Who is driving the conversation online?

Last week I blogged about why social marketing may not be flawed, in response to a recent FT article. Without wanting to become too preoccupied with the same piece, I am returning to it for the final time to probe a little further into its definitions of influence.

It is perhaps of no surprise to any seasoned tweeter that 90% of tweets are never re-tweeted, and most of the remainder are only re-tweeted by those in the person’s immediate followers. The research quoted also claims that it is impossible to predict which tweets will be re-tweeted. This is perhaps the case, although other research refutes this. Either way, this is not what interests me. For PR people, it is perhaps less important to understand what sort of content is likely to ‘go viral’ (leave that to marketing), and more important rather to understand who is driving the conversation online, and who, therefore, are the dominant influencers potentially affecting a company’s reputation.

Whilst re-tweets are certainly one metric which can be used to look at content success, if we consider the definition of influence to mean “the action of producing effects on the actions, behaviour, opinions, etc., of others” they are clearly far too simplistic in themselves. What if someone simply reads a tweet about a product and later purchases that product in a shop with no further online trace? It’s a problem that plagues word of mouth marketers – how to link online and offline activity.

Influence is of course a very tricky concept, and there is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all metric, although it’s clearly high on the measurement agenda. With that in mind, despite now heading off on holiday, I’m already looking forward to my next blog instalment where I’ll take a closer look at some of the influence tools already available, and how PRs can use these.

Happy summer!

Sam C

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