Social media white paper: Introduction & why is it important to measure online influence


As requested, I have republished the white paper into separate blog posts so that each section can be commented on. This post focuses on the first two sections – the introduction and why is it important to measure online influence. You can still download the full paper by clicking the link: Distributed influence: quantifying the impact of social media (PDF).

Links to all sections:

  1. introduction
  2. why is it important to measure online influence?
  3. social media index
  4. defining influence
  5. is influence what we should measure?
  6. should marketers target influencers or the easily influenced?
  7. what can we be selling that is better to buy than impressions?
  8. what are the origins of influence?
  9. the move to micro communications
  10. be cautious 
  11. a formula to understand influence
  12. what makes this actionable?
  13. conclusion



clip_image002At the end of 2006, Time magazine quoted Thomas Carlyle as saying that “the history of the world is but the biography of great men.” They went on to explain that he believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. This theory took a serious beating last year.

For the first time in history, technology has reached a point where everyone has a voice. This voice, articulated through social media, can be extremely powerful and can force individuals, companies and communities to change the way they behave.

In Edelman’s 2007 Trust Barometer, results showed that employees or ‘someone like me’ are trusted far more than any other group of people. Combining this with the advent of social media tools such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter has made an individual’s voice louder than ever before.

Consequently, the need to understand which individuals are the most trusted or have the loudest voice has become increasingly important. However, at present there is no agreed reliable process for identifying who these people are or for quantifying the online value of one person over another.

What matters is who we are talking to… not how many – Jeff Jarvis

This white paper aims to address this issue. It is not written as a fait accompli but rather as a contribution to the conversation.

Following the publication of the Edelman’s Social Media Index in July 2007 with David Brain (CEO, Edelman Europe), a roundtable was devised to bring together a group of interested stakeholders representing all key constituencies to address the question of influence and how it should be measured. These people were:


Max Kalehoff, Nielsen Buzzmetrics (now with Clickable)

Advertising Research Foundation

Sarah Petersen, StrategyOne


Henry Copeland, BlogAds


Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine

Steve Rubel, me2revolution

Keith O’Brien, PRWeek


Richard Edelman, Edelman

Jonny Bentwood, Edelman

Rick Murray, me2revolution

Interactive Agency

David Dunne, Edelman

Industry Observer

Peter Kim, Forrester

Charlene Li, Forrester

Dr. Walter Carl, Northeastern University, ChatThreads

The content in this White Paper is a summary of what was expressed at this roundtable.

Why is it important to measure online influence?

Calculating an individual’s online influence is becoming more important each year as people seek advice from their peers on the Internet regarding what they should think, buy and say.

Many people have recognised this and agree that there is an inherent need to develop a metric, or set of metrics, that allows publishers to more accurately quantify their value as a medium such that they can attract more and higher quality and relevant advertising and sponsorship revenues.

Conversely, advertisers and marketers need to have a reliable metric that provides them with a more scientific (and thus more defensible) way to plan and measure the outcomes of their campaign.

It is not who is influential that counts but who acts as a catalyst for conversation – Keith O’Brien

Traditionally the method of calculating influence is by using ‘inbound link’ tools such as Technorati. However, many people agreed that this system is inherently flawed. Social media by its vary nature is more than just blogging.

The Internet, according to Doc Searls is a place where people connect. To that end, the very term ‘social media’ is frowned upon by those who many would claim to be its most prominent and influential users. Nevertheless, ‘social media’ has been adopted as a term that most accurately explains the myriad of ‘user generated content’ platforms that are being used on the Internet today.


11 Responses to “Social media white paper: Introduction & why is it important to measure online influence”

  1. 1 Social media white paper: contents and links to individual sections « Technobabble 2.0
  2. 2 Social media white paper: social media index « Technobabble 2.0
  3. 3 Social media white paper: defining influence « Technobabble 2.0
  4. 4 Social media white paper: is influence what we should measure? « Technobabble 2.0
  5. 5 Social media white paper: what can we be selling that is better to buy than impressions? « Technobabble 2.0
  6. 6 Social media white paper: what are the origins of influence? « Technobabble 2.0
  7. 7 Social media white paper: conclusion « Technobabble 2.0
  8. 8 links for 2008-01-24
  9. 9 Build the Echo » Blog Archive » links for 2008-02-01
  10. 10 Power Shift » Distributed Influence Discussion
  11. 11 Self-Selection Bias in Social Media Part Two: Learning to Contextualize « As We Now Think

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