Following Edelman‘s recent roundtable on measuring influence, Jonny Bentwood just released his synthesis in a paper titled “Distributed Influence: Quantifying The Impact of Social Media.” The discussion yielded some great thinking, and is a great contribution to the fundamental debate over what influence really is. In fact, the discussion had many similarities to the debate over engagement, which is struggling to develop frameworks for measuring the quality of exposure to content. Here’s my contributions which resonated with the group and landed in Jonny’s paper:
With all the attention around influence, and many unanswered questions, what we need most is more practical testing, tied to specific marketing objectives and applications. The marketer’s Holy Grail of influence is the ability to recognize patterns and optimize outcomes — whether for advertising, media planning, public relations, word-o0f-mouth marketing, etc. Without question, influence often rides on nothing more than spontaneity. Spontaneity is an overwhelming force. Unpredictability is perhaps the greatest law of nature when it comes to influence. However, deeper understanding will lead to bets and actions with more favorable odds.
In defining influence, Max also believed that it is important to emphasize the value of “the Network.” He stated that any single person is nothing without a network. The network defines influence perhaps more than any one person. In its most basis form, someone may have an incredible idea but unless people hear about it, its value is diminished.
I applaud Edelman’s thought leadership here. It would be interesting to see them collaborate with Columbia University Professor Duncan Watts to apply rigorous academic theory and testing to practical persuasion and communications challenges in this age of digital connectivity.
(See my recent post on different marketing dimensions in the discussion of influence.)