Does Popularity equal Influence?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about influence in social media, and specifically, is there more to it than just being popular and having a lot of fans or followers?
There was much buzz in 2010 about social influence measurement tools, and many emerged claiming different ways to quantify social influence or social capital.
For example:
Klout – “measurement of your overall online influence”
Twinfluence – “the combined influence of twitterers and their followers, with a few social network statistics thrown in as bonus”,
PeerIndex – “a measure of your online social capital”
Interestingly enough, I came across an article in Advertising Age written by Matthew Creamer titled “Your Followers Are No Measure of Your Influence”.   Creamer talks about how social media has distorted our understanding of what it means to be influential, and comments that the rapid growth and acceptance of social media have resulted in a blurring of the line between influence and popularity.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an online measurement tool to tell me that Justin Bieber, who has 6.5M followers, is popular and no doubt has influence.  But of more value to me is finding the niche influencers that have far fewer followers (compared to Bieber), are more influential than popular, but are respected in their respective communities.
So, I pose a few questions to you:
Do you see the confusion between influence and popularity online?
Can, and should influence and popularity be considered similar variables?
And lastly, what tools or practices do you use to measure online or social influence?
One more thing:  if you have time, check out Creamer’s article and let me know what you think.

2 comments on “Does Popularity equal Influence?

  1. I do see that there is a difference between popularity and influence. I think though without popularity (eg. followers) you level influence is reduced.

    If are really smart and credible but have only 5 followers on Twitter, then your message has a finite reach. On the other hand if you are credible and 50,000 followers, the level of influence is much higher.

    Right now I am trying out Twitter Search, and recently trying out ViralHeat.

    1. Great points! Thanks for mention of the tools as well! I am going to check out ViralHeat, I haven’t tried that one yet.

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