Monthly Archives: March 2012

In the Capital, influence on social media in DC is more than Twitter followers

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since I implored the DC tech community and media scene at large to stop holding influence contests. Deja vu, all over again.

It was brilliant of In The Capital to hire a smart journalist to cover notable events in the political and tech scene. That coverage put them on the District’s radar during Social Media Week.

It was not brilliant of them to put together this week’s smudged sterling example of linkbait, which stands to damage their credibility with new readers who are not friends of those selected.

Look: I’ve met 80% of the people on this list of the “DC’s Top 10 Social Media Influencers” and follow many of them. I have much respect for their smarts, digital savvy and professionalism.

But if this is the” top 10,” what, exactly, does being an DC “influencer in social media” mean here? Online influence is not just about having a lot of Twitter followers.

For instance, I’m ahead of @LukeRussert by more than 33,000+ and have a higher Klout score, due in part to a large following on Google+ and Facebook. Does that mean that I’m more influential? Maybe on social media and certainly with respect to technology, but certainly not on broadcast news, which still retains enormous influence in our country. It also wasn’t hard to think of another person in DC who’s more influential with respect to social media than either one of us:

What about more “influential in the startup and DC tech scene, which “In the Capital” says it covers? Are all ten of these people more influential than Peter Corbett, Frank Gruber or Jen Consalvo, the co-founders or DC Week and organizers of the huge DC Tech Meetup? I’d don’t think so. And neither does Russert:

In a larger sense, does anyone believe that Russert is more of an “influencer” on social media in Washington than President Obama, between @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama? (I certainly don’t kid myself about my “clout” relative to POTUS.) What about @SpeakerBoehner or House Majority Leader @EricCantor or @SenJohnMcCain? Is the rest of the list is more “influential” than @MarkKnoller or @MarcAmbinder or @MikeAllen? A recent study of Twitter use in Congress, in fact, found that SenatorSanders was the most “influential” member of Congress on social media. (Or at least on Twitter.) one could go deeper on the list of people in media and government but the point is clear enough.

Mark Drapeau, director of innovative engagement in Microsoft’s office of civic engagement — and a member of the list — offered a dissenting perspective:

all these lists are kinda different or the same based on peoples’ biases and what they hope to accomplish and the audience they hope to reach. The Washington Post turns it into a ridiculous game. In the Capital picked… people they think are cool. Politico made the same exact list [of top DC Twitterers] and it’s all – gasp – politicos! The LA Times made the same list [DC twitterers], and they simply ranked people by followers – lazy! I made the same list based on how people interact with their communities – lots of people I know from… my community! All the lists are right, all the lists are wrong, there is nothing to debate, complain about, or mock.

In DC social media, there’s lots of actual social data to crunch to enable some measure influence and connected, not just from PeerIndex or Klout but from Google back links or Twitter/Facebook engagement numbers. Or they could have run their own data on how much engagement or amplification people get on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, etc. That’s just not what happened today.

This feels straightforward, at least from where I sit tonight: If editors make lists, they need to be able to back them up with criteria and methodology. That’s why people read Consumer Reports, for instance, when they buy things. Lists and ratings from credible publications influence the buying and hiring decisions of consumers. That’s why there’s a market for them and why people and brands get excited about being selected.

If “In The Capital” really wanted to measure “influence” and do a Top 10 List, “In the Capital” could have cited Klout or PeerIndex, flawed as those services may yet be. Gadi-Ben Yehuda, social media strategist for IBM’s Center on the Business of Government, made this comment:

The easiest way to have voided any controversy would have been not to use the title “DC’s Top Ten Influencers in Social Media,” which is confusing in any case. Honestly, when I saw who was on the list (the majority was women), I thought “OK, this must be people who do primarily social media activities, i.e. they don’t publish substantive articles on important government events (like Alex), they don’t run tech/innovation companies (like Peter Corbett), they don’t work in the innovation office of cabinet-level agencies (like @AlecJRoss). These are people who’s skill is in the medium that others of us use as a tool to accomplish other things.”

That seemed to answer the question of what the article was about, but only if one focused on the words “in social media.” But what about this words “top” and “influencer” what do those words even mean? Klout defines influence as the ability to spur others to take action. If that’s what an influencer is, then I don’t think there can be a top ten list without Obama, or at least Macon Phillips. Again, Peter Corbett (he got more than 10K people here for DCWeek, after all). Alan Rosenblatt should also likely be on that list.

Based upon Byrne’s comments and some background gathered at last night’s DC Social Media Happy Hour, the list was originally pitched to be about 10 awesome women who consult and teach others in the DC community about how to use social media. Shireen Michell, for instance, is influential with segments of the District’s community who are not in the government or media space.

Then In The Capital appears to have dropped two of them, added Russert and Drapeau, and changed the title and premise, which was not and is not supportable based upon qualititative or quantitative grounds. When asked about the substance behind the list, the author of the post offered this response:

Lisa Byrne, a social strategist at the Pappas Group who was put on the list, offered some insight into what seems to have happened:

“I actually gave a lot of input (originally it was all female so I never spoke of any guys who should be noted),” she commented. “I was not advised it would be titled Influencers. I listed people who were community leaders in the social space – online and specifically offline.”

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