Soft power, notedJoseph Nye, is the power to get what you want without coercion. That’s a good kind of power to have, but hard to define. Nye argues that it is a combination of lots of things, like economic success, technological prowess, good governance, lack of corruption, etc.
In a similar fashion,”influence” has become a central topic of discussion in marketing circles. The opportunity to get messages across with less expenditure of resource and effort is enticing indeed. However, defining people’s influence (excluding, of course, celebrities) is problematic.
Nevertheless, measuring influence is certainly not impossible and there are several valid approaches. Here’s an overview:
A Network Theory Approach
Certainly the most comprehensive method of evaluating influence is the network theory approach. It is used extensively in counter-terrorism, consumer analysis in closed networks (i.e. telecom) and organizational consulting.
A particularly impressive application of network theory to decipher influence was used in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to determine the leadership structure of the terrorists. Of course, the actual methods are classified, but people familiar with the technique point to thisfascinating paper byValdis Krebs as a reasonable approximation.
On hisOrgnet site, he gives an overview of how it all works, which I will summarize below:
The method incorporates three objective measures of influence: