Measuring influence is a challenging affair

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International    July 8, 2013

Takeaways: Measuring influence is not as easy as it seems. It’s possible to game the system by being more active, but this doesn’t mean you have an influential voice. Audience engagement is a better measure, but that has its own set of challenges.

Are you an influential leader? Do people follow you and pay attention to what you say and write about?

Influence is right up there with reputation when it comes to your online profile. People check out a person or business online first before they decide to do business with them. What others say about you and your company, as well as who is following you are just two criteria people use to evaluate you.

Consumers Trust Online Reviews

According to a 2011 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising survey, 70% of consumers trust online reviews almost as much as recommendations from people they know (92%). This is ahead of editorial content such as what’s written in local newspapers (58%). The world has changed.

This is especially true when companies are looking for job candidates or consultants or your customers are ready to buy. What others say about your products and services influences the decisions they make about whose product they buy.

So if influence and reputation are important, how do you measure those?

One way is through Klout.com. This site tracks your updates across several social media sites, as well as who follows you and how recently people engaged with you in the past 30 – 90 days.  Klout assigns your profile a score between 1 and 100 based on your level of online activity and engagement of others through likes, comments, new followers, and re-tweeting or re-sharing of your posts.

In his article, How Influential Are You? Measure it!, Bernard Marr offers examples of how some of his clients are using Klout. One company, for example, use Klout to evaluate potential job candidates. Since teens are their target market, they hire teens for their retail stores. Klout helps them choose the best and most influential candidates from the applicants. But Klout isn’t the only tool to use; in fact, there are a variety of tools such as Peerindex and Twitalyzer which attempt to rank your level of reach and influence.  

However, the flip side of this story is understanding just what influence is. According to A TechCrunch article by Dr. Michael Wu, Principal Scientist of Analytics at Lithium, influence measurement tools are not based on independent, third party evaluations, but rather on algorithms that measure how active you’ve been on social media. The more active you are, the higher your influence score. So it’s possible to “game” the system simply by being more active. Does that really mean you’re more influential than the next person?

Audience Engagement is Key

Audience engagement is really the key factor in social media. This is measured by how many and how frequently people respond to your posts, comment on them, and share them on their sites. We’re familiar with this term for traditional media like radio, TV and print; but social media brings another set of challenges for measuring influence and audience engagement depending on the specific tool – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and sites like Yelp and Foursquare – just to name a few.

The bottom line: social media offers multi-faceted, multi-directional communications that are continually evolving. Measurement systems come and go as the field continues to grow and change, and no one tool fits the bill for everyone. Staying abreast of these constant changes and using the tools that make sense for your situation, are the best ways to monitor and track your social media efforts.

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