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    Katie Delahaye Paine (twitter: KDPaine) is the CEO and founder of KDPaine & Partners LLC and author of, Measuring Public Relationships, the data-driven communicators guide to measuring success. She also writes the first blog and the first newsletters dedicated entirely to measurement and accountability. In the last two decades, she and her firm have listened to millions of conversations, analyzed thousands of articles, and asked hundreds of question in order to help her clients better understand their relationships with their constituencies. People talk, we listen..

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« Who's getting what news where? | Main | Interesting look at how CMOs perceive the value of different social platforms »

February 16, 2012


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Jason, leave it to you to stir up trouble :) It is a state of human condition that has been studied and measured for a long time, at least in academia. it is possible to put it into a spreadsheet, just not into a single number :)

Dskaletsky's my take.

Influence is not a number...agreed.

But I also wouldn't say necessarily that influence is a science either. Biology is a science, but evolution isn't. In the same way one would use biology as a basis to study the phenomenon of evolution, different sciences can be used to study influence (statistics, sociology, psychology, etc).

I don't agree with the perspective that it's a 'human condition', but I do agree that the human condition has great impact on the expression of influence (from both the one doing the influence as well as the one being influenced). So...chaos theory could also apply to the study of influence.

With that said, IMO, the reasons why marketers go crazy (along with the reasons mentioned) is that they are looking at the study of influence & influencers from the wrong perspective. They are asking the wrong question. Marketers ask "Who is influential?" when they should be asking, "Who has the highest POTENTIAL of being influential tomorrow?" It's subtle, but important.

So, while I don't think science can determine, in any definitive way, influence (and that is why I don't believe that influence can be distilled into a number), I do believe that science can do a good job at determining POTENTIAL influence.

(and by science...I mean good science :)

I wrote more about this on our blog:


influence in itself is irrelevant.

It is the outcomes of influence that matters, and it is the outcome of influence which can be measured.

This question cannot be answered:
If I influence 500 people to buy a book, how much did I influence?

This question can:
If I influenced 500 people to buy a book, how many books did I sell?


It is a social science that has in fact been studied in Academia for years. You may not be able to boil it down to one number, but you can certainly show change over time. It just takes longitudinal studies rigorously conducted over time. But that sort of thing drives all those marketers requiring instant gratification mad.

Jason Falls

I'll offer a bit of pushback, here Katie. It's not a number, but it's not a science, either. It's a state of human condition. And because it's "human" it's variable, inconsistent and thus impossible to simplify into a number or a spreadsheet. That will always drive marketers mad.

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