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Measuring Popularity
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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It is a common goal to strive to "rise above the clutter," meaning to capture your target audience's attention, and build a loyal, active following. We could liken that to wanting to be popular. Yes, we all want our brands and clients to be loved and adorned by raving, consuming fans.

But how is popularity defined?

Andrew Carson wrote a very insightful article about social media and sociometry (the study of popularity) and we are going to focus on the latter. As it turns out, pinpointing a definition for popularity is more challenging than we think. 

So, allow us to get our geek on and set a couple of definitions.

First, there is Peer-Perceived Popularity; when people are "infamous, socially-dominant, and well-known." This does not correlate with likeability. Carson gives us a nice little equation, too — we can measure this popularity by finding the Social Impact (SI) of the people.

SI = PO (positive opinions) + NO (negative opinions)

Second, there is sociometrically popular; when people are liked all around, but not necessarily famous or socially dominant. This sense of popularity can be found by using Social Preference (SP), which can be found by:

SP = PO - NO

How interesting! In the article, Carson stated that in the social media world, it may make more sense to put more focus on social preference than social impact. But is that reasoning translatable to advertising and branding overall?

We would argue that it would be important for brands to have a pulse on both their SI and SP. For the rules of advertising are not set in stone. And if people love to hate your brand, knowing that can strongly influence your advertising and marketing decisions. And on the flip side, knowing your brand's SP can influence how one should respond to not-so-nice feedback. We can imagine that when JCPenney switched from a discount boutique to a posh brand, the brand's SI was strong but its SP was negative. Also, we remember when Kenneth Cole tweeted about the Egypt riots and his shoe collection; his SI was huge, but his SP must not have been affected too much. 

See, who said market research was only about focus groups and ad testing? Adding more insightful analytics like social impact and social preference can help brands and advertisers key in on how the brand is seen by their target audience.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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