Social Scoring and Peer Influence

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In today’s online world social scoring systems like the new Klout matter, unfortunately. For example, some jobs are tied to scores now.

Scoring systems encourage people to build wide networks to foster reach and create the perception of influence.

The highest scoring “influencers” like to think they deliver widespread impact with their followings. Every single book I’ve read by a blogger on influence claims this.

In actuality, that influence lies closer to home.

When real researchers parse influence we get a different story than the blogger myth propagated by social scoring. Instead, we see that true influence comes from those who are closest to us in our on and offline social networks, our peers.

As the old adage goes, “You are who you hang out with.”

How Ideas Spread through Our Peers

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Image by Greater Manchester Police

Peer pressure influences us more than a highly scoring influencer.

It’s when peers start discussing an idea en masse that they feel safe in discussion and, perhaps action, too. This is the science of networks.

What about the influencer, the big time blogger? They have become the 21st century’s equivalent of yet another somewhat credible (depending on who is reading) niche media outlet.

They may be a communication channel for ideas, and their take on those ideas can sway loyalist fans who serve as peers. But generally, their writings serve as a credibility point for readers, just like Consumer Reports, and nothing more.


Because relationships — true meaningful interactions beyond social platitudes (Like, love, you rock, etc.) — don’t scale after a certain point.

This recalls a debatable theory called Dunbar’s Number, which states that an individual can only sustain stable social relationships with a community of approximately 150 people.

GORE-TEX actually limited the size of its factories to 150 people or less based poor performance with larger workforces. The company adapted Robin Dunbar’s theory for its physical locations.

Applied, it’s not that a person can’t have more friends than 150, but the more relationships someone maintains they become increasingly superficial.

Choosing to be Influenced

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Image by Eyesplash
By selecting our friends, we’re also choosing to be influenced by their ideas, beliefs and behavior systems. Often their ideals are close to or similar to ours before we spend time together.

We, in essence, adapt their behaviors simply by the very normal sociological behavior of sharing the same “tribe.”

Knowing that if we spend enough time within a relatively small group of people in conversations (on and offline), we can actually steer our direction.

The concept of choosing to be influenced by peers is a concept I subscribe to today.

If I want to be a successful businessperson, I choose to spend time with other successful business people. Want to be a great writer? Then I spend time with other writers. Conversely, if I find a general group behavior to be negative, I choose not to participate.

What do you think? Can we predetermine who influences us?