Influence

Key questions:

  • What is the difference between public and personal influence?
  • How do we track and measure influence online?
  • How do influencers choose their channel of communication (such as Twitter over Face-to-face)?

The gist so far:

Devin Gaffney and I wrote about the Multiple Facets of Influence – we looked at political tweeters in Canada.  The overarching argument? We use a bunch of metrics to measure influence but they all actually measure something slightly different. We tend to measure only certain facets of influence (e.g. popularity) at a time rather than considering multiple facets at the same time.

My doctoral work looked specifically at how “opinion leaders” choose their channels of communication when influencing their associates. I found that the perceived audience and their assumed interest (or more often lack of interest) in politics means opinion leaders tend to avoid the people and channels through which they are best socially placed to actually change opinions, attitudes and behaviours.

Methods:

This work has mostly started with Twitter – often #CDNpoli. I collect samples of tweets and then use social network analysis and content analysis to understand who is saying what and when. Next I follow up with online surveys and interviews to get a deeper sense of the people behind the tweets and the other ways they communicate and exert influence.

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