Google's penetrating the social media realm quite hard. With OpenSocial, Social Profiles, What's Popular Gadget, SearchWiki, and Google Wave one can only wonder how they plan to tie them all together and create the ultimate social juggernaut.
About eight or nine months ago, Heather Green of Business Week wrote a great article on Making Social Networks Profitable. The articles discusses a pending Google patent that explores ranking influential social media users by assigning them a value, a PageRank if you will. In this article she states,
"Google has a patent pending on technology for ranking the most influential people on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. In a creative twist, Google is applying the same approach to social networks it has used to dominate the online search business. If this works, it may finally make ads on social networks relevant"and profitable."
Google's pending patent basically applies their same principles of search to social. The first thing that comes to mind is the HITS algorithm which deciphers the hub and authority value of a domain. They're essentially applying the same conceptual methodology to social media by applying the hub and authority value to a user instead.
Does this mean that social media is not even bigger of a popularity contest? Yes and no. Many marketers might think that by having a massive following on a social media site will vastly increase their InfluenceRank because they have so many friends or they are very active with updates, votes, or other social activities. The reality is that Google's likely to go far more in depth than by how many friends you have or how active you are. I'm sure personal engagement frequency would be a large variable of the equation but the key term here is "influence". How do you influence the community and your connections online?
Influencing people is activating the personal engagement in others. Questions that would serve as heavily weighted variables in InfluenceRank might be:
- What percentage of your friends, that are signed on, did you get the attention of and get them to click on the link you shared?
- How many people choose to interact with you on a regular basis?
- Did others share what you shared with them?
Google has already began trying to profile social users online with patents for identifying good/bad quality raters and reviewers. Other things Google might look at is how someone is reacting about content online to further assess the the variables:
- Is the sentiment and demeanor positive, neutral, negative? (Which Google is already beginning to explore)
- Do the social users understand the context of which the messages or content is shared?
- Are they adding their own twist or commentary to the topic or content before seeding?
Image by Baekdal
It'll be interesting to see what happens in the future with the potential of InfluenceRank and the social community they're building overall.