Can "Community Artifacts" be Measured?

footprintsI was lucky enough to escape yet another New England ice storm for a trip to #CES in Las Vegas. Jeff Pulver’s Social Media Jungle brought in interesting people from around the country, who in turn raised even more interesting questions about whys and hows of social media, including:

  • How to steer your own pirate ship, and when to interact with those that don’t (and what does that mean, anyway)? [Chris Brogan]
  • What are some different lenses for thinking about social media ROI? [Ben Grossman]
  • How can companies adjust when rules of brand control and traditional tactics no longer apply? [Susan Etlinger]
  • How can companies avoid common mistakes when starting out with social media? [David Berkowitz]
  • When people participate in online community, what are the”artifacts” left behind? [Robert Scoble]

The question about the artifacts really intrigued me – what are the traces we leave behind when participating online? On Twitter, if I delete someone from the list of people I follow, their conversations (if they are influential, and if they are connected to my other followees) will continue to break through.
These community artifacts feel like a meaningful, but comparatively hard to quantify, measure of influence. For example, on Twitter, people frequently retweet others’ messages, repeating and spreading valuable content. This type of rebroadcast can be quantified: Dan Zarrella created a terrific tool to track individual Twitter users’ levels of retweets.
But beyond the repetition, how do we measure the way influential people consistently introduce valuable ideas, topics, and memes? For example, if David Armano launches a charitable campaign for a victim of domestic violence, his page views and retweets are easy to capture. But how do we track the far-reaching effect of his content and measure the new ideas he’s responsible for germinating? This may well be an instance where ‘not everything that matters can be measured’.
Photo credit: kimba

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