Having recently read about a patent pending within Google which facilitates the effective ranking of an individual's influence, I was intrigued by the possibilities that such a technology might offer. Clearly there will be numerous debates settled as to who in the office holds the most influence, but it may also be applied far more profitably. Clearly, influence tracking software allows significantly more targetted advertising. By identifying the most influencial members of a given community, in this instance those most likely to influence their 'followers', the assumption can be made that advertisements contained within these profile pages are likely to be most visibile. Similarly, if community members recognise these organisations as being endorsed by the influencial individual, they may feel more inclined to connect with the placed content.
Google's software is reported to consider a number of factors when establishing an individual's influence. The total influence, which is obtained through analysis of social network software, is thought to include examination of how many friends the individual has, how many friends these friends have, how frequently posts are placed on one's page, and how often the individual successfully encourages other users to interact with posted content. Clearly, this software will once again spark debate with regards to privacy concerns, yet it should be recognised that social networks comprise information willingly submitted by the individual to which the data concerns. As such, social networks represent a source of market information, the likes of which would be difficult to replicate in a laboratory environment. It is too early to suggest whether such software represents a solution for recognising social network profitability.
Perhaps more worrying from an organisational perspective however, is the threat of rejection by these influencial communities. Should these influencers resent that the social network platform is profiting from their position and status within the community, mass social action against the products or services illustrated therein may be encouraged. The threat of potential consumer boycotts instigated by influencial community members should be acknowledged, and appropriate strategies should be proactively devised for addressing any consumer backlashes that may arise.
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