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Academics attempt to shed new light on reputation and influence online


It’s probably fair to say that things like reputation and influence are kind of important on the web, and in particular with the rise of social media.  Whilst I’ve written previously about the risks involved in judging content on the credibility of the author rather than the content itself, it would be naive to think that perceptions don’t matter.

So it’s perhaps understandable that there have been a wealth of attempts to better understand and measure reputation and influence online.  A team of Dutch researchers have recently launched their own effort, with the demo of it available here.

The tool, created by Robin Effing of the Saxion Academie Voor Creatieve Technologie, looks to objectively compare the influence of individuals online.  The current demo is quite limited in that it only allows you to compare the online influence of a group of Dutch politicians, but the hope is that this will soon be expanded to let users compare whomever they wish.

The science behind the tool was developed by Effing and compares things like the volume of content created by each person, and the size and reach of their social network.  It also takes into account the engagement levels on the account.

It doesn’t sound like anything too revolutionary, but Effing is confident that it will help to break new ground for research in social media.

“With the program, we are able to compare the mutual use and the influence of individuals in a controllable and transparent manner.”

Taking a game theory approach to reputation

Another stab at understanding online reputation has been undertaken by a team of Canadian researchers.  Their attempt utilizes game theory to try and help understand reputation in the social world.

“More and more companies are exposed to the judgment of social media,” the researchers reveal. “On the one hand, local companies can be criticized by local consumers on media such as Facebook, while on the other hand, global companies can be criticized by consumers anywhere in the world.”

They go on to suggest that the life of a story depends heavily on how interested others in the social web are in it.  The researchers game theory based model explores how organizations can attempt to both understand the buzz generated online, and to try and manage it.

The main conclusion of the study is that this isn’t something that organizations can wish away or pretend doesn’t exist.  It’s something that needs to be tackled head on.

“From a management perspective, this model helps us advocate in favor of a strategy that consists in investing a lot of resources in brand building,” they conclude. “Brand building strategies are an efficient investment. It may prevent a buzz in case of an adverse event by convincing social media users that they should play the coordination strategy. But even in the case of a buzz, having a high level of reputation as a result of brand building strategies help reduce the recovery time.”

Is any of this really news?  You would certainly hope not, but you imagine that it must be to someone, somewhere in order for both studies to be approved.

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