Social media white paper: what can we be selling that is better to buy than impressions?


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 seventh section – what can we be selling that is better to buy than impressions? 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 can we be selling that is better to buy than impressions?

If inbound links and other ‘popularity measures’ are redundant, the roundtable queried whether it was possible to sell:

1) Influence

2) A meme

3) Search results

As an alternative, Jeff Jarvis highlighted Flickr’s innovative way of approaching this. Although the methodology of this contains a large amount of secret source, the concept, was explained as follows:

  • What amount of effort goes into a photo – i.e. number of links, number of comments, use of tags etc.
  • A social analysis – the relationship that emerges based on the photo and not the photographer.
  • A mapping of the first two points.

The redeeming social value is an aggregated metric of these points.

The reason why this methodology resonated with the group was that it tried to calculate influence in an alternative manner. This approach did not look at the creator but rather the effort that went into the publication and the amount of discussion that it created amongst a wider community.

Popularity is a meaningless measure – Jeff Jarvis

In this instance, popularity was not the primary metric as effort and dialogue were now included. The roundtable agreed that any meaningful social media metric had to ensure that popularity measures were not promoted at the expense of these other factors.

To get to one standard of measurement, we would need access to and the ability to aggregate all data, and that demands a whole new level of openness and sharing that is not available.

Regardless, there was general consensus that we may never be able to get to one standard. This is because this ‘old world thinking’ implies that the people with the money are in control.

We believe the inverse is true, and thus it’s the people with the content who will dictate – or at a minimum have an equal say in dictating – the metric standards by which their content is monetized.

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