Posts tagged with 'roi'

Fast Company’s “Influence Project:” Maybe call it the “Popularity Contest” instead

Last night I was poking around the socnets before going to bed, and saw that Beth Kanter had posted a link to Fast Company’s “Influence Project.” I’m keenly interested in ways to measure influence as part of the research fellowship I have with the Center for Social Media at American University, so naturally I was intrigued and signed up. It took me a while to suss out what they’re actually doing. While they recognize that influence isn’t about numbers of followers or fans, this is how they measure:

The scale of your influence, and therefore the size of your photo, is based on two measures.

1. The number of people who directly click on your unique URL link. This is the primary measure of your influence, pure and simple.

2. You will receive partial “credit” for subsequent clicks generated by those who register as a result of your URL. In other words, anyone who comes to the site through your link and registers for their own account will be spreading your influence while they spread theirs. That way, you get some benefit from influencing people who are influential themselves. We will give a diminishing, fractional credit (1/2, ¼, 1/8 etc ) for clicks generated up to six degrees away from your original link.


What I find problematic: It’s still in many ways a popularity contest. Someone with a lot of time on their hands could launch a campaign to focus on generating as many clicks as possible, which would certainly skew the measurements of that person’s true influence– if they’re not actively campaigning, how much are people actually clicking on their links?

Plus there’s the problem of the power law in this case–early popular adopters are going to rise to the top faster than later adopters and benefit the most from the Amway-like pyramid scheme of click benefits.

There’s no good measurement for influence right now. Part of that’s because there’s a Pandora’s box of factors to consider. I may be influential in recommending information about social networks or dog behavior, but completely ineffectual at recommending solid information on the cultures of Lower Slobbovia. Which measure of influence is important? Do we take a mean number of some kind to represent my overall influence in the world? If we did, how much weight should my recommendations on Lower Slobbovia play?

I know people are desperate to have quantitative metrics when it comes to social media, especially when thinking about ROI. I don’t want to see us falling back on paradigms that we’re used to, though, because they’re now becoming outdated and useless. Here’s a smidge of how I address this in Share This!, from the section “Avoiding the Newest Numbers Trap” in Chapter 4:

Someday, maybe even while this book is being printed, my dream of having an application that shows me “interestingness” in the social network sphere will come true. Flickr has this for photographs: There is an algorithm based on “[w]here the click-throughs are coming from; who comments on it and when; who marks it as a favorite; its tags and many more things which are constantly changing.” The best part? Interestingness itself, then, is constantly changing, based on these shifting variables, so there’s a good chance of finding both something new and something surprising when one goes spelunking through Flickr’s massive collection of interesting photos.

I’m not going to lie to you: This great shift in authority isn’t the easiest part of social networking’s brave new world to navigate. The tools give us tremendous power to change the culture around us, but they’re new, and our behavior and impressions are still based on operating within a hyper-capitalist-focused, hierarchical mindset. We have a lot of work to do on freeing our minds before the rest of our bits will follow.

Surprisingly, though, the uncertainty of the future of social networking tools is also the good news: Things are still shaking out, and we’re in a position to determine whether the reordering of authority will benefit people who previously did not have the access or the means to make their voices heard. Armed with a fundamental understanding of what’s taking place (by, ahem, reading good books on the subject), you’re primed to make the most of change.

Measure THIS! An intro to social media ROI

The following is a talk I gave about ROI for Social Media at the 2009 Social Tech Training in Toronto, ON. The audience was a group of 90 or so people from Canadian non-profits.

When I first started thinking about metrics for social media, I wanted to start out reminding our group about some fundamentals of the sphere. Oh, and with a flying lemur, because Sam Dorman had a flying lemur in his presentation earlier that day.


I’ve got a little exercise to get you warmed up. Are you ready? Take a minute and jot down all of the breakthroughs in communications history you can think of.

No, no, seriously. Write ‘em down. Or type ‘em out, if you’re like me. I’ll wait.

Did you think of smoke signals? That’s one of my favorites. Yep. Papyrus, printing press. Though, if we were playing Boggle, you’d have to scratch that one off, because everyone says that one. Radio, television. Morse code. The Internet.

Now tell me: In whose hands have those tools ended up over the last few millennia? Who has been in charge of, and in control of, telling our collective stories?

This is why history needs you. We need you to create and share your stories.

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Where I’ve been all week: notes from Social Tech Training, Toronto

sttI had the immense pleasure of spending most of the week in Toronto, training about 90 people on the ins and outs of all things social tech. It was an honor to join the other trainers, real rockstars of both American and Canadian social tech for social good worlds: Beka Economopoulos, Cheryl Contee, Roz Lemieux, Jason Mogus, Sam Dorman, Phillip Djwa, Darrell Houle, Samer Rabadi, Eric Squair, Tim Walker, Julia Watson… man, I felt smarter just hanging out with these peeps all week.

Here’s some links to the presentations and workshops that I led and co-led all week; thanks to the participants who took killer notes. There’s tons of incredible info on, and being added to, this wiki, so check back often: