Who influences global influencers? (Part 1)

Who influences global influencers? (Part 1)
Who influences global influencers? A look at influencer networks in the lead up to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017

As global leaders gather in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2017, the Netnograph team will be applying its methodology to map online influence networks around the event. The first results, outlined below, are taken from the period leading up to the event: 4th – 16th January 2017. We will continue our live analysis as the week progresses, tracking the network of influencers around the event.

Before the event, our team conducted an analysis of Twitter conversations to identify key influencers engaging with and prompting discussions around the event. Influence was measured according to the size and scope of followers, levels of public engagement and geographic reach.

Of the many thousands of individuals and organisations discussing the event, 1113 were identified as key global influencers. They come from a range of backgrounds, including politics, business, journalism, civil society and the arts.


Netnography & graph analysis

Of the influencers identified, the vast majority – 91 per cent – wrote in English. Almost half of the influencers were based in predominantly English-speaking countries, with US- and UK-based influencers accounting for almost half of the total. The next largest groups of influencers were based in India, Germany and The Netherlands respectively.

The most active influencer in the period leading up to the event was the WEF itself. Through a well-orchestrated online and social media presence, which featured regular updates and articles, they successfully drove discussions and media coverage. Within the group of 1113 key influencers, the next most active (in terms of number of posts) were Indian-headquartered consultancy WiPro and journalist Naomi Klein. International NGO Oxfam was also a key influencer, generating a high volume of discussions around their study which shows that the eight richest individuals in the world are as wealthy as half of the human population combined.

The influencers with the broadest reach on WEF-related content (measured by number of followers and level of public engagement) were US President Barack Obama, singer and activist Shakira, and US President-elect Donald Trump. Furthermore, media outlets like the New York Times, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal scored highly on breadth of reach, as did UK celebrity chef and social activist Jamie Oliver.


Identifying influencer networks

Moving beyond the raw digital engagement numbers, the Netnograph team analysed the networks between influencers. The overall network is visualised in the graphic below. Each point represents a single influencer, and each connecting line an engagement between influencers. At this scale, the names of individual influencers are not shown, but clusters of influencers are clearly visible.

netnography, Netnograph, social network, influencers


The three main clusters of influencers are as follows:

  • The single largest cluster is centred on the WEF. It comprises a high volume of one-off interactions between the organisation and other influencers. The WEF itself is pivotal to the network.
  • The second largest cluster is based around US President Barack Obama, who has engaged with influencers such as UN bodies and celebrity activists. This network is smaller in terms of link volume, but the links tend to be stronger – indicating a higher volume of interactions between the influencers involved.
  • The third largest cluster involves interactions with media outlets and US President-elect Donald Trump. There is little involvement of non-news based influencers in this cluster, indicating that the majority of these interactions were media reports of comments by the President-elect.

These three main clusters are also interlinked, as represented in the image below. Again, the WEF is one of the largest influencers, along with Barack Obama, Donald Trump and media outlets. Other influencers are interconnected mainly via media outlets and the WEF.

WEF 2017, influencers


How people are talking about the WEF Annual Meeting 2017

As well as mapping influencer networks, we also conducted an analysis of the language used by influencers in the lead up to the event. For instance, we analysed every tweet with the hashtag ‘#Davos2017’ posted by the 1113 influencers, and mapped the hashtags used in conjunction with it. The main correlations are represented visually below.

word cloud, influencers


It is interesting to note that the top three correlated hashtags, ‘disruption’, ‘digital’, and ‘agility’, are not related to issues that have dominated previous WEF Annual Meetings, such as social change or the environment. The fourth most used hashtag was ‘#worldweshape’, a hashtag which relates to the aims of the WEF.

We are continuing to monitor the use of hashtags by influencers throughout the week, and will present more information about how their usage has evolved and changed as the event continues.


Influencer engagement in the lead up to the WEF Annual Meeting 2017

The number of daily influencer engagements with topics related to the WEF grew steadily in the week prior to the event. For example, on the 4th of January, the total number of engagements amongst the 1113 influencers was 46. This rose to 223 per day by the 10th of January, and to over 650 per day by the 13th of January. This is presented in the graphic below.

chart, influencers


Conclusions and learnings

In the lead up to the event, almost half of all social media engagement with the WEF was driven by influencers based in English-speaking countries, particularly the US and the UK. Whilst this is a large proportion, it does not account for the fact that over 90% of the discussion was conducted in English. This suggests a particularly high level of engagement amongst the international audience.

The most well used channels for fostering discussion were traditional media outlets. However, prominent individuals on social media also showed growing levels of influence. For example, PR professional and social media personality Vanessa Huelse and PwC Environmental Economist Will Evison both generated high levels of engagement on the subject.

The WEF was at the centre of the biggest cluster of discussions. When combined with the fact the organisation was the biggest diffuser of information, it is clear that the WEF was successful in setting the discussion and leading the dialogue among the most influential stakeholders. This was most evident during the period of increased engagement in the week prior to the event.

In the next post-event report, we will build on our initial analysis and increase the scope of our report. This will include:

  • Ranking of influencers by activity, reputation and topics;
  • Daily top emerging issues;
  • Analysis and visualisation of the total influencer network;
  • Use of #Davos2017 and other hashtags;
  • Daily analysis of influencers’ social media performance;
  • Daily evolution of activity on Twitter;
  • Temporary and regional distribution of activity on Twitter.

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