March 03, 2009

Find the Real Value of Influence Through

By Jesse Stay of Stay N' Alive (Twitter/FriendFeed)

Many are arguing what the real definition of influence is on networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Is it really defined by the number of followers a person has? Can it be defined by number of ReTweets? Or does Twitter's own hand-picking of influentials as recommendations define influence?

A friend of mine, Scott Lemon, has produced a site that to me, has come closest so far to providing a true, ranked list of influential people. The site, called TopFollowFriday, was produced in response to a request by Jeremiah Owyang suggesting a list of the top referrals on Twitter through the hashtag, "#followfriday". The site aims to organize those recommendations and rank them by day, and overall. TopFollowFriday defines influence by recommendation of peers. Before we get into the site itself, let's give some background to #followfriday.

What is #followfriday?

#followfriday is the brainchild of Micah Baldwin of Lijit, who mentioned it on Twitter one day, and the idea took off. The idea is simple. Every Friday, pick your favorite people to follow on Twitter, and mention them with the hashtag, #followfriday. Every Friday the tag becomes a trending topic on Twitter, and the idea seems to be growing. Until now there was no good way of organizing all these recommendations however.

TopFollowFriday takes all mentions of #followfriday and organizes each recommended individual by counting the number of recommendations for that individual. Scott Lemon, former CTO of MediaForge and senior engineer at Novell, put the project together in a number of hours to organize this data.

The site allows users to sort by all time number of endorsements, number of endorsements for just today, or number of endorsements given. Or you can search for any given Twitter user and find out how many endorsements they have given and received.

Currently, according to their stats, @mayhemstudios is the number one recommended user on Twitter, followed by @scobleizer, @humancell (Scott himself, probably from testing), @AlexKaris, and @JamesProps. It's unclear how far back the stats go, but I'm pretty sure they will be continuing to track stats moving forward and this service will get even more valuable.

While Twitter continues to guess at who should be recommended on Twitter, TopFollowFriday has it right. It's those the users recommend most that determine most influence on Twitter. Twitter should really look at an acquisition here.

Read more by Jesse Stay at Stay N' Alive.