PageRank for Social Media is a Broken Metaphor

When I posted Advertising to the Community: Is PageRank a Good Model for Social Media? a couple of days ago, I was working in a vacuum. I was responding to some degree to the infamous BusinessWeek article, and to the comments Matt Rhodes made on the idea of PageRank being used to rate social media participation.
Turns out I am not alone in criticizing this simplistic approach rating the importance and relevance of conversations and community. Mark Earls comments on the power of super-users [here], and how the focus on these influencers misses the entire point of community and conversation. John Bell of the Digital Influence Mapping Project and Ogilvy points out that the relationships in social media and online communities are inherently more complex than creating a value based on the number of interactions someone has with a community [here].
This conversation is becoming very interesting. There are a lot of very bright people who are considering many different approaches to ranking the importance of a conversation or a community based not only on who is participating, but how engaged people are.
If communities or conversations are run and directed by a select group of people, then they are called dictatorships or lectures. Breaking down, rather than erecting, barriers is why social media is such a powerful force.

4 Replies to “PageRank for Social Media is a Broken Metaphor”

  1. Thanks for the reference. I agree that a simple quantitative basis of measuring who is most 'influential' counter-intuitive in a community context. That's why it would be great to see what Google are actually developing. Whether they have designed proxies for quality of contributions and how these might be weighted versus the quantity of connections. There have been many people offering social network analysis for some time which can tell me who is the most 'connected' so I'm hoping it goes beyond that.On some of the communities we build and manage at FreshNetworks we use a quality system of judging the input individuals have to the community – so somebody with a closely defined group of 'friends' with which they discuss things may turn out to be much more useful than somebody who is hyper-connected. Of course online communities are different to social networks, and our communities are for brands with specific business objectives against which we can measure the activities on the site. But maybe there is something here that could be developed.MattFreshNetworks

  2. In some senses, the hyper-connected suffer from community dilution. While what they say reaches large numbers of people, it misses the niche markets that your team at FreshNetworks are trying to build.My main area of expertise is Web performance measurement and strategy. Many of the A-listers (to use an archaic term) don't care about this, so I have my own community that I monitor and interact with in this area. There are leader in this community who are almost invisible to the larger community but who carry substantial cred in the Web performance community.So, should someone who is big in a niche community be ignored? No. Should the hyper-connected be ignored. No.But conversation and community are not about blindly following the piper – and you and your team get that.

  3. Thanks for the reference. I agree that a simple quantitative basis of measuring who is most 'influential' counter-intuitive in a community context. That's why it would be great to see what Google are actually developing. Whether they have designed proxies for quality of contributions and how these might be weighted versus the quantity of connections. There have been many people offering social network analysis for some time which can tell me who is the most 'connected' so I'm hoping it goes beyond that.On some of the communities we build and manage at FreshNetworks we use a quality system of judging the input individuals have to the community – so somebody with a closely defined group of 'friends' with which they discuss things may turn out to be much more useful than somebody who is hyper-connected. Of course online communities are different to social networks, and our communities are for brands with specific business objectives against which we can measure the activities on the site. But maybe there is something here that could be developed.MattFreshNetworks

  4. In some senses, the hyper-connected suffer from community dilution. While what they say reaches large numbers of people, it misses the niche markets that your team at FreshNetworks are trying to build.My main area of expertise is Web performance measurement and strategy. Many of the A-listers (to use an archaic term) don't care about this, so I have my own community that I monitor and interact with in this area. There are leader in this community who are almost invisible to the larger community but who carry substantial cred in the Web performance community.So, should someone who is big in a niche community be ignored? No. Should the hyper-connected be ignored. No.But conversation and community are not about blindly following the piper – and you and your team get that.

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