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.