Friday, 13 August 2010

Would more Influence fix your self-esteem?

Over the last few days, ye good olde Influence discussions have been going across the Twitterverse like crazy. It's the end of Summer, and the very beginning of it was marked by Fast Company's influence project which in fact turned out to be one big showroom for the insecure longing for attention and recognition

ReadWriteWeb did a piece on influence and popularity, Marketing profs did a piece on influence and popularity, Brian Solis did a piece on influence and popularity - heck what can I add to that?

A lot

Brian Solis simply, as he says, redefines influence as "the ability to cause measurable actions and outcomes". RWW doesn't have an opinion of their own but quotes HP Labs' "it's not necessarily how many followers you have, but how passive or active they are in spreading the word". Marketingprofs states "influence on Twitter is linked to a Twitter user's ability to motivate followers to retweet and click URLs"

So far, so what? Nothing new really, it's disappointing that all these people can't add value of their own to the influence-popularity theorema - which makes those people maybe popular but certainly not influential in my eyes

Of course popularity isn't influence, I thought we all agreed on that ages ago, Quantity versus quality, etcetera. Sure when you have a million followers you make a bigger dent than when you have 100, but the twain meet somewhere in between. And I think we already invented the wheel of influence. Edelman's Tweetlevel and Klout (as much as I detest the quality and consistency of their product) do a really good job at weighing the various components: absolute and relative number of @replies and ReTweets from and to other tweeps, taking into account their own influentiality, of course expressed in their own Tweetlevel or Klout score, next to number of followers

Influence is the new WannaHave of course. Exactly the reason that follower count determines popularity and influence is determined by something else, means a second chance for all those people out there who desperately tried to get thousands of followers so they would become popular - and utterly failed. A warning: if you didn't become popular that way, you won't become influential either any other way

So, what's there to add? Well, ReTweet quality I'd say - and that's getting increasingly harder to measure.
  • First of all, attribution isn't what it used to be like. A lot of people want to appear influential by starting topics of their own, instead of ReTweeting others'. Most simply achieve this by not attributing a tweet they see, and bring it as something they saw first.
    Especially across timezones and linguistical borders this is something one easily gets away with: I see a lot of Dutch social media evangelists and influential people (...) tweet in Dutch, usually in the morning, what I've seen being ReTweeted all evening and night from Australia and the United States
  • Secondly, what's a ReTweet's value, really? The so called FanTweets account for half of all tweets, and those are fully automated tweets being hurled into the Twitterverse by bots and tools just lurking for new posts of their icons
  • Thirdly, how to measure a ReTweet? If it contains 'RT', or only if that is right in front of your name? If it contains 'via' in front of your name? If the hidden Twitter relationship shows a "" - that only works in XML, and not in JSON; then what? A tweet ReTweeted via the Twitter reserved ReTweet method? All of those combined, (some)how?
  • Fourth, how to sentiment a ReTweet? I quite often ReTweet (via TweetDeck) a tweet, to suffix it with my comment, like " < couldn't disagree more", or I prefix it with something else, like "Right on! > ". Must it be positive what I think, may it be negative, and what is its value if I just merely RT it without adding my own $0.02?
With regards to HP's study, their definition of a ReTweet is slim, very slim. There is a lot of math in the report but it would be valuable if they first had defined what a ReTweet is in their opinion

The same basically applies to the @reply. If I @reply to e.g. David Armano or Chris Brogan, and they reply back, what is that to me? It might be an innocent comment, it might be a miffed comment, or a simple :) - sure it says something but what, really?

Lithium was one of the Social CRM tools I've taken a look at lately, and they had very flashy sentiment dashboards, showing product, blog or item sentiment across the Web. Really impressive. Michael Wu, Lithium's Principal Scientist of Analytics, has a really interesting 4-post series on Influence Analytics and that's sure worth a good read

How to be influential?
Listen first, then speak: receive first, so you can give what you received. Ask, then answer. Be yourself, be genuine, be interesting - if you have nothing to say, just shut up and feel good about it. If you see a popular or influential person tweet something not worth ReTweeting, don't ReTweet it. Create, create, don't just populate!
Don't copy and paste, steal other people's work by not attributing it, don't build a firehose repeating everything 4 to 6 times a day or 20 times a week, don't say you're "taking tons of pictures" just because Robert Scoble does and people like him.
Build up something, evolve, grow, share, give, look people straight in the heart and act upon that. Seek your Masters for certain topics and be a Master yourself on certain topics to others. Engage, engage!
And relax: don't take it all too seriously, it will echo through your tweets. Life's too short, in general. Don't get hung-up, don't get hung-over, don't take anything personally

Last but not least: being or becoming influential can never be a goal, it can be a means at most. What is the goal? Fixing your self-esteem?

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