STARR in Action – Authority

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Last blog I talked about the role of topic in understanding the most impactful voices talking about   a topic, a market or a company. Without understanding the topics that a person discusses – regularly and recently – you won’t be able to accurately predict their importance in moving any particular discussion forward.

When I explain Authority to our clients or to potential clients I’m giving an mPACT demo to I often get this reaction – “Yes! That’s what we mean by ‘influence.’” While I won’t go that far – no single factor can adequately measure the full potential for a person to impact your business – I think that there’s something to that thought. Authority is, above all else, a measure of what happens after a person writes an article, posts a blog or tweets. We can’t read people’s minds to see if they believe a certain individual is authoritative, but what we can do – and it’s a pretty damned good proxy – is to observe (and measure) how people in aggregate engage with and treat someone’s content after it has been posted. Do they retweet it? Do they comment on it? Do they link to an article in their own Twitter account? Do they write a blog post in response? Does this article by a New York Times reporter get linked and discussed in articles in other papers or magazines? Does it get posted in a discussion forum and then discussed to death? Does a prominent blogger feature it and react to it? All of these things can be measured and added up – we can tell if there was a sound (and how loud it was) when that tree fell in the woods. And, like I said, it’s a pretty accurate measure of who is actually authoritative about a topic.

When we do this in our mPACT product family, we take it a step further, by factoring the impact scoring of the people doing all of this reacting, commenting, linking, retweeting, etc. into the authority score. In other words, when I retweet something from someone (let’s say Chris Brogan) from @mBLAST or using my personal Twitter account, that has less weighting for our Authority scoring of Chris Brogan than the opposite scenario – Chris Brogan retweeting one of my tweets.

All we’re doing here is applying some common sense – what you’d do in your own head when evaluating a voice you’re not all that familiar with. If you were looking at someone who blogged about digital cameras and you found dozens and dozens of thoughtful and appreciative comments on each article, wouldn’t that raise your view of her voice? What if links to her articles were being tweeted a lot or had a multitude of linkbacks? What if David Pogue linked to her blog in his New York Times column and also tweeted a link to it. Through the roof, right?

Unfortunately that’s a bit hard to do “by hand.” But algorithmically, it’s a cinch, as long as you’re tracking across a relatively wide cross-section of the Web. If you’re just tracking Twitter or Facebook – well, not so much because the people engaging with content don’t limit themselves to artificial constraints like that. And why would they? As a quick PS to this discussion, let me finish by saying this: measuring authority this way can fall prey to people engaging in some nefarious link baiting or buying fake followers. Luckily, there’s a beneficial side effect to factoring in the impact scores of the people who engage with content: the fact that those fake followers and link-baited sites tend to have low impact scores and so are algorithmically weighted to not push up a voice’s authority score as much as real, engaged followers.  Again, we’re using an algorithm to model real-life behavior, so you can focus on the people with impact.

Next up:  the old standby, reach……

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