(A more comprehensive version of the report is available for download here
(PDF, 10 Mb))
In a previous analysis
we analysed who are influential authorities on “business blogging”.
Since then there has been great interest in both the results of the analysis and the methodology used.
We decided to do a new analysis on another topic of interest to many bloggers but this time also use some time to make a point of illustrating influence versus popularity.
In the new analysis we set out to identify the most influential authorities on the topic of “blog marketing”
and compare this list to the list of those who are the most popular stakeholders of that topic. The difference between influence and popularity
The difference between influence and popularity can be highlighted by looking at the parameters taken into account when measuring the two.
When you want to measure the popularity of a stakeholder, you count the number of other stakeholders who refer to the first stakeholder in the context being analysed. So the only variable taken into account is “number of referrals”.
Analogous this can be used to measure the link-popularity of a particular website by counting the number of inbound linkers.
However, when measuring influence we take one more variable into account: The influence of the endorser (linker).
The influence of academic journals and universities have been measured this way for more than 30 years, but it also intuitively makes sense: It typically means more to any of us to receive the endorsement of someone we regard as an authority in the field than from someone we know hasn’t got a clue.
So in order to establish popularity all we have to do is count. But to establish influence we have to turn the references (or links or endorsements or citations) into a system of simultaneous equations and solve them to find an equilibrium state. (Please see the previous analysis
on “business blogging” for a more in-depth discussion on these issues). But aren’t those who are popular in relation to a topic also influential on that topic?
The short answer is “Yes, they often are”.
The little longer answer is “Yes, they often are, but you don’t have to be popular to be influential”.
In that answer lies one of the main reasons why it is interesting to identify who are influential on a topic: If someone is influential, but not really popular, then we may not know about them and we are therefore not able to take them into account.
In a public relations context there is a more interesting side to this thinking as well. Someone who is less popular may be easier to influence than someone who is popular. And if their influence is roughly the same, it may be more cost-effective to influence those who are not so popular.
The findings of our analysis may underline my point here. Results
Table 1 shows the 20 most influential authorities on the topic “blog marketing”. The table also shows their popularity. (Both measures are relative and linear.)
The table shows that New York Times is the most influential authority on “blog marketing”. Interestingly enough it is also the most popular. (To be valid the reference must occur in the relevant context. In this case, a reference to New York Times must happen in a “blog marketing” context to count.)
Table 1 contains many of the usual suspects: Seth Godin is there, so is Steve Rubel from Micropersuasion (now Edelman PR), BusinessWeek, Fast Company and a handful of other well known names.
But there are also some surprises, or “not so popular” names like Hyku, Next Level Biz Tips, All Business and Twist Image.
Figure 1 shows the whole thing in graph format.
The difference between the influence bar and the popularity bar for each stakeholder is a measure for how much they “punch above their weight” so to speak. How much more influential they are than their popularity should lead us to believe.
The opposite is true for Micropersuasion, BusinessWeek, WebPro News, Problogger, Buzzmachine, and Adrants. They are all somewhat less influential than their popularity would suggest.
Table 2 and Figure 2 shows the similar information for the 20 most popular stakeholders of the topic analysed.
Table/Figure 2 have several names from Table/Figure 1; but also some new ones. Big media brands like BBC and CNN are showing. They are popular and they do have influence – but not as much influence as their popularity suggests.
Actually, among the 20 most popular stakeholders only Search Engine Watch and Top Rank Results have more influence than their popularity would suggest and “punch above their weight”, so to speak.
The results demonstrate that sheer popularity can give influence, but also that popularity is not a requirement for influence.
Digg this story
We have launched some new services today including InfluenceMonitor – a DIY influence monitor.
Apart from measuring and monitoring influence on issues and brands it measures sentiment and a host of other neat features.
Check it out at http://www.onalytica.com/monitoring_services.aspx
Lately I have spoken to several brand mangers and PR professionals who are concerned about becoming an innocent victim of blogger-wrath.
There are lots of stories about brand pressure where the internet and bloggers plays a role [“Dell Hell”, Kleenex, Wal-Mart Pressure Groups, Wal-Mart and Bloggers, Kryptonite Lock] but does every brand manager now have to live in fear of every disgruntled customer with a blog?
The short answer is “no”, and the slightly longer one is “no, but it depends..”.
For a negative story to gain a growing following and reach that tipping point where it gains a life of its own (where the story about the story becomes interesting) it seems that a number of prerequisites need to be in place:
1) The story must be true and must have merit. False claims do not get much support as they erode the credibility of those who reference it (as a problem).
2) The issue/problem/injustice must be clear: A product that is generally not working; a service that is sold but cannot be delivered; an organisation that is saying one thing and doing the total opposite. If you can argue the case from different points of view it will most likely only gain traction with those who already share the bloggers view on the issue.
3) The issue/problem/injustice the blogger is facing/experiencing should be experienced by several others. The issue must be relevant for at least a reasonably large constituency. If it’s just the one customer who had a bad experience it is not enough to start a fire.
4) The blogger must be a good communicator. If the problem is described in too much technical detail mainstream media and less technical bloggers may not find it as interesting.
5) Branded online media (can be one of the top 20 blogs) or traditional off line media brands must at some point in time write about the story to give it that final piece of credibility.
So to sum it up: if you are doing what you are saying you are doing and not making objectively false claims about your product or service, then chances are you will be fine.
If, on the other hand, you are saying one thing and doing the opposite, then it is probably only a matter of time before you find yourself exposed.
Today BBC has an article
about the We Media Global Forum
where they follow up on their previous story about the impact of bloggers.
Onalytica and the "Dell Hell" case
is referenced again
The story draws on a speech given by well-known analyst Julian Smith from Jupiter Research
BBC has a story
about blogging today. They use the Dell Hell case
as an example.
Onalytica is mentioned along with other fine companies from the industry.
It looks like Edelman is winning the PR War
Figure 1 (below) shows the number of blog posts about Walmart in the previous 30 days along with the accumulated sentiment (Net Promoters Index).
Some 2 weeks ago something interesting happened: The number of daily posts went up and the majority of the posts became positive.
I wonder what Edelman’s magic formula is because it sure is working.
Most of our clients are interested in understanding what has the attention of bloggers who blog about a particular issue.
One way of looking at this is to analyse where bloggers, who blog about a particular issue, link to; and then identify the most popular destinations.
One problem with that approach is that lots of bloggers link to the same places; no mater the topic.
Link destinations popular with bloggers as a whole include FeedBurner, Blooger.com, WordPress, Technorati, etc, etc – as well as general stuff making news and waves.
One way we approach this problem is consistently providing valuable results to our clients. We call it “Statistically Improbable Links” or SILs.
SILs work in the following ways: By identifying where bloggers, who blog about a particular issue, link to – and use the rest of the blogsphere as a base line – you arrive at a list of links who are exclusively popular with bloggers who blog about the issue in focus.
Let me give a few examples: Topic blogged about
: Vodafone Blog filtering
: English language only Geography
: Worldwide Period
: Feb-Mar 2006
The 2 top links are links to Technorati (the tag link for Vodafone) and Vodafone’s corporate website, followed by RIM's 3G Blackberry launch imminent Astraware
(a site that produces games for mobile phones and PDAs) Open Letter to Vodafone
(a disgruntled customer voicing his grievances)
By keeping an eye on the SILs of a topic one can effectively keep an eye on what has the attention of the bloggers who blog about this topic as well as the stories gaining traction with the group.
Occasionally the top SILs can be bring out a smile.
The top (tied with a few others) SIL for the period Feb-Mar/06 for blog posts containing the name of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is this article
In the previous case studies in this blog we have mostly analysed influence on issues of a political nature or of general public interest.
As part of a project to demonstrate how influence measurements can be used in relation to consumer goods we decided to analyse who are influential authorities on Personal Video Recorders (aka. PVR) in the United Kingdom.
Figure 1 (below) shows the list of influencers and their relative influence. (For an in-depth description of our methodology please read this previous analysis
If you wanted to spread the gospel about products or services in the PVR space you could try to go directly to Guardian, Business Week or other well known media brands who write about the PVR topic. But knowing how these publications gets flooded with similar pitches the chance of getting noticed could be small.
A more effective strategy may be to turn your attention to some of the smaller more specialised publications like C-Net, Silcon or Wireless Digest Blog who carry a substantial influence on the topic in the UK – not at least because they are quoted by large media like Guardian.
The NY Times has a new and interesting article
about Wal-Mart’s PR war.
When the previous article
was published we analysed
Wal-Mart’s online stakeholder universe to understand the strength of the players.
Perhaps it is time for a follow-up analysis..?
The well known podcast
“For Immediate Release
” (#113) by Neville Hobson and Shel Holz uses the Onalytica report about Business Blogging
as a starting point for a discussion on authority vs. popularity.
They have several interesting perspectives on the issue and I urge anyone with an interest in the topic to listen to their show.
Aside from the above discussion the podcast as a whole is a comprehensive update on what is happening in the world of blogging, PR and new media. It’s easy to understand why their show has such a huge following.