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Thursday, Jul. 19, 2007 at 7:22 am

Rubel’s Twitter List Trumps Godin’s Bestsellers

By Robert Gorell
July 19th, 2007

Spin Cycle 2.0David Brain, President & CEO of Edelman PR, created a stir on his SixtySecondView blog when he published this “Social Media Index“; an attempt to measure the influence and footprint of various marketers and their blogs. Lo and behold, GrokDotCom made the list of Top 30 blogs.

It’s OK, you can hold the applause. We did.

Sure, it’s flattering to be on any list that suggests you’re a top blog, but what does this say about influence? Things get more dubious once channels like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are used to assess influence.

Here’s what David Brain had to say:

When people talked about on-line influence in the past they were often referring to bloggers and Technorati scores, though obviously influence was always more complicated than that. But now with the increasing mass adoption of Twitter and Facebook and favourites listings like Digg and things have moved on. Bloggers Twitter and Facebookers Dig. Many of us are multi-platform users and so our online ‘footprint’ is much more dispersed.

Hmm… Is “dispersed” naturally better, even for PR folk like Steve Rubel, an Edelman SVP whose Micro Persuasion blog ranked #5 on Edelman’s “Top Blogs” list and #1 on its “Social Media Index”? And why should bloggers who don’t use Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to engage readers care about Edelman’s index? Such measures are worthless in the case of influential multi-author blogs like SearchEngineLand or TechCrunch, where individual self-promotion tactics — e.g., hosting a Twitter widget, or linking to one’s Facebook account — would be irrelevant to readers. Of course, Rubel & company thinks these tactics are influential.

So, do we really need a blog-ranking index to account for Twitter activity between Rubel and Robert Scoble? Isn’t it enough they’re bombarding some 5,900 “followers” — as Rubel phrases it — with micro-minutia? You mean that’s “social media,” not plain-old broadcasting?

I asked Jeffrey what he thought about Twitter being used to measure influence, knowing full-well I’d get something like this:

…Twitter’s about as important as a pimple on a mole on an elephant’s a$$ in the real world. Marketers, without exception, overestimate their importance to their audience. It’s an occupational hazard. Early adopters are even worse. Blogging is important, but not truly mainstream yet. The Wall Street Journal, which has no social networking, is still more influential than Boing Boing. We all need to get over it.

Some might disagree, but there isn’t much life in Edelman’s index. That being said, it is interesting, if not problematic. They’ve simply taken a list with questionable value and filtered it through the lens which most interests them — and that’s fine. But what of other influential media channels like newsletters, forums, or books? How could Twitter activity be a greater measure of influence than something as concrete as book sales?

Everyone loves lists. We love lists. Sometimes we agree with Steve. Sometimes we don’t. He’s an opinionated guy, and we respect that, but is Rubel’s Web 2.0 platform more influential than Seth Godin’s blog and book platform? In the “twitterverse,” perhaps. In the world where people take money out of their wallets to pay for ideas, no.

Edelman thinks he is.

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Comments (4)

  1. I have really enjoyed your top 30 blog list. I love lists too, create one every now and then on my blog.

  2. Wait until all these social media sites find out their ad space is worth virtually nothing in terms of generating awareness or clicks – what will they do then? Would you be a-Twitter about paying $14.95 a month just to know what a random group of people is “doing right now”?


    At the same time, we have people running away from measuring the “value” of all this social activity – you know, human behavior is complex and can’t really be measured. The value of Twitter is in “engagement” and of course we can’t measure that…so I guess we’ll just count hits?

    Personally, I’m pretty sure the more enagaged someone is the LESS effective the advertising will be…think about it. So that means advertising on social media sites will be the lowest return activity since advertising on GeoCities.

    Wait a minute…wasn’t GeoCities essentially social media?

  3. EXCELLENT article, Robert. DEAD ON. And LOVE Jeffrey’s statements about marketing’s “occupational hazard” of overestimating our own importance to our audience. Now THAT is a book idea (though I’m not sure who would want to read it– further evidence of the uncomfortable truth in the statement…).

    Also excellent points by Jim. As a founding team member of, one of the web’s early HIGH TRAFFIC (fastest growing site of 1999) and yet supposedly STICKIEST sites (top five in terms of frequency, length of stay and other such metrics), I can attest that advertising and engagement are almost universally inversely-related.

    And even more sobering is that while “engagement” may consist of multiple “micro conversions,” that doesn’t in any way guarantee the “final” conversion, where people take out their wallets and choose to buy your product/service rather than bread and milk. Whether you fumble mid-field or 1 yard from your opponent’s goal line, you still lose the ball and don’t put up any points.

    Again, having been on the roster of “Team CMGI” during those bubble years, saw it first hand and have INCREDIBLE war stories…hey, maybe I should write a book! Any of you marketers out there want to read it? ;)

  4. One other quick comment (as if…)

    Again, thinking about Jeffrey’s comment about the self-congratulatory nature of the “marketing community,” I realized that’s another reason I wasn’t that crazy about the “Three Little Pigs/Blogs” story that everyone was so enamoured with a few days ago.

    While self-examination is critical and mature, self-absorption is counterproductive and naive.

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