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Report: The Rise of Digital Influence and How to Measure It


About three weeks ago, I celebrated my first anniversary as Principal Analyst of Altimeter Group. And, it is with great pride that I mark the occasion with the release of my first official Altimeter report, “The Rise of Digital Influence.” Not a traditional market report, it was written as both a primer and a how-to guide for businesses to spark desirable effects and outcomes through social media influence.

We live in a time when social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, et al., not only connect us, they become part of our digital lifestyle. But it’s not just about how these networks help us connect and communicate with others. Whether we know it or not, our social activity now contributes to our stature within each network. New services such as Klout, PeerIndex among many others not only measure who you know, what you say, and what you do, they attempt to score or rank your ability to influence those to whom you’re connected. As a result, social network users are now starting to rethink how they connect and communicate to improve their stature within each network. And at the same time, brands are taking notice as these services also help organizations identify individuals who are both connected and relevant to help expand reach into new media and markets.

The potential for social influence is enormous on both sides of the equation. Services that rank and identify “influence” open the door to new opportunities for businesses to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with digital tastemakers and authorities. Brands extend their reach into new networks and consumers earn recognition and reward for their online status. These new paradigms also present a number of unforeseen challenges as businesses and digital consumers alike come to grips with what influence is and isn’t.

Figure 1. Framework: Pillars of Influence

The Rise of Digital Influence takes a deep dive into digital influence. It explores the emerging landscape for digital influence to provide businesses with a lens into how it’s earned and spent in social networks. Additionally, the report lays out an Influence Framework and an Influence Action Plan to identify connected consumers and to define and measure digital influence initiatives using an included step-by-step process. Through examples and a review of the digital influence tools available, businesses will posses a stronger grasp of how to develop effective engagement  strategies and supporting processes.

Stephanie Agresta, EVP, Managing Director of Social Media, Weber Shandwick leads one of the newly created roles emerging to help businesses better understand the world of digital influence, “Influence is much more than a score. This is about reaching people not just because they’re connected, but because they serve a role within their online community. It’s up to brand managers, marketers and communications professionals to use influence tools to learn more about the social landscapes and the people who affect their markets. As the findings here point out, brands cannot think episodically about influence or influencers. This is not a campaign based discipline. While tools are helpful, the practice of IRM (Influencer Relationship Management) is about on-going engagement and community building. Today, that can happen at scale.”

The Rise of Digital Influence includes qualitative reviews of 14 influence vendors and also insights from domain experts including…

– David Armano, Executive Vice President, Global Innovation & Integration, Edelman Digital,
– Dr. Bernardo A. Huberman, Director, Social Computing Lab, Hewlett-Packard Laboratories
– Molly O’Donnell, Director of Influencer Marketing for Windows Phone, Microsoft
– danah boyd, Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research; Research Assistant Professor, NYU

Not only does it help you explore the emerging landscape for digital influence, it finally explains how it’s earned and spent in social networks. More importantly, the report introduces an Influence Framework and an Influence Action Plan to identify connected consumers and to define and measure strategic digital influence initiatives using an included step-by-step process.

Download the report…

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

82 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Report: The Rise of Digital Influence and How to Measure It”

  1. Anonymous says:

    So this is a good start, and it’s refreshing to see Altimeter move into the right direction after the Empire Avenue conversations.

    I would add that there are missing components. How do you measure passion and authenticity for an issue, Brian? I still would pick a bone about “your definition of influence.” I would also add that the definition of influence  really goes back to Gladwell and Watts.  To me, without grounding a conversation about influence within that larger debate its hard to take anyone’s definition seriously.

    Still, nitpicking is easy, and this comment is not to punish a good deed. Given who you all are, this is a strong healthy step in the right direction. Thanks for taking it.

  2. My question is with 98% of human communication taking place outside of social media what does this 2% do you us? I mean email, SMS text, word of mouth, telephone, one way communication like watching TV, all blow away Social for volume of communication. So do you forget the 98%?

    My view is Peer Index and Klout are tools but I don’t view them as much value in the scheme of things since they measure so little…which is really mostly twitter. And with only 14mil US twitter users each day (active users) and 27 to 40mil active facebook users (meaning those that do more than read) all facts btw based on daily tweet volume and facebook actions volume….we are blowing off the 8 in 9 consumers who aren’t using the networks today.

  3. John Paul says:

    We don’t measure it. does! ahaha how nice to have someone do it for you.

  4. Brian,

    Good primer. The largest takeaway from the report is that this “movement” towards leveraging digital influence is still in its nascent stages. While you’ve included four case studies, the results of each of the initiatives are still inconclusive, which means experimentation is still the task of the day. 

    There are plenty of shortcomings currently, but this will be an increasingly important area of focus over the next decade.  While you’ve thoroughly highlighted some of the emerging tools, I believe we are still a long way off from anything practically meaningful. Some of my thoughts here – I’d love to get your comments.

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  7. Brian, good report but I am wondering whether digital influence (or at least digital influencers) is actually that important.  Could it be that the people that represent consumers rather than those who influence consumers are the ones we should focus on? I got the impression from a number of the comments (Geoff Livingstone and Brad Grier) that others are also thinking that things (which I define as context and behaviours) are perhaps more important in creating influence that simply identifying influencers.  Have spun my thoughts out a bit here

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