The aim of the Influence Project is to find the most influential person online. Of course, as we assumed, it’s extremely difficult to track influence, or even define what influence means on the Web. Is influence the same as popularity? Can it exist in a space as infinite as the Internet?
In a report released today by HP Labs, social media researchers ask the same questions when trying to figure what makes for an influential Twitter post. The answer? Get folks fired up. “To become influential, users must not only catch the attention of their followers; they must also overcome their followers’ predisposition to remain passive,” says HP.
After analyzing some 22 million tweets and retweets, the report concludes that “influence” is indeed separate from “popularity.” “While a user on Twitter may have a large number of followers, his or her influence is more strongly associated with their engagement with the network, rather than the raw number of followers or retweets,” the study finds.
Some of the major influences online range from the well known (Google, Ashton Kutcher) to the less-popular-but-more-influential (filmmaker Joko Anwar). Check out the chart below to see more. (Note: IP refers to Influence/Passivity, not the Influence Project.)
In many ways, the report mirrored the arguments put forth recently by former Amazon chief scientist Andreas Weigend. Weigend believed that the numbers of followers we have are meaningless in terms of influence–it only matters if you can change their behavior and push users from being passive to being active.
Martha Stewart, for example, is know for her widespread influence on TV and in magazines. In the Twitter-sphere, she is closing in on two million followers (and is offering a prize to the two millionth) — and yet she exerts relatively little influence, according to HP, and has what Weigend calls an “illusion of an audience.”
That’s why she should Twitter more than 5 minutes a day.