I’d like to thank the many folks who read and commented on my post last week about Women, Social Media and Influence. Here is what I learned:
- There is interest in measuring the influence of women using social media;
- The unique characteristics of social media, particularly that it is ubiquitous, easy-to-use and mostly free make them the perfect vehicle for women to become more influential outside of the walls of organizations.
- Influence is multi-channel. We think primarily of bloggers as influential individuals online, however, there are influentials on Twitter and Facebook as well and they need to be added to the mix.
- The mom bloggers have illustrated how groups of individuals, all of whom may not be individually influential, can band together in a swarm and have a huge impact. Take the Motrin imbroglio as an example. This is of particular interest for social change because it illustrates how a group of individuals can work together to influence the behavior of a company, which could just as easily been influencing elected officials or foundations.
There were several commenters who brought up the interesting issue of whether women small business owners were doing better using social media. I agree that this is a very interesting question, however, I’m going to leave it to others as it falls outside the parameters of social change.
Many thanks, in particular, to Joanne Fritz for posing a fascinating set of questions: Are women more or less persistent than men when using social media? Do women turn social media into businesses as often as men? Does a male “voice” still carry more “authority” than women in social media? Do women use social media differently? Are women’s issues receiving more attention as a result of women using social media? How do women themselves define influence in social media?
Based on the enthusiasm I decided to keep going and begin to explore how to define and measure online influence. One interesting note, which I think is a great opportunity, is that everything that I have seen to date is for corporate marketers interested in selling things to consumers.
The first important issue to discuss is what, exactly, is online influence? As you can see in the model social network map below, there are two compoents of social networks: the round nodes that indicate people or institutions, and the ties that connect them to one another. [This map is courtesy of Valdis Krebs]
In every network like this there are larger nodes. These are the influencers, the people or institutions that are connected to more nodes and are also connected to in return. In more familiar terms, these are the people on your block who know everyone and knows what is going on with them. With social media we can see who these influencers are in a social network for the first time.
Micah Baldwin writing on Mashable listed the ways that influence can be measured online:
Incoming Traffic – Pageviews, Incoming traffic from search engines, rss subscribers
Incoming Links – Primarily manual links such as blogrolls, in-post deep links
Reader Engagement – Internal searches, time on site
Recommendations – Retweets, share stats
Connections – Number of mutual connections, number of mutual connections on multiple sites
Track Record – Age of domain, number of blog posts, length of engagement
Engagement – How often and long a person has engaged with a service online
These influencers have large numbers of followers, readers and friends. They also have reputations as trusted sources of information. And, again, for social change, they can make things happen: donations, raising awareness, organizing events. In a very interesting paper on defining influence and influencers published by Edelman, Jeff Jarvis says that they are not just meme starters (meaning ideas and conversations that are spread through social media) they are also meme spreaders.
As I stated in the previous post, influence is more than the size of a following. What one does with those friends and followers is what’s important. And that’s what needs to be measured! Finding the influencers like Beth is easy – they’re sitting right there in the blogosphere or on Twitter. But what do they do with their influence for social change is the real question. And as Joanne Fritz said, do women do whatever this is differently from men online? Based on this information, I’d like to propose a framework for a research project based on the following questions:
- Are there influential women using social media for social change? If so, who are they and what does their influence consist of?
- Is the influence of women exhibited differently using social media than that of men? If so, how?
- Can we follow the bouncing ball of a social change meme that began with women influencers and map how it spread online and perhaps on land?
- Are their barriers for women’s leadership using social media?
Please let me know what you think about these questions and this approach. Thanks!!