Billboard launched a new music chart this week: the Social 50, a ranking of artists based on their popularity in online social networks. Topping the inaugural chart is Rihanna at No. 1, followed by Justin Bieber, Eminem, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj.
Here's how it works: Next Big Sound, a social network tracking service, rounds up data from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, iLike and others, then applies a formula to tally the artists' weekly additions of friends, fans and followers. So if you tweet about how proud you are of Eminem's 10 Grammy nominations, that doesn't count for much. But if you click to follow Eminem's feed, it boosts his Social 50 ranking.
A ratio of artists' page views to the number of fans also counts for rankings, as does the number of plays where music is available (like how many times a song is clicked in the MySpace player).
The statements, first from Next Big Sound CEO Alex White: "The volume of online activity that top artists now receive is too big to ignore. We are thrilled that social music activity now receives the same emphasis as the music charts for which Billboard is synonymous."
Then from Billboard director of charts Silvio Pietroluongo: "The Social 50 provides a weekly snapshot of the artists with whom music fans engage with the most in the social arena, which in today's world is a significant validation of their investment in an act. The chart is a logical complement to Billboard's other popularity rankings."
Further down the inaugural chart, we see a curious mix of the maybe-not-so-obscure and the dead. There's Michael Jackson at No. 12, reggaeton singer Don Omar at No. 16, Bob Marley at No. 24, French house DJ David Guetta at No. 26 (above Kanye West at No. 28) and the Beatles at No. 41.
The Ultimate Chart has been doing some of this for a while, mixing social network rankings with sales activity.