Groundbreaking Research on e-fluentials
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Groundbreaking Research on e-fluentials

We wanted to deepen our understanding of this new media, more closely identify and profile professional users, and identify those most likely to have an impact on the Internet.

Paul Holmes

In 2000, Burson-Marsteller conducted groundbreaking research on the most influential group of people online. We have dubbed them the “e-fluentials.”
The power, importance and speed of Internet communications are obvious.  As online information exchange grows, relationships and spheres of influence are increasingly virtual. A growing number of politicians, companies and organizations already rely on the Internet as an essential tool for capturing and directing the course of influence. Burson-Marsteller wished to identify and reach the most influential members of the online community.  We wanted to deepen our understanding of this new media, more closely identify and profile professional users, and identify those most likely to have an impact on the Internet. We wanted to measure their numbers, quantify the impact, and identify the characteristics of the most influential users. Ultimately, we wished to create a segmented list of, and a relationship with, this new group of influencers.
Burson-Marsteller partnered with Roper Starch Worldwide. Roper Starch has been studying “Influential Americans™” since the 1940s. These influencers account for 10% -12% of the U.S. population, but have an impact twice as great as their size. Together with Roper Starch, we created and conducted an online survey of 2,000 Internet users asking respondents to describe themselves, and what they think and do online.
The research, the first of its kind, identifies a group of online influencers who shape the opinions and attitudes of the Internet community. We dubbed the group, e-fluentials, and created a profile – who they are, how many, how similar or different they are from traditional influencers, how they get their message across, in what ways they are influential, and where they can be found. Representing 8% of the Internet population (about 9 million users), this group influences more people on more topics than other online users. And, they are 8 times more effective at communicating their views than Roper’s traditional Influentials. The e-fluential research report is attached. It has opened a deep vein of information that we have only begun to explore in detail.
To extend the research, a report was created, released to the media and posted on our Web site,  We have also created a unique Web site for the research appealing to e-fluentials, The interactive e-fluential Web site asks visitors to take an online quiz, asking “Are you an e-fluential?”  The results of our online surveys are used to build and refine the e-fluential database.  The Web site also contains e-fluential discussion groups, news and media, links and resources for e-fluentials, and special online questionnaires that we use to test or seed influential opinion.
Conducting the research with the world-renowned research organization, Roper Starch, guarantees its integrity.  As stated, Roper Starch has been studying Influential Americans for 60 years. The depth of their data resources on this subject is without compare. And, they have branched into Internet research as well, using the latest quantitative and qualitative research methodology, modeling and analytical techniques.
With these research results, the growing community and our newly developed lists of e-fluential contacts, Burson-Marsteller has identified this new group of online influencers. 
We have started to understand the impact of this group on the new and old economy.
We have more closely identified and profiled the influential users most likely to have an impact on the Internet.
We have a gross measure of their numbers, and can identify some of their characteristics.
We are mining Roper Starch’s American Influencers database and to create a segmented list of these users. 
Finally, through online polls and discussion resources, and in other new/traditional media outreach we are working to develop a relationship with this group of e-fluentials.  We have conducted media interviews, written articles and used target online groups to test the new data. By making this breakthrough research public, Burson-Marsteller has also added to the body of knowledge available to all professional communicators worldwide, advancing the profession.
Case Histories
In our press kit, we have also included e-fluential case histories showing the impact of the online phenomenon.  See eToys vs. etoy, a story about the devastating stock price drop of eToys caused when angry grandparents encouraged others to disinvest after they had mistakenly logged onto the Web site of  etoys, a provocative digital art group in Europe.  Or, IBM Pension Funds, a story about how IBM employees created their own alternate Web sites to discuss and compare company pension plans, which led to an organized employee drive using letters and local politicians to put pressure on the company to change the plans.
Publicity and Articles
The results of this research are beginning to have an impact worldwide as articles have appeared in different global markets.
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