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Social Capital: Who Has Influence? Part I

Who has the influence in your organization or community?  If an idea is to going to move from concept to action, who has the influence to make it happen? It may not be who you think. Look at the above network, who would you place your message with?

Valdis Krebs says “social capital” is the key for success in the 21st century organization.  Recently, we caught up with Valdis Krebs, founder and chief scientist of orgnet.com. to learn about influence and the power of social networks.  Valdis has been studying social networks since 1987, and is a leading management consultant, researcher, trainer, author and developer of InFlow, social network analysis software for communities, organizations and consultants.

More and more healthcare, medical device and pharma companies are looking to build communities to spread their message.  Valdis works with many industries including healthcare and pharma to identify influence in and outside the organization.  Look for our video interview with Valdis Krebs, more about Influence and Social Capital and the answer to the “quiz” in Part II, post on Thursday, February 25th.

In the meantime, please let us know what you think!  Post a comment on who you would pick in the above network and why.

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10 responses to “Social Capital: Who Has Influence? Part I”

  1. I like the diagram – provides a clear and simple view of connections within social networks.

    But another variable to consider is the *type* of connection. Some of the things that gets overlooked in network analysis are the properties of various connections.

    Not only do we need to know whether a connection is Social, we also need to know if it’s:

    – Real-time
    – Synchronous
    – Asynchronous
    – The content conveyed
    – The context around the content
    – Attention-level (different levels of attention are commanded by different nodes/people)
    – Trust/authority of the node/person

    For Pharma and Health Care, there are all kinds of social networks, all kinds of different nodes, various types of connections. And now the Web is evolving new media with particular properties.

    The challenge then, is not only identifying the number of connections a possible Influencer has, but also the the types of connections she has at her side.

    How to identify the properties of all those questions – Ah, now there’s a question!

    @PhilBaumann on Twitter
    (lots of quality connections – deep and wide 🙂

  2. Phil’s point illustrates the fact that we’ve no way of telling from the schematic whether:

    * Diane is influential within her immediate network, but does not look to disseminate her ideas beyond it;
    * Diane cranks out papers left, right and centre in Cell, Nature and Science and is extremely well-connected (unidirectionally) as new connections reach out to her;
    * Diane is a KOL who connects mostly offline or F2F, whose ideas are disseminated through her highly-connected network
    * Diane’s research in a declining discipline is of residual interest, whilst Jane’s work in an emergent discipline has burgeoning connections and commands considerable respect within online scientific communities.

    There have always been variables that interrogate the assumptions we bring to the assessment of social capital. In a world where communications were less dynamic, once mapped these assumptions could be verified and one’s position adapted accordingly.

    Within the world of contemporary scientific communications, this paradigm is breaking down. Data scales; people don’t.

    Our preconceptions as to who may or may not wield the greatest influence over social capital are untrustworthy, and we need new means of assessing the subject, including a challenge to the primacy of the concept of social capital in and of itself.

  3. The social capital idea is an interesting one. My experience in real world pharma is that in high performing teams information moves from points of access and is transferred/shared quickly in teams where you have both trust and good communication.

    Poorly functioning teams in an organisation are the complete opposite: the person with the initial access doesn’t always share and plays the old ‘information is power’ game, so information flow is a lot less fluid and is also slower.

  4. Pingback: PhilFeed › Fresh From My Twitter today

  5. Thanks for this nice post and I am looking forward to what Valdis Krebs has to say.

    In his comment, Phil Baumann above raises an important issue regarding our need to know whether the connection is social or business. Also his concerns about some moderating variables, such as:

    – The context around the content (is it for business or is it for fun see Facebook)
    – Attention-level (different levels of attention are commanded by different nodes/people)
    – Trust/authority of the node/person (see also Sally’s comment about teams and trust/good communication)

    is key if we try to address social capital and influence. But there is also the moderator (sometimes also mediating variable depending on research design) variable of weak vs strong ties:

    The above post addresses the weak and strong ties issue and how it applies to Twitter.

