Social Influence: importance of experts and mavens

Power and fame are two irresistible attractions for most humans. It’s unusual to have a community without powerful voices or a gathering without organizers. The same is true in the online world webbed together by social networks. The concepts like followers, subscribers and friends has led people to look up to and aspire to be powerful voices and leaders in the social world. This in turn has led to defining the influence level of individuals in the social world.

Broadly speaking, a person with large number of followers on Twitter, subscribers on Facebook, and similar things in other networks is considered to be influential in social media. That’s generally true when you are talking about very general things, things with universal appeal and mass interest, or in cases when you look at social media as a black-box. But there are two important points that we consider while calculating social influence.

First is contextual experts. The growth of social media networks has changed how we get news and information, how we voice our opinion and how we interact with each other. Not everyone is interested in everything. If you look closely at social world, there are clusters out there, just like in the “real” world out there. People are experts of a specific topic. They are interviewed on specific subjects. If you are trying to find out about protests in certain part of the world, you listen to different people, if you are trying to find out about the next best thing in space aviation, you pay attention to others and if you are interested in a highly anticipated movie, you listen to yet another set of experts. That’s where context come in picture. When we look at social media influence index, we make sure to take contextual experts into account because without context, it is just not possible to gauge the impact levels and reach to the right insights.

Second thing is relevant mavens. How relevant individuals are in their own social circles on a certain topics? In other words, in what area are you the maven for your friends. In most general communications on social networks, you listen to your friends or the people you know. When you write something about a particular topic, there is a lot of interest from your friends on it. Your social circle pays attention to it because they consider you as someone important and relevant to discuss that topic. On certain topics people ask for your opinion. So when we calculate social index, we do it for a particular area of research  and take into account mavens in these individual circles to add weight to their opinion.

There is a level of overlap in the first and second case, but there is a considerable difference as well. The difference is that of the personal touch. In the case of contextual experts, the communication is happening on a broader platform. People are expressing themselves or listening to others without any personal connection. It’s more similar to media of mass communication with a touch of interactivity. In the case of mavens, the communication is happening in small groups. It’s where you have personal affinity to the people you are communicating with and in more cases, that is more influential than anything else. It’s where you see the real impact of the social world.

In a nutshell, what we are doing is converting that black-box based influence calculator into a sophisticated process to account for context and relevance while calculating the influence of every post in the social world. That’s the real social influence that plays a critical role in trending opinions, creating perceptions and extracting real insights.

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