An excellent article today around tools that measure your social influence (or at least, around tools that measure activity, which, i guess, can correlate with influence…). Mike Johansson has provided a concise summary of a sites that offer some measure of your online presence. The timing was interesting as i’m looking at measures of how to measure engagement in online spaces in a quantifiable way (but beyond just measuring how many times you log on or how many posts you write).
Now, i’ve not tried all these sites, but have played with a couple, enough to work out that they are using some quite sophisticated techniques for measuring network activity. Essentially, they are relying on access to your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook profiles (although http://www.peerindex.net does warn you that if you use your Facebook primarily for social interactions with friends, it won’t be very relevant for your overall influencing scores). Clearly any measurement is going to be based on what you post, how often you post, key words, who you are connected with and how ‘influential’ those people are, but by starting to link in to how your activity relates to what’s trending, they are at least hinting at the kind of meta analysis that may be meaningful.
At another level, it all depends what you mean by ‘influential’ and what you mean by ‘success’. On the one hand, building a large network and getting lots of people to see what you broadcast is significant. Having people engage back with you is significant too, but it’s not all about size. It’s about quality too, and what you do with the connections when you have them.
‘Trends’ are becoming increasingly popular, especially on broadcast media like Twitter. Essentially, they measure the key hashtags that people are using and amalgamate the most popular ones. If you happen to be tweeting on a particular topic (and especially if you are influential (!), you can start to ‘trend’. Of course, trending is viral, so once you see what’s trending, you can jump on the bandwagon. I’ve done this myself, writing about the Playbook at a time when everyone was searching for information about the new device (and interestingly, it’s one of the areas in which both www.peerindex.net and www.klout.com deem me to be influential – although i’m not – i’m just hanging onto the back of the moving train)
The thing about ‘viral’ is that it’s just what everyone is doing. It’s not a measure of quality: trending right now are the hashtags for ‘Jeremy Kyle’, ‘iCloud’ and ‘CatDog’. I could post on any of these, but i doubt i’d be adding much to the pantheon on world knowledge in any meaningful way. And i suspect i’d be hard pushed to find the enthusiasm to make any meaningful statements about Jeremy.
The point of all this is that there is an emerging sophistication around social media. On the one hand, it’s just feeding the frenzy of ‘network building’ that is inherent in any network site. People generating five hundred contacts, a thousand contacts, a million… whenever you give people a space in which they can compete, together with a measurable indication of ‘success’, some people will run with it. On the other hand, whilst it may not be there yet, this is another area in which we are seeing the coming together of different strands. You may believe that you are just posting on Facebook, or posting a review of a holiday cottage that you stayed at, but in fact, you are adding to the plethora of places you’ve touched in the ether, all of which are recordable and indexable.
In terms of learning, there are the foundations of ideas that we can take forward. For activity in online spaces to become a meaningful part of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in many industries, we need measures of activity and success. Generally it’s based on time, but there’s no reason it needs to be.
Understanding how it’s possible to measure activity, beyond the obvious and easy methods, can contribute to this debate.