    But what we also should worry about is things like:

    – culture (US is different than many other places, is it not?)
    – virtual vs real compared to weak or strong ties that cross both, virtual world and the real world (e.g., I met for coffee with this guy once every three months… real connection but weak ties)

    From research we know that authority (some call it power) in an organization is clearly defined by position and so forth (authority to sign purchase order, etc.).
    However, influence is difficult to measure because there is no clear definition. For instance, somebody may have little authority in the organizational structure, while his or her influence can be substantial. There are too many reasons why this could happen to mention them all here.
    But some influence can be attributed to such things as family ties, having shared a dorm room together at college ages ago, playing in the same soccer club and so forth if we try to get a handle on the social capital and influence between three or more people.

    Andrew Spong with his comment points out some of these problems regarding how little information we get out of the graph shown. Of course, in the social media space there are some measures we can use. For example, with Twitter we can look at how often is a person being re-tweeted by his or her followers? What percentage of her followers click on links on average 5%, 10% or 15% or even higher?
    As well, the percentages may again be affected/moderated by the time of day you tweet. So if I tweet early in the morning GMT (@ComMetrics) I get most Europeans and those still up in Dallas to click on my links. Around 9am NYC time it gets tougher because the US people start tweeting… so my tweet can get lost in the flood of other tweets…. Naturally, this is also moderated by where my followers are located (many in the US you guessed 🙂 ).

    If we want to measure influence in social space we probably have to define what we mean and which medium we are talking about (e.g., Facebook vs. Twitter, blogs vs MySpace…. or Xing vs. LinkedIn). Furthermore, we need to address the paradigms involved here or the frameworks of how things work. The term paradigm refers to the values, beliefs, and techniques shared by members of a scientific community.
    Once we have established a paradigm regarding social media and social capital, we can get on with the more detailed research that we would not be able to do if we are still discussing over first principles (as is the case here ) (see more about how Kuhn, 1970 defines paradigm and how it affects our research in this blog post: http://commetrics.com/articles/metrics-3/

    So this blog post for me is another step in developing a unified paradigm as far as social capital and influence are concerned. We have to agree and define these terms and then buckle down and do some serious research.

    Angela, Thanks for sharing this blog post with me

    My.ComMetrics.com – benchmark your blog => improve performance

    Xing SMmetrics – http://www.xing.com/net/smmetrics/

  6. Since Heather is the center point for the spreading to multiple individuals, I would say that she holds the social influence (based upon the limited information provided).

    Though, I agree with the other responses that there are many other variables to consider and as in Twitter, the quality of the followers can sometimes be more important than the quantity of the followers. But, all it takes is one follower with influence to spread the word to second and third level followers with influence.

    Thanks Angela for causing me to consider this as a strategic issue as I learn to better use social media and teach it to my Marketing students.


  7. It is not only the number and attributes of the conexions.
    I think what truly triggers the influential factoris trust. SAnd this is something achievable with time, but doesn’t depende on numbver of followers, retweets or links to one’s posts.
    Credibility is the way.

    Nice post, thank you for sharing

  8. Jane. I know Jane, and it’s clear to me, by this graphic, that everyone else wants to be like Jane. See them all talking about Jane, trying to get Ike out of the way so they can be closer to Jane.

    Yep, Jane.

  9. Ah, social capital…a venerable concept among sociologists, along with insights about “propinquity,” “manifest and latent functions,” and “the strength of loose ties,” all of which highlight our understanding about group values/attitudes/behavior. I’m happy to see the notion of social capital getting new exposure.

    Phil makes some fine points about the inadequacies of the diagram. Still, I’m going to zoom in on Ed and Carol who, despite the appearance of being outside the center of engagement, seem to have multi-vectored connections to everyone.

    Here’s a question I like to toss into the mix during conversations about social capital: Which would you rather have — power, authority or influence?

  10. Meredith,

    Those are my only three choices?