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Today’s Note: A Measure of Influence

January 18, 2012

There has been much written about influence lately. New web-based companies such as klout.com and peerindex.com are claiming to be able to measure, to some degree, the degree of online influence that a person has. This idea is at the very core of “monetization” of the stream of new information pouring into the internet every day. To a great degree, the fulcrum of the coming stage of the evolution of the internet may well be the question of who influences who how much.

Within the technical media, this topic is the subject of many tens of thousands of words per day. Today’s Note discusses a similar article in the mainstream media. “Why spotting influencers is good business,” is written by Susanne Gargiulo on cnn.com. Gargiulo tells us that “Now, companies are finding a goldmine of valuable information by mapping networks of influence — both inside and outside their organizations.” [all italics are added by me to denote quotations from the article]

The article opens with the compelling story of an aptly named Danish company, Innovisor, which cleverly marshalled the social influence of its employees to its own ends:

Take Danish consulting company Innovisor — they took advantage of their employees’ increased use of social media to land two major banks as clients.

After locating all their employees’ LinkedIn connections to two companies they were targeting as clients, they divided the contacts into three groups: Information providers, Influencers and Decision Makers. Working their way up the chain from information providers, they then asked their employees to gather as much information as they could about their target companies.

“Everyone, from the cashier at the bank had valuable information to add,” says Jeppe Vilstrup Hansgaard, partner at Innovisor.

“By the time we approached the decision makers we understood the structure of the business and we brought a level of knowledge that created a far better dialogue than you would normally have,” he added.

Innovisor seems to have grasped that relationships have a tangible element that can be leveraged. I think few organizations could realistically mount a campaign such as the one described in this article. For one thing, the insight to conceptualize relationships, understand their nature, and effectively exploit them is not common among most companies today; it is simply not part of their management culture. Emblematic of Innovisor’s insight is this quote from one of their leaders: “Relationships between people are invisible,” says Hansgaard. “By making them visible you can make them controllable. You can illuminate gaps in collaboration, you can build them and you can strengthen them.”

After all, isn’t that what LinkedIn, Facebook, klout and other networks are doing? More than reproducing the once ubiquitous Rolodex, these networks also identify, record, categorize, measure and most of all, publish, information about relationships. If two people share a tangible, documented relationship, they must be – to some degree – influencers of one another. Some companies will seek to transactionally profit from such relationships during moments of influence, or “impressions.”

Others, like Innovisor, have leveraged a different approach: to convert relationships into significant and actionable “real-world” influence. Is this a kind of “Holy Grail” of online influence? Or will stories such as this become commonplace as organizations learn the technique of manipulating relationships to yield tangible economic gain? It will be interesting to watch these dynamics play out across the internet over the next few years.

Gargiulo winds down her article with this perspective: “The bottom line is that businesses are people and relations matter. As networks grow broader, bigger and more global — as they expand across distances, borders, cultures and functionalities — so do their potentials and problems.”  This, too, is insightful. “People and relations matter.” After several years of watching companies measure relationship and influence, it seems the true promise of that exercise is beginning to come into focus. This article captures some extremely relevant examples and strongly hints at what is to come. Kudos to Gargiulo for spotlighting it and helping us to visualize its potential. A quick look at the article will be well worth your time.

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2 Comments
  1. The article makes the first strong point for me about the value of the old “be prepared”. Also lots of people still don’t get the fact that people do business with people, not organisations which is re-affirmed with Gargiulo’s “wind up” – “People and relations matter.” Having worked in many countries I can particularly relate to the point “as they [organisations] expand across distances, borders, cultures and functionalities – so do their potentials and problems.” Interesting article thanks. Ric-orglearn

  2. starcount is the place to measure influence who’s topping the global social media charts – in music, sport, film, fashion, gaming, TV and thousands more categories. http://www.starcount.com/

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