Most likely you are, according to author and researcher Daniel Pink, one of the 90% of Americans not directly involved in sales who spend much of their time selling. How so? He argues that the other “eight in nine work in sales too—we’re persuading and influencing others to give up resources in exchange for something we have.” It is especially true in the enterprise, where convincing, coaxing and dare I say, cajoling, others is essential for professional success. Whether you are trying to ‘sell’ a new project, a better way to work or a technology solution internally, it’s standard practice to identify the influencers in the organization and to get them on board first to motivate others.
We all have an intuitive sense of what “influence” is—the capacity to affect the behavior of other people, a characteristic that is obviously very powerful to possess. And those who have it are therefore very valuable to those who themselves want to influence, since, if the influencer is influenced, many others will be influenced as well. So, influencers are often targeted by marketers to take advantage of this amplification effect—it gives them the most bang for the marketing buck. And marketers who covet influencers are not necessarily just those who have a product or service to sell to a consumer but can also include “marketing” objectives within an organization, such as promoting, for example, the adoption of a new process or technology.
Traditionally, influence could be somewhat slippery to actually measure, but with the advent of social media we can now quite effectively quantify influence from the rich social data that has become available. Such quantifications can be made with varying degrees of sophistication. “Reach” is one of the simpler such metrics—for example, the number of followers one has. A more sophisticated approach is to not only take into account the number of followers one has, but also the influence of those followers. Other behaviors besides following can be considered in quantifying influence as well, such as the degree to which actions by others are taken with respect to content published by a person and actions, such as comments, likes, re-sharing, etc.
For social networks deployed in the enterprise, influence can be calculated in such a manner and displayed in real-time. This can provide feedback as to the go-to people to get on board with respect to an initiative, for instance. When disseminated widely throughout a network of social network users, influence metrics naturally encourage people to increase their influence, which in turn drives the type of collaborative behaviors that benefit the entire social community. We all recognize how important these ESN champions, for example in the case of Yammer, Yambassadors, can be.
So understanding and measuring influence is important in the consumer world but is becoming equally important in the contemporary enterprise as well. But there is another personal quality that is also particularly important in the enterprise–expertise. Of course, expertise is distinguished from influence in that it is the quality of having a skill or competence in an area. The two qualities can overlap but not necessarily. One can be an expert in an area, but not be very influential, and vice versa.
Similar to influence, however, expertise (particularly relative expertise) can be inferred from social behaviors–in fact, derived from some of the very same kinds of behaviors as influence is assessed but viewed from a different perspective. For example, while someone with many followers tells us something about their influence, it does not tell us much about their expertise on any given topic. On the other hand, someone with followers who have above average expertise on a topic may very well tell us something about the expertise of the person being followed. As another example, publishing content that is rated highly by others, particularly by others who are already determined to have higher-than-average expertise, can also be informative of expertise
Of course, expertise can also be assessed directly by scraping information from people’s profiles, and that may at times be a reasonable starting point in assessing expertise, but ultimately, actions speak louder than words. Expertise inferences derived from actual behaviors enable finer-grained, more credible, and up-to-date assessments of levels of relative expertise than by merely using profile information. Such a behavioral-based approach enables those with relevant expertise to be identified in real-time and at a relevancy granularity that enables expertise matching with topics associated with a specific document
So, influence and expertise are the two new enterprise metric twins—they both provide important and complementary insights. These indicators can be effectively quantified from social interactions and serve to drive collaborative behaviors that benefit the entire organization.