This is a guest post by Jessica Edmondson.
Global brands have long clamored for the attention and approval of the most-influential celebrities, bloggers and journalists. In the past, you may have known these folks as “movers and shakers.” Now, they’re just as likely to be called “influencers,” their relative level of importance determined by score-keeping sites such as Klout, Kred and PeerIndex.
If you participate in social media, chances are you have a score, too—and it can affect your life in ways you didn’t even realize.
Who’s Who in Social Influence
When you create content or engage in social media, these sites are analyzing your activity, gauging who interacts with you and measuring your influence:
- Klout analyzes data from social networks to produce your True Reach, Amplification and Network Impact. It measures how many people respond to or share your tweets and posts. Plus, it looks at who those people are. Retweets by a top influencer, say Justin Bieber (Klout score 100), register on the scale higher than those by your next-door neighbor. (Unless, of course, you live next door to “The Bieb.”)
- Kred gives every Twitter user two scores: Influence and Outreach. Influence is your ability to sway others, measured on a scale of 1 to 1,000, and it’s based on how often your tweets are retweeted, and how many new followers and replies you acquire. Outreach scoresyour generosity—how often you retweet and reply to others. Kredalsoplacesyouintocommunitiesbasedonyour interests as indicated in your bio. As with Klout, you’ll score more points when high-scoring people retweet you.
- PeerIndex rates online authority on a scale of 1 to 100. Its algorithm analyzes three areas: Authority, or how others rely on your recommendations and opinions; Audience, or the number of people you impact; and Activity, which scores your activity compared to that of others in your online communities.
- Empire Avenue is more of a game, based on the idea that if you’re participating in social media, you have a value determined by your engagement. The site allows you to buy and sell shares in other people and websites, which increases your value.
Measuring Online Influence: Pros and Cons
So, what does all this mean? Companies recognize the importance of engaging with customers through social media. Now they have a way of measuring social influence.
Marketers can cater to influencers by giving them more attention and rewarding them for their loyalty. Just as famous actors and athletes get paid to endorse products or receive free clothing, social influencing sites give companies a way to grant perks to everyday folks—as long as they have high scores.
For example, if you have a high Klout score, you might enjoy:
- Special discounts, free press or even job offers
- Priority treatment and faster response to your complaints or comments
- More ads and special offers targeted to your interests
- Room upgrades at hotels
What’s in it for businesses? Buzz: that valuable word-of-mouth advertising from people others listen to. Offering special treatment to social influencers means creating powerful brand advocates. For many companies, free products, all-expense-paid trips and invitations to exclusive events are small prices to pay.
Social influence measuring tools have limitations:
- The algorithms are not perfect—you might score higher on Klout than someone with more followers, tweets, replies and mentions.
- It’s difficult to discern whether influential people are simply taking advantage of others or creating influence themselves.
- Influence is multidimensional and someone with a lot of followers may not be an authority on subjects that are important to your brand. They may not be talking about specific brands or creating any awareness.
- Depending on your industry, the popular people on social media may have little awareness of, or influence on, your products or services. You may need to dig deeper to find and engage with influential journalists, peers, resellers and analysts who know what you can offer.
Is Measuring Online Influence Here to Stay?
Social influence measurement feeds users’ egos and is a goldmine for marketers. As a result, it’s becoming a bigger part of the social media scene. More sites are jumping in, trying to improve upon Klout’s algorithm. And