7 Dimensions of Influence in Social Media

“I find that, as a rule, when a thing is a wonder to us it is not because of what we see in it, but because of what others have seen in it. We get almost all our wonders at second hand.”

—Mark Twain

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...

English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marketers have mined social media data for “influencers” for years. To identify those people whose favorable tweets and posts can boost your sales, you need to be able to measure the influence of your customers.

A tool like Klout measures the influence of a person, based on popularity and potential reach in social media. But popularity and influence do not necessarily align.

If you plan to buy a tennis racket it is unlikely you follow Oprah’s advice on which brand to pick just because she has a Klout of 92. You’d rather listen to David Ferrer’s advice, Klout 73, for that choice. And still, you might just buy what your friend Carlos, who is a tennis pro, posts in a forum despite he has a Klout of 36.

Klout’s measure of influence is too shallow to give you the insight you need to figure out who influences your customers and how.

These 7 dimensions provide a framework to better understand influence in social media:

  1. Activity: how active a user is in a social networks is the simplest measure of influence. Combined with reach, it provides a basic two-dimensional model.

  2. Maximum reach: Understanding the potential impact of a user post will depend on factors such as number of followers, his recent influence upon them (number of RTs, favorites, lists) and the number of high-influencers among his following. The potential maximum reach of a user translates into what we could call OTSS (Opportunity To be Seen Socially)

  3. Social role: Malcolm Cladwell in The Tipping Point, defined 3 types of roles played by key actors in social epidemics. It maps perfectly into social media roles:

    • Connectors, or people that know who is who and who does what and can reach to them

    • Mavens, or “information specialists”, or people that know the marketplace on their area of expertise and are willing to share what they know.

    • Salespersons or “persuaders”, charismatic persons that makes other want to agree with them

  4. Authority: One of the key principles of persuasion in Cialdini’s work Influence. Authority is not universal, but rather linked to a subject. The authority of an user, can only be asserted as it relates to a subject. Mossberg’s authority in consumer gadgets will influence me in what tablet I choose to buy, but his opinion on a brand of jeans might be irrelevant to me. Oprah’s authority in regards with tennis rackets will not influence you as much as an ATP tennis player recommendation.

  5. Intimacy / affinity: Nielsen says that 26% of people are more likely to pay attention to an ad that has been posted by one of their social network acquaintances. If the tennis pro is my friend, then his chances to influence my buying decision will be higher than those coming from a pro unknown to me. How close you are to a person, and how many things you have in common will increase the likelihood you pay attention.

  6. Context: A given topic, time and place define a context in which the influence of a person can spark. Three examples of the role of context:

    • During the Egyptian revolution, the tweets from Tahrir Square provided live coverage during the protests and raised awareness regarding the protests.

    • A person that suffers a customer care issue with a brand, can see his level of influence multiplied in a topic related to his issue.

    • A person who is actively searching for the best tennis racket in the market, and posts a comparison of his findings in a forum, becomes an authority for a while. Once he’s made his purchase, he won’t maintain his comparison and his influence will diminish. As the web becomes a stream of content, the real-time dimension of influence becomes crucial.

  7. Stickiness of the message. Is the message memorable? The impact of a message will not only be linked to how many times it was displayed and how many people it reached. How effective is the message to trigger action? How effectively is it retained? If it is worth a remark, the same message will reappear in social media and influence new contexts. Sticky stories work in setting trends. Being able to identify them early gives you an edge.

Social Media is a powerful source of insight. For making business decisions in designing and measuring campaigns, in segmenting the market, or in customer care, you need a deeper understanding of influence in social media.

Have you asked yourself, what opportunities you are missing for not dealing with the true influencers to your brand? What advantage would your competitor get by mapping the top influencers in every context? Can you afford it?


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