There’s lot’s of discussion – pro and con – about trying to measure influence, particularly in social media. The ability to accurately capture, analyze and rank influence is extraordinarily valuable. The key word is “accurately.”
There are many vendors (Klout, Peerindex, et al) trying to figure this out. Recently Klout came up with a +K button, an interesting invention. It’s like a more focused #ff (Follow Friday), for those familiar with it. But it got me to thinking about the nature of influence in general and where this could be leading. I’ve discussed influence in marketing before (see Dark Matter and Invisible Thought Leaders) but I feel like we are moving towards a new era in “influence awareness.”
Heisenberg Social Media Uncertainty Principle
Sean McGinnis’ recent post The Problem With Klout discussed some of the challenges with one influence measurement vendor: Klout. He writes:
The minute you pay attention to your Klout score is the instant your Klout score stops being accurate.
I got flashbacks to physics and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. But more relevant is the Observer Effect, wherein the mere act of observation makes changes to what it is we are observing. To look at this from a sociological perspective, in his 1976 paper “Assessing the Impact of Planned Social Change” social scientist Donald T. Campbell wrote:
The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.
For years there has been an arms race on the Internet: Search Engines vs. Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The search engines are trying hard to return accurately relevant search results. The SEO practitioners are trying hard to “game” the system, attempting to raise the rankings of particular content. This can be done because search engines have rules and algorithms that can be cracked or inferred.
So where does that leave influence measurement? Well move over SEO. It’s Time For IMO™! Influence Measurement Optimization™. (Hey, Disney trademarked “Seal Team 6”!)
Maybe I should hang out my shingle?
Be sure to check out Part 2: Influence Measurement Optimization™ 2 – Rise of the Mathematicians