Wednesday, March 11

Revealing Weakness: Brian Solis On Authority

Brian Solis, principal of FutureWorks, writing for TechCrunch, asked yesterday if blogs were "losing their authority to the statusphere."

Specifically, he wondered about the relevance of the Technorati Authority Index, which used to be the leading measure for bloggers to benchmark their rank. The theory was that the more blogs that link to your blog, the more authority you had in a subject area to be considered an "expert." However, as Solis alludes to in his post, engagement no longer occurs blog-to-blog or on the Internet.

Conversations are fluid.

While Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, told Solis the team is actively entrenched in the creation of a modified platform that embraces widespread, distributed linkbacks to blog posts in order to factor them into the overall authority for affected blogs, everyone seems to miss the point. While linkbacks, comment counts, retweets, votes, and all that other stuff is useful, it will never provide an valid indication of influence, authority, or status.

Real measurement doesn't happen according to online measurements. It happens as a function of the customer or reader experience. It's no longer about social media. It's about tangible real life engagement.

Conversations move everywhere. Blog-to-blog, blog-to-social network, social network-to-blog, blog-to-phone, social network-to-presentation, blog-to-physical location or office or classroom, blog-to-text message, and text message-to-whatever. They do not end with the blog nor do they end with the Internet. They continue wherever people may care to take them.

The measurement of these conversations isn't so much about who is talking about something as much as it's about someone taking action like shaving their head or walking the streets of Edinburgh in a bra. Anything else is just an adoption of the erred thinking that led some public relations firms to count column inches as a measure of success. Real measurement doesn't end with the number of "media hits" or column inches, it begins with them.

Or, to put it another way, the measure isn't that the story ran, but rather what people do once the story runs. "Media hits" or column inches are only a function of reach. And while reach can be beneficial, the wrong message still falls on deaf ears, no matter how many ears happen to hear it.

Online measures are interesting, misleading too.

We've been researching this area in public relations for years, but recently saw the same thing after an interesting occurrence on Twitter, after two different people pointed to two different posts.

Based on various online measurement models, one Twitter participant (Tweeter A) — with approximately 14,000 followers, high level of engagement, and significant number of retweets (someone else repeating what they "tweet" with citation) — is generally thought to have more influence than one (Tweeter B) with 300 followers, a lower level of engagement, and fewer retweets. However, when they pointed to posts on this blog, the opposite was proven true.

Twitter A drove 24 people to a post. Twitter B drove 103 people to a post.

So who really has more influence? Twitter A only succeeded in influencing a fraction of 1 percent of their followers while Twitter B influenced a whopping 34 percent of their followers. Ah ha. See that? Perception doesn't always equal reality.

The same can be said about comment counts too. I'm fairly certain that veteran communication and marketing bloggers like Geoff Livingston, Valeria Maltoni, and Lewis Green all shake their heads when they publish an important post and nobody comments. (Meanwhile, other bloggers publish meaningless posts and net 40 or more.)

However, what online measurements may never capture is how those seemingly quiet posts move people to apply new strategies and tactics that they've never considered before. Or maybe the content was simply profound or precise enough that there wasn't anything more to say, and the communities they've nurtured tend to avoid gratuitous exchanges such as "your best post yet."

Ho hum. It just goes to show you that The Skipper might not have been as popular as Ginger Grant, but there was no mistaking his authority.

So if Technorati really wanted to create a measure that would make the service relevant again, they might consider that, despite the fact that I doubt anyone can create an algorithm capable of peering inside the human soul. And even if they could, I suspect we wouldn't want them to.


Valeria Maltoni on 3/11/09, 7:29 PM said...

Do mentors get a score card from the people they help guide? The funny thing is that I wrote my post for tomorrow two nights ago - and it goes with this :) You'll see.

Geoff_Livingston on 3/11/09, 7:40 PM said...

Brilliant look at what really makes authority!

Anonymous said...

Quality is what matters, right?

I like that you prove once again numbers don't always equate.

How to leverage Technorati? How to leverage social media? How to leverage the crowd?

----- Break the inner circle, demonstrate intellectual-creative value, influence the influential – wait for the flood gates to open. LOL – I might have to try this for myself :)

quality and quality positioning. Without it the numbers look suspicious.

Rich on 3/13/09, 4:40 PM said...


I look forward to reading it this weekend. We are so very often on the same page.




It's never about numbers in communication, not exclusively anyway. Somedays, I wish it was because that would be so very easy.

It's much harder to reach the right people that you can deliver the right message too, creating win-win outcomes. We're becoming more selective every day in who we choose to work with for that reason.

When people are more interested in being right than doing the right thing, they are doomed to failure over the long term.


Anonymous said...

You know what I find interesting about that - PR has had the reputation for being spin but the public relations professionals I know are the most ethically centered business professionals I know.

Rich on 3/14/09, 11:03 AM said...


In many cases, column inch counting in public relations or other communication fields, for example, is ignorance over a question of ethics.

I agree with you though. Many of the people I work with are ethically centered business professionals. If they were not, then I wouldn't work with them. :)



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