Social media week in London provided an excellent opportunity to analyse influence. Too often when there is a breaking story, I whish I could have turned back the clocks by a few days to see how the story originated and spread whilst focussing on who the key people were in the conversation and what they did to help propagate it.

This blog post will illustrate several key concepts that are unique to TweetLevel and Edelman.

  1. Conversation map analysis shouldn’t be conducted post event but through real time metrics allowing you to understand what time of engagement behaviour an influential person has. After all what’s the point of a static map when conversations aren’t the end result but a flow of information over time.
  2. The key players in a conversation are not just the most popular but those who start the ideas, spread and curate them. We call these people the new influentials.
  3. Timing is critical. This isn’t just about what time of the day they tweet, but when they take part in the conversation. For example many of the idea starters initiated the dialogue a few weeks before #smldn even started. As a marketer if I could know who these people were in advance, then it would have been the perfect opportunity to engage with them.

 

Dynamic conversation map

Red dots: idea starters, Yellow dots: curators, Blue and Green dots: Commentators. Some idea starters are also amplifiers (as shown by the size of the bubble) Source: University of Southampton–Web Science Team (Ramine Tinati) in collaboration with Jonny Bentwood at Edelman

What we can learn from this..

  • Idea starters engage early in the conversation (often weeks before the event)
  • A good three weeks prior to the event starting the people who would eventually be the thought leaders in social media week has initiated the conversations around the topics they were going to be pushing. Not surprisingly they were doing their own marketing.
  • From an objective point of view, they hadn’t managed to engage a large number of other people into this dialogue as they were instead waiting until the event started.
  • As a marketer I would if I was aiming to influence people, I would look to see who is engaging early and seek to interact then – if we wait till later then the conversation is too saturated to be heard.

Time jump conversation map

The following slide show takes you from 29 Jan where just a few people were discussing the event to a screen shot every few days up till the end of 17 Feb.

Slide3 Slide9

SMWLDN - RTmin set to 300

What I believe this shows you is that some of the key people in conversations are not the those who normally jump out. Namely, the person who creates the ideas or the person who has the huge audience that helps spread them. It is in fact the “yellow dots” in the above images. These influentials are curators – those who are niche experts and connected to idea starters and amplifiers. This group helps to link and grow conversations even though most tools in the market would ignore them {this is why TweetLevel puts a high focus on how information flows, its origin, connectedness and NOT just popularity]

Slide3

Taking another example from the WC3 event last year, if you look at the final map you would hardly notice some of the key individuals who make this topic travel so far.

In this instance you may think that Tim Berners-Lee and Google Research were the key folks involved.

 

Slide5Slide6

Instead what you can also find is that early in the dialogue an individual who has relatively few followers is instrumental in making the conversation spread.

Timing is everything

imageif you also analyse when people tweeted about the event, the amount conversation does closely mirror the actual main conference itself. Nevertheless, the thousand tweets in advance were as we already know populated by who we would know to be the idea starters and leaders of the event.

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The second analysis focussed on the time in the day when the tweets were made. These also coincided with keynotes and social gatherings post event.

Quoting a favourite adage of mine, we need to fish where the fish are. If we hope to have any chance of engaging with the people that count, we need to make sure we engage at the right time.

Who is influential – link to top influencers on TweetLevel for #smwldn

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What you can clearly see is that this list isn’t biased to the most popular but instead draws its focus on:

  • Context
  • How important they are to the flow of information
  • Timing

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What does this mean?

As we continually look to identify and understand influence, we must instead look to understand engagement behaviours. This means looking to engage early in the conversation with the people that count knowing that they will be the idea starters as the milestone continues. We need to also build relationships with the curators, knowing that even though they have a limited audience, their connections are vital to enable a conversation to flow.

originally published on Technobabble 2.0

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It could be said Ed Keller and Jon Berry in writing The Influentials, discovered or at least articulated the importance of word of mouth.  They identified how one of humanity’s first forms of social influence—has become even more important and influential today for people making sense of the world.

The thing about highly influential people is they actively cultivate their influence. They view their influence as an asset and they invest in it and work on it. One of the best ways to get their attention is essentially to curate them and actively magnify their reach. – Michael Troiano

Keller and Berry thesis’ stated that one in every 10 Americans is what they call an “influential.” These people had a tremendous impact on the rest of society because their ideas and opinions are sought out by the friends, family and community members around them. The authors explain that the conversations they hold and the examples they set have the power to shape the community’s behaviours and attitudes.

The currency in influencer relations is ego. That’s the magic formula. How do you appeal to an ego in a way that you’re adding value without appearing like you’re appealing to that ego? – Joe Chernov

Social media has revolutionised many things but we believe that one biggest impacts has been on the nature of influence and the role of influentials.  Through the process of democratisation of authority the influential has been empowered and grown.  It seems hard to believe that as long ago as 2006 David Brain outlined the impact of this on the marketing world.

“So in communications and in the way brands and companies deport themselves to their customers and to their stakeholders the game is changing fast. The new model citizen who is increasingly participating and demanding a say and respect and, even a relationship, is not the person we used to know. They don’t believe us in the way the way they used to it is fundamental for most companies, brands, PR people and communicators.”

If marketers think social strategies and influencer strategies are the same thing, they are not getting it. Influencer strategies are most like traditional marketing. But social is so much more than just getting influencers and other third parties to carry your message into the marketplace. The whole influential chain is about understanding how the messages percolate and get transferred to multiple people. You need to understand your influencer heat map. Otherwise, you’ll focus on the big targets and miss where influence really takes place. –  Jonathan Yarmis

Essentially authority has seeped from the 10% that previously orchestrated the process of influence to everyone taking part in the conversation.  Today everyone in an online conversation can be a New Influential.  This is not to say that all these New influentials are born equal.  One of the defining features of online conversation is that it is visible – word of mouth made trackable.  This has enabled us to track influence and the interaction between influentials.

Our insight from this was dramatic as we found a small group certainly less than 1% who start new memes within a conversation we called these influentials idea starters.  These influentials had great authority but often relied on a bigger group around 10% of the conversation who we called amplifiers.  These are people who amplify ideas and circulate them within conversational communities.  Amplifiers often had professional or commercial motivations such as journalists, analysts but were also more often than not self created experts and avid sharers of information.  The third group of new influential we called curators these are those who look to put context around the conversation bring strands together and take it in new directions through adaption yet falling short of starting an entirely new meme.  The next group that we identified were commentators those who had a need to comment and add without giving deeply to the conversation often less influential their influence should not be ignored as when negative as in trolls a commentator can serious skew a conversation and opinion.  While we find very often commentators will often intervene to correct inaccuracies or a unfounded negative view.

Social and influencer strategies are two pieces of the same larger whole, which is outreach strategy. Anytime you’re trying to engage someone, you’re trying to accomplish four things. You want to engage them by letting them know you know who they are. You want to inform them of something that is of interest to them. You want to persuade them there’s more where that came from. And then you want to invite them into some kind of action-interaction world relationship. And then you want to lather, rinse, repeat, and replicate in scale. – Michael Dortch

Perhaps the controversial point about New Influentials is that everyone who takes part can everyone be influential.  But today taking part can simply be searching and reading in the conversation this group who we call viewers don’t leave a foot print except through Google.  Indeed it is through Google and the impact of viewers on search results that these other groups become influential and evolve their role within a conversation.  Authority rests with the search patterns of those who simply observe in a democratic world.

All quotes sourced from Ramp Up Your ROI with Strong Influencer Strategies

When you haven’t seen something fast growing for several weeks such as a child or Russian vine the temptation to say, ‘my haven’t you grown!’ is very great.

This urge should be avoided as it annoys those concerned, by patronising kids or rebuking gardeners. Yet returning from a short tweet break this morning I muttered these very words on reading about the fifth anniversary of twitter so breaking this rule of the blindingly obvious.

Yet leaping to my own defence it is not just the speed of growth with twitter that is dramatic. It is the manner of its growth and what it has done to the way internet-based opinion and influence has developed that is very interesting, and weirdly so. A really interesting post on Elise’s Review prompted this thought with the question ‘Is social media becoming more about mass broadcasting than conversation?’

Twitter’s growth has been about amplification of opinions, influence and conversations. At times this has made it appear more like broadcasting and certainly it has made the conversation louder, shorter and less genteel. Yet in interacting with media and blogs I would argue that twitter is amplifying and sharing ideas that often start in long form in other media platforms. This is different from broadcasting although it does make the conversation less sophisticated in many cases. I would describe it as a broader conversation rather than a broadcast.

Indeed as twitter grows its ability to amplify grows too so amplifying the amplifier. Some bloggers who began as highly focused ‘Influentials’ talking to only niche groups have become stars and engaged in very broad conversations. They often start to post less frequently but when they do they reach bigger, much bigger numbers.

The post pointed out that now more people get news from the Internet than traditional newspapers. This too is a part of the amplification process with e-zines merging with communities and a more dialogue driven view of the news.  The key dynamic here is the way twitter helps ideas and stories leapfrog between niche communities.  Again this seems to be of the great strengths of twitter it takes news from niches and can make them part of a broad community.

As it grows this does not mean twitter is all about these broader conversations. Clearly there a niche areas such as middle aged cycling that have drawn together quite large but discrete groups who don’t make it as trending topics. But even these conversations have become broader. So back to the blindingly obvious not always being easy to adopt I quote one point in the Elise’s Review below:

If Your Blog Doesn’t Have A “Tweet This” Or “Like This” Button On It, It Means That You Are Not Cool.

And yes – we know ours doesn’t. yet.

@Naked_Pheasant

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