There is a lot of talk going on within my team about "influence". We have people that blog, Twitter, podcast and do online video. We have people that do none of these things. How do we measure someone's "influence" in their community? Should we try to measure it? What's to be gained by that?
I guess part of the answer is dependent on what type of influence you mean. I have a lot of influence over what the family eats for dinner, some influence over my gas mileage, but very little over BCS polls. I would like to think that I have some influence in my developer community, but how do I know for sure? Here are some of the things my team has been discussing around measuring influence:
The one my team's been focusing on the most is the Technorati Authority score. Here's mine as of this post:
So - I'm at an Authority of 36. Not too bad for a (relatively) new blogger, but what does "36" really mean, and how do I effect it? Technorati Authority, as defined by a post from the Technorati Blog, is the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. (wait - did I just help them increase their Authority?) The higher the number, the more Technorati Authority the blog has. Fair enough - that means that the more people I can get to put a link to my blog on their web site (i.e. in their blogroll, or posting a link in one of their posts to my site or my feed) the higher a rating I'll get. For a humbling comparison, here's the same info from ScottGu's blog:
[ Wow... I wonder what would happen if he linked to me? ]
Although I suppose there are a number of ways to "game" this system ("I'll link to you if you link to me"), the real authority is how many people think that you're posts are so damn [ useful | informative | noteworthy | funny | worth talking about ] that they link to you regardless. I have had a few experiences where I've randomly searched online to see if anyone is linking to me, and I was amazed to find that there actually were several references to my posts! To me, that's the real test of authority.
I don't think that Technorati Rank/Authority (or any of these measures, really) is the same thing as Influence - but they are interesting measures of who's paying attention to you and the things you say. For me, influence can only be measured by the things/people/events you're trying to influence. Sometimes, that influence is direct (I did something, and people know it, and they responded positively) or indirect (I enabled YOU to do something, people know YOU did it, and YOU were will received). How do we measure indirect influence? That one is harder...
Another dimension to this answer is influence polarity - is your influence perceived as positive or negative? Are you helping your team/club/group achieve their goals, reach new heights, or just dragging everyone down? I believe it was P. T. Barnum (it was him, wasn't it?) that said something like "No PR is bad PR", but a negative influence can be a really bad thing - especially in my business. I'd like to know that the things I do are positively influencing the groups I serve - the South Central Developer Community, my Team, my Friends, my Family, my Boy Scout Troop, my Cub Scout Pack, my Church, etc. Not necessarily directly, but indirectly - I'd rather help build rockstars than be one myself...
So I guess I don't yet know the answer to my question. Influence is an interesting thing - we all do it, and we all have it, but all in different ways. What are your thoughts about influence? Should we actively try to track it, or should it just happen naturally and evolve? How can we tell if we're doing a good job, or doing the right thing?
Oh - and before I forget - my offer still stands: if you link to me, I'll link to you ;-)