The Empire Avenue development team regularly discusses that the site measures your influence. However. what is influence, how can it be measured and does Empire succeed at that measurement? Of course, the developers with their market makers and influence scores are not the only arbitors of influence. Other members can pass this judgement when they buy and sell shares.
Next, the difference between popularity and influence.
the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others
Key to the concept of influence is the ability to affect actions. This differs from popularity or likability which is about admiration and favour (although popularity may also provide someone with influence). When we think about the amount of influence someone has we have to look at the breadth and depth of that influence. Breadth refers to how many people can be influenced. Meanwhile, depth refers to how much influence can be exerted one person. It’s like the old joke, “A friend will help you move. A REAL friend will help you move — a body.”
Influence is measured by Empire Avenue through their market makers and influence scores. The specifics of these calculations are not known. However, we do know many of the variables available to measure. In terms of others’ engagement with you, these include the following:
- The number of people that follow, subscribe, list, friend and otherwise connect to you on Empire Avenue, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and now Youtube and Facebook fan pages.
- The number of comments, shoutouts, tweets and retweets you receive.
- The number of favourites and thumbs up your content receives.
- the number of page views your blogs and Empire Avenue profile receive and likely the views of your Flickr photos and Youtube videos.
- The likes and clicks your Empire Avenue ads receive.
- The number and quantity of you trade transactions (likely just buys in you).
So, how good a job does Empire Avenue do at measuring influence? First, it is important to remember that Empire Avenue is only measuring social media influence and only for specific social media services. Certainly, the site has decent information for measuring someone’s breadth of influence in those services, but influence depth is trickier. If I am quick to post a new video someone else took of Justin Bieber, my post might get lots of responses from teenage girls, but I wouldn’t presume that I had much influence with them. In this case, I would describe my post as popular, but not influential. The reactions would say more about the singer’s influence than mine. However, it would appear that Empire Avenue does not make such a distinction and that it does not have a mechanism to do so.
This is not to say that sharing popular content does not have value, but it is different than providing original content designed to impact behaviour. And yet, a funny one line joke copied from elsewhere could generate more reponse than an article that took hours to write. The number of reactions can measure influence, but it can also be inconsistent. This is possibly the reason that Empire Avenue has not shared blog influence scores.
The purchasing of shares is perhaps meant to be a human counter-balance to the counting of reactions by Empire Avenue. However, the market makers can have a huge influence on trading because trading tends to be at least as much about momentum as it is good content and influence. A positive or negative market opening can dramatically change the number of daily net buys in a stock. A slow day of trading also lowers that type of engagement which can have a knock-on effect to the next market maker calculation.
The influence measurement challenge gets even more problematic when you factor in the copying of content. A site like Tumblr actually makes it easy to reblog someone else’s content and with their version of a newstream wall, users may never have to click through to the original posting. Journalists will also tell you this is a problem with Twitter where a retweeter sometimes gets credit and an original poster does not. (I have had people copy my content wholesale without attribution.)
If Empire Avenue is just a game all of this is fine. The rules are what they are and everybody is free to respond accordingly on a level playing field. This means that you find that great joke and post it. However, if Empire Avenue wants to sell itself as an influence measurement tool, it’s important for people to understand the limitations of the scores. A study just released by Northwestern University found serious limitations of this type when using Twitter follower numbers as an indicator of influence. Empire Avenue’s tools look at many more variables, but nontheless can tell you little about how many people would help you move a body.