Influence Battle Royale: Lady Gaga vs. Bono

The Influence Project

Bono. U2 frontman. Irish rocker. New York Times columnist. Co-founder of advocacy group ONE and (Product)RED.

Lady Gaga. Provocateur. Twitter queen. Pop sensation. Fashion icon. Self-proclaimed "free bitch, baby."

Both are larger-than-life artists, but who is more influential? More popular? Is there even a difference? These are the questions that social media monitoring firm Vocus and social media analyst Brian Solis aims to answer in a new white paper, which tries to define the qualities of an influencer.

Before getting to the main event, let's run through the results from Vocus, which surveyed more than 739 people on their perceptions of online influence. The key finding here is that there is a clear difference between "influence" and "popularity." About 90% of respondents noted this distinction; however, 84% also said there is a correlation between "reach" and influence," which adds a bit of ambiguity.

Is there a difference between "reach" and "popularity"? The following chart indicates size doesn't necessarily matter:

According to the survey, the top contributing factors that make a person or brand influential were all based on quality rather than quantity. Around 60% of respondents cited the "quality or focus of the network" (e.g. 4chan) and 55% cited the "quality of content" (e.g. Andrew Sullivan) for what defines an influential.

But the most important metric for measuring one's influence online is also the most disagreed upon. With social media, there are so many methods of quantifying "influence" that respondents were fragmented. Close to 29% of respondents said "action" is the most important measure of the effectiveness of social media influence; however, more than one-third also said "action" was the least important metric. The number of "views" was ranked highest by 11%, tied with "click-throughs." "Retweets" and Facebook "Likes" came in last place.

Unfortunately, when it came to Lady Gaga versus Bono, Vocus didn't offer an end-all decision. The report said that while it is "reasonable to consider Bono influential because he and his band's music often carries a political message," that Lady Gaga has also fought for humanitarian causes. Most recently, she's launched an all-out social media war on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, utilizing her popularity on YouTube and Twitter. Bono, of course, has advocated for his share of charitable causes, and has pushed hard for the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

But ultimately, will any of these causes be won through social media? Both artists might claim a large following through various online channels. It's unclear, however, whether that's enough to move the needle.

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  • SirMinky

    I agree with the importance of a social network being cohesive/close-knit, but I don't think you can compare Bono and Gaga b/c Bono is over 25 years older with a much longer career. She hasn't had time to grow up and expand into all these charitable relationships like he has. Besides, regardless of influence or popularity, they are both kind of annoying in different ways.

  • Mike English

    Another example of too much data getting sliced and diced and still giving inconclusive results.

  • jane

    'lacks in personality' because you're too ignorant and obnoxious to actually try to learn more about her, listen to her old interviews, instead of judging by what the big publications want you to think of her?
    My, how insightful.

    Lady Gaga has also supported, since 2007, the following charities, all by her doing:
    -Donates $20000 every show, through tour sponsor Virgin mobile, to her favorite charity, homeless lgbt youth organization
    - National March for Equality in DC; matched, performed, spoke and directly adressed president Obama
    - hosted/supports The Hands Up for Marriage Equality event in Atlantic city
    - partnership with Product Red, supporting aids in Africa funding
    - Auctions outfits, props for charity; necklace from Poker Face video auctioned for Lupus Foundation of America
    - over 1/2 million raised for Haiti in one day; all ticket sales, mechandise, cd sales donated to relief fund
    - Mac Aids fund's VIVA glam campaign
    - volunteering/promotion of volunteering to homeless youth organizations in exchange for concert tickets; charity auction of meet and greet tickets
    - support/member of following charity organizations:
    Re*Generation homeless youth, BGC charity day, Alzheimer's Association, Artists for Peace & Justice, CLIC Sargent, Stand Up to Cancer, HIV Suppor Center for Orange RockCorps in Manchester
    - charity concerts such as the Sting-hosted Rainforest event, MOCA gala, z100 jingle ball, Mac VIVA glam Tokyo concert, and Circa
    - all current causes supported:
    Aids, Cancer, Children in Need, Disaster Relief, Family/Parent support, Grief support, Health, Proverty

    maybe you should thrive less on ignorance and actually do the research before talking out of your ass? just some advice.

  • acarr

    And this is exactly why Vocus likely didn't name a winner. Bono may get more attention for his actions, but he's been around longer (and hangs out with Kofi Annan, etc.). As you point out, Lady Gaga has clearly fought for causes too.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Frank Strong

    @jane Would second Austin's comment. Certainly can appreciate and understand your perspective. This was simply an observation as denoted in the data -- an expression of perception. The idea was actually derived from a respondent. Moreover it's an expression, not of one's own actions, but the ability to influence *others* to cause measurable outcomes, albeit in this case, meaningful outcomes.

    Admittedly, the world is much bigger than America (79% of respondents were from NA), but he's had sizable visibility after catastrophic events in the US. 9/11 (Walk On) and Katrina (The Saints are Coming) come to mind. Pretty powerful actions, following powerful events, which will weigh on the psyche of an entire generation. What measurable outcome did those messages cause? Well, that might be the topic for a seperate study...

    There is certainly no discredit to anyone, let alone Lady Gaga, that puts their time, money or reach behind a cause. I bet the NYT would also consider a thoughtful OpEd by her pen. Thanks for point out all the good things she’s doing!

  • acarr

    Thanks for the explanation Frank.

    FYI for all, Frank is from Vocus and helped put the study together. Feel free to direct any other questions his way!

  • Scott Byorum

    I've seen Lady GaGa speak. The flare of her costumes are inversely proportional to what she lacks in personality.

    "Most recently, she's launched an all-out social media war on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, utilizing her popularity on YouTube and Twitter. Bono, of course, has advocated for his share of charitable causes, and has pushed hard for the UN's Millennium Development Goals."

    Bono has supported the following charities:

    •Amnesty International
    •Charity Projects Entertainment Fund
    •Chernobyl Children's Project International
    •Food Bank For New York City
    •Global Fund
    •Keep A Child Alive
    •Live 8
    •Make Poverty History
    •Millennium Promise Alliance
    •Millennium Villages
    •Mulago Positive Women’s Network
    •Not On Our Watch
    •ONE Campaign
    •Simon Community
    •The Lunchbox Fund
    •UN Millennium Project
    •War Child
    •Wildlife Conservation Society
    •Zero Hunger

    Yeah, Lady GaGa's influence is TOTALLY comparable. "Bono's share," indeed.

  • Kelly Chapinski

    And that's not even an exhaustive list, there's also many Dublin and Ireland only charities as well, like the Irish Hospice Foundation and the Dublin Rape Crisis Center. I found it funny that Jane noted Lady Gaga's support of Product (Red), lol.