Listmania and Social Influence

Last week the HR Twitter world was ablaze with the release of John Sumser's latest "Top 25 Online Influencers in Recruiting" list. It's the fifth edition of John's popular ranking, but the first time he's used our SocialEars to compile it. As you'd guess, we were thrilled to see our media analytics and monitoring technology put through its paces in a very public way. It was fascinating to see the results and the vocal reaction that followed.

As you'd expect with this kind of list, the top 25 influencers (including our own Kevin Grossman) happily announced their rankings and congratulated each other. Hey, I would! Some people debated the accuracy of the choices. And people argued about the choices. Tim Sackett wrote a very entertaining blog post that's worth a read.

In the end, the response to John's Top 25 was pretty much the same as every top 10 list we're deluged with at the end of the year. Lists are insanely subjective. But they stimulate conversation and debate, and that's what makes them fun.

To this PR guy, what's more interesting than the actual list is John's commentary about the power and nature of social influence. He's quick to point out that the players are changing faster than ever. Five years ago it was easy to spot HR industry influencers: journalists and analysts who worked in traditional outlets. Today it's a free-for-all. The lines have blurred between analysts, journalists, and “social voices" – people who aren't officially journalists or analysts but nevertheless have strong thought leadership. The trick is not to find the person with the biggest following, but the people whose followers care about your products and services.

John chose SocialEars because he recognized its power to navigate the overwhelming explosion of social media data. Since it collects and analyzes articles, tweets, blog posts and social content, he could search for a specific topic and get instant lists of the people who cover that topic online -- writers, tweeters, bloggers -- and read their published articles, posts, and tweets. We use SocialEars primarily for media relations, but it's also handy for market research, competitive intelligence, locating speakers and researching material for white papers and webcasts.

While the results display scores from Klout and Peerindex, along with relevance and importance rankings, SocialEars has never been about measuring influence. In other words, we gave John the best tool for the job and it was up to him to interpret the results.

What's ironic is that the top 25 list -- love it or hate it -- is already obsolete.

"Influence is volatile and social media is unforgivingly focused on what you’ve done lately," John explained in his introduction to the list. "There’s no future in social media and precious little past. You are exactly what you’ve done recently."

Preach that influence gospel, brother John.

Posted by Elrond Lawrence, VP of media relations; watch for our upcoming white paper on social PR and media relations.

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