(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.
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