Measuring and monitoring social influence in higher ed should be of increasing importance to every college and university and personally for every professional. The monitoring of social influence in higher ed isn’t a responsibility that only falls to the marketing and PR department. In fact CIO’s and IT departments should have specific strategies in place (people, process, technology) to monitor social media for those things that matter to them. As such, this is another area for CIO’s to take a leadership role on campus by addressing the need at an institutional level and by demonstrating the benefits within IT.
What is Social Influence
Generically social influence occurs when an individual’s thoughts, feelings or actions are affected by other people. But in this case, social influence is focused on when that influence occurs through social media sites like Facebook, Titter and Linkedin. In this context influence is a function of the social networks we are members of, the conversations shared through our networks and between networks, and the role people play in starting, adding to and propagating the conversation.
To illustrate. This post will go on my blog. Through various tools it is posted to my social networking site accounts. If no one reads the blog post directly or follows the link on my social network sites, then this post and I have had no social influence. However, if the post is read, and people who read it by following me on Twitter or a hashtag I use that is one degree of influence. If a Twitter follower Retweets my post that is another degree of influence. And so on with Google +1 and the others.
Social Network Analysis
The idea of measuring social influence is not new, nor are the techniques. Before Web 2.0 and the explosion of social media, we used to call it social network analysis (SNA). To do this you would run an SNA software tool against your enterprise email systems to map out the conversation flows in an organization to produce a “network map” of the organizations informal communications so it could be compared to the formal chain of command.
This was mostly done to diagnose breakdowns in formal communications. You can still do this today using a variety of tools and I recommend it for any organization with chronic poor ratings on communications in employee satisfaction surveys. This is one way you can identify a manager that is not communicating with their team. But it was also done to identify who the real influencers were in an organization. As it applies to this post, you find hidden networks and the defacto go-to-people (influencers) on various things they are not responsible for.
Measuring Social Influence
The same idea behind SNA tools is now being applied to social media. Social monitoring tools you set up yourself that are as simple as Google Alerts or a social monitor from a vendor. These social monitors watch the social media conversation stream and analyze it for the human relationships, context and intent, sentiment, and of course influence.
Measuring social influence at its core comes down to measuring the size of your network which is both a measure of the number of networks and the number of connections in each one which amounts to a possible sphere of influence. For social media sites like Twitter it is also a function of the ratio of Followers to Following. Just as with other things in life,size doesn’t always matter.
Measuring social influence relies more heavily on accounting for engagement in the conversation including initiation, commenting, and sharing. In this aspect the goal is to determine the degree to which your participation in your social networks,large or small, influences people, and to the degree it can cause them to act.
Monitoring Social Influence
Who is driving the social influence affecting your organization? Is it a community group, disgruntled employee, or student organization? Do you know who is having the greatest social influence on your profession or departmental function? Is it a vendor or a practitioner at another organization? For CIO’s what about vendors, products or new strategies you should be tracking?
To help with these questions let me use some examples using some simple free tools anyone can use that are free or have a free trial. For these examples I decided to use the top higher education ERP vendors since you might find it interesting to see their influence. I used SunGard Higher Education, Datatel, Jenzabar, Campus Management, and Three Rivers Systems (NOTE: Oracle was omitted because they do not maintain a separate social identify for the higher ed business that I am aware of). You can do this same type of exercise comparing your school to your competitors, or you to your peers, and so on.
This first example is created using Wild Fire to show the comparison of the top ERP vendors presence on Twitter. The graphs shows cumulative Followers overtime which represents one aspect of the sphere of influence.
You can also do comparisons for Facebook using this same tool and other functions more suited for marketing types.
Another way to look at the higher ed ERP vendors sphere of influence is to look at their networks graphically. For this I used SocialMention which provides a real time view for social monitoring and search. This image is a snap shot in time for Datatel on Twitter showing tweet streams with users and hashtags used in the conversations. You also see a SunGard Higher Education and the conversations that connect them through #highered and users all of which can be drilled into for deeper analysis. This tool and the subscription based services like it are fantastic tools for monitoring your vendors and judging for yourself if they are contributing broadly to higher ed or your profession or just hocking product.
This next image is from another real time tool Social Media Monitoring which is a plugin to Chrome. This tool shows Current Tweets per Minute for each vendor along with the Long Term Tweets per Minute. This is a good gauge of activity that combines with other tools. Notice I added Blackboard just to give you a comparison of degrees of engagement or influence.
Finally, here is a table I assembled using Klout data for each vendor. Klout is what the name implies, a measure of the social influence, or Klout. The Klout score is the aggregate of the vendor’s degree of influence, their ability to amplify a conversation and cause action, and a determination of their true reach which is essentially a subset of their total followers who they can influence.
Social Influence in Higher Ed
By now you should a good sense of what is possible. The number of tools is significant with many of them being free or modestly priced SaaS subscription services. You might also want to look at Follower Wonk as a good tool for tracking social influence for a given hashtag, topic or person.
What I hope CIO’s and other readers take away from this is that it is important for organizations to set up tools to measure and monitor their social influence in their industry or community. After all, how else would you know if your social media efforts are paying off or not.
I also hope you realize the importance of also monitoring your own social influence, your Klout. It was for this reason I chose the tools to feature here so you could use them personally to measure your influence. In many regards this is also a way of measuring your online reputation score and degree of professional engagement. So if you have plans for advancement of career changes this is a good way to monitor the effect of your strategy.