Social media white paper: what are the origins of 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 eighth section – what are the origins of 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

What are the origins of influence?

Understanding that it is both the people who create and spread content combined with the fact that it is impossible to predict which opinions will turn into memes, the roundtable believed that a different approach was called for, namely to understand the origins of influence.

Influence is only influence when you reach a critical mass that inspires you to act – Steve Rubel

Using meme regression as a way to identify how topics spread and influence causes action, we created a model that tried to explain how the process works which we called the ‘Arc of Influence’.


1) Grab attention
How do influencers grab a user’s attention? What methods and social media tools do they use?

2) Engage
How does the influencer engage with the audience? Is it done in an informative, entertaining or challenging way?

3) Influence
Does the influencer create high quality content? Is it personal and relevant. i.e. Does it demonstrate need + context + timeliness

4) Action
Does the influencer inspire the individual to act

Following this discussion, we proposed inverting the arc by putting the consumer in control and trying to work out how they get influenced so that they accordingly act.


1) Interest
The consumer identifies a need or interest in information

2) Fulfillment
The consumer seeks fulfillment from what they hope are credible sources (information, entertainment)

3) Review
The consumer evaluates the content provided

4) Action
The consumer forms or modifies their opinion and acts accordingly.

You don’t go for the most influential but the most easily influenced – Max Kalehoff


It was hoped that this model could be used as a more effective way to engage than the historic way of merely counting page impressions to identify influence.

One Response to “Social media white paper: what are the origins of influence?”

  1. I think it is very interesting but I wish they would have explored and offered an alternative outside of memes. Memetics is controversial in its own after all.

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