2010 was the year where we revisited not only the definition of influence, but also deeply explored its meaning in today's social economy. What represented an ongoing series of virtual global summits on the topic, influence was scrutinized as a way of better understanding its role in new media.
It goes beyond academic study however. Influence permeated the realm of the the masses and suddenly, we the people, were gifted with the opportunity to voice what moved us. In doing so, we also earned the opportunity to build networks around who we are. The quest for the meaning of influence emerged as something much more personal. Influence impacted digital societies and many were earning it without fully understanding why or how.
With the pervasiveness of social media, we were learning, and sometimes confusing, the differences between influence and new found, micro fame, celebrity and popularity. Suddenly the dichotomies of influence and popularity where blurring. And, the controversial Fast Company Influence Project only diluted distinction.
Unlike so many terms in Social Media, influence is not a new word invented or reinvented to suit the times. Its origin is Latin, "influere" which translates into something very interesting for the social era, "to flow into." Almost everything we discover and share in social networks these days is done through our streams and to loosely translate the root of influence symbolizes the ability to flow into the streams of others.
The text book definition of influence is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.
Effect is key in understanding influence and its role in societies online and in the real world. In social media, it's the ability to cause measurable actions and outcomes. While popularity may help, this really becomes a study of the quality, caliber, and conditioning of an individual's social graph where context plays an increasingly important role over time.
In 2010 and heading into 2011, influence will only continue to captivate attention and interest. With services such as Klout, PeerIndex, et al, we are now measured by how we interact online and whether we like it or not, our influence factor (IF) is also weighted. To introduce a sense of urgency into the subject, many businesses are placing great importance on these scores, which in the real world is not new either, but here, we still have much to learn about social currency and individual capital.
Looking back to 2010, I've assembled a few of my favorite discussions on influence. We learned many lessons and sparked significant insights that will help us continue the discussions in years to come. And, we'll learn every step of the way.
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A Series on Influence
- Exploring and Defining Influence: A Study with Vocus
- Please Repeat: Influence is not Popularity...and Popularity is not Influence
- Influence is Bliss: The Gender Divide of Influence on Twitter