends way beyond the confines of our little echo chamber. HR issues are critical in all businesses and the general trade press cover unemployment, recruiting, talent management, training, succession planning, compensation, performance management, labor markets, skills deficits, talent wars and a host of HR issues.

They just don’t read the crap from the insiders.

So I don’t wear out my welcome, I’m going to jump straight to the conclusion. The measurement of influence (and the very meaning of that effort) is still in its infancy. In each arena I’ve mentioned (Laurie’s world, the HRExaminer Influence lists, the mBlast service), people are definitely influencing other people. It seems like the closer you get to the core of the industry, the less that keywords capture the essence of the conversation.

So, you might imagine that imagine that three hunks of audience segmentation are beginning to be observed (there are probably many more)

  • General Influencers: captured by mBlast. Talk about business issues in consumer publications. The public’s source of insight on key HR issues. These are the influencers you discover when searching through general news.
  • Buyer/Silo Influencers: captured by HRExaminer/Traackr Influencer Lists. Very specific clusters of industry jargon as key words. These are the people you will discover in Google when you research a silo.
  • User/Practitioner Influencers: not effectively captured yet.

The Laurie Ruettimann case suggests that there is probably a better way to think about some forms of influence.

If I were going to design a tool that effectively captured what Laurie does, it would look at her audience, not her work. Understanding the orientation and professional roles of her audience is the best way of gauging what she is doing. At the practitioner level, the silo specific language disappears and lively conversation takes its place.

It will be another couple of years before the influence measurers can get there.

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