Grouping my contacts in Google+ Circles is making me re-think about the way we've been defining reach in social media. The value of your network shouldn't just be based on how many people you know, but also account for 'who' you know. As the recent Harvard Business Review article, A Smarter Way to Network, indicates, successful leaders capitalize on diversified networks. They not only solicit feedback and insights from their contacts, but they know people from different circles. This adds to the richness of information they get and the variety of networks they reach.
While we study influencers, it's important to know the number of their followers, blog readers, Facebook friends, etc. But it's also key to know how many different types of circles they tap and which ones they will choose to send your messages. Years ago, when I was working on the e-fluentials surveys at Burson-Marsteller, a journalist had asked to interview someone who qualified as an online influencer. The selected e-fluential told the journalist how he had separate lists of people he emailed, for politics, jokes, national news and general updates. He explained that he was very careful not to push information out to people who would not want it or not engage with the content.
Perhaps this e-fluencer was ahead of his time or a bit conscientious, but today we have Twitter lists, LinkedIn groups and now Google+ Circles. We need to ask influencers how many people they are spreading news for every different type of message, product or service. Next, we need to understand which channels when they disseminate that particular info byte. Then, we can talk about influencer reach and network value.