The Calculus of Social Media Theory

During my commute this morning, I was listening to Professor Marcus du Sautoy‘s BBC series on A Brief History of Mathematics. The first episode dealt with two late 17th century mathematicians who worked on the same problem at the same time – the calculus, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz. Professor du Sautoy declares that calculus is the mathematics of things on the move.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Gottfried Leibniz

There is nothing more “on the move” than 21st century social media theory.

Calculus is used in every branch of the physical sciences, actuarial science, computer science, statistics, engineering, economics, business, medicine, demography, and in other fields wherever a problem can be mathematically modeled and an optimal solution is desired. It allows one to go from (non-constant) rates of change to the total change or vice versa, and many times in studying a problem we know one and are trying to find the other.

The Internet, the world wide web and social media are all moving at non-constant speeds. Smartphones and location-based services are are causing a change to previous social media theorems.

There are players from the ruling royal families that are involved and young upstarts that are struggling to get their ideas heard.

There are people who fear the new science and people who claim it will revolutionize the entire world. It has the ability to reshape the way people deal with problems. It will continue to be refined by those who come in the future.

The giants of today’s social media scene must have broad shoulders to accommodate the brilliant minds that are sure to follow. Who will build on the brilliance of Chris Brogan, Lisa Barone and Damien Basile.

I think powerful social media agencies will become like the Bernoulli family was to early mathematicians? Mentoring young but promising social media experimenters. Giving them a safe space to hone their craft and apply scientific rigor to their ideas.

The visionaries of tomorrow are all around us. They have great ideas and insights yet no single powerful place to showcase them. There is no Academy of Social Media in one of the world’s great cities where the best social media minds gather. Instead there is the Internet – where all the great minds of every discipline gather. The Internet requires you to not only be great, but also to make yourself heard. It’s the second part where the newcomer will show their brilliance.

There seems to be a new tool to measure social media influence introduced every week, Yet there is no one way to quantifiably measure it yet. There has been no Gottfried Leibniz to finalize the equation for us to compare Gary Vaynerchuk to Ashton Kutcher.

How do you define social media greatness? Is it different for everyone? Is it like asking what’s the best ice cream flavor?


  1. Thanks for opening the conversation, Phil! Calculus was never my best subject, but I’ll take a stab.

    Social media greatness comes down to being “great” in the world you choose. Seth Godin talks about becoming “best in the world” but he explains, “The world can be whatever world your market chooses from. The best acupuncturist in town or the best $45 shoes ever made.”

    Extending that to becoming “great” in social media… does someone want to be big in North Carolina? The United States? The entire world?

    Since starting my new job, my blogging and Twitter participation has fallen precipitously. I miss being as active in the conversation, but I accept that — I can’t do it all. My career is marketing — social media is a key part of the toolbox, but it’s one of many tools.

  2. I agree Karl, it’s all about finding that one point where you can be your best. Although I thought for a long time that I would best behind homeplate for the Red Sox, I couldn’t convince the scouts of that.


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