Over the past few months Valeria Maltoni, the Conversation Agent, has been on fire. She has written scores of long form, well thought-out and clearly articulated blog posts that offer genuine analysis and raise challenging questions. Just start here and work your way through the last few weeks to see what I mean.
But this post, on the measurement of influence, in particular, got me thinking ... and judging by the number of comments, it seemed to do the same for many others. Valeria weaves together commentary on this Edelman whitepaper via Steve Rubel (which looks at quantifying the impact of social media) and the results of a study that she participated in. It is quite an involved analysis and well worth a read. What seems to be bourne out of the Valeria's analysis is that "influencers" have a smaller impact on a social network than we might have first thought. This seems to me, to ring true. After all, the very nature of "influence" depends on a level of relationship ... and the very fact that a relationship exists within a network will have a bearing on the manner in which the network functions.
On top of this, I was reminded of this post that I wrote a while ago on the strength of weak ties. In fact, Herb Sawyer mentioned the same concept in the comments. This basically bears out the same conclusion, but from a different perspective. It shows that the likelihood of someone taking ACTION (ie becoming a participant in a brand interaction is higher when there is a relatively weak link in the network of connections. This analysis would, in part, explain the huge valuation of Facebook ... where many people are connected not through strong communities but loose and tenuous opt-in groupings.
Measurement will continue to be a hot topic until someone is able to crack the nut of influence. Until that time, we will have to rely upon the blunt instruments at our disposal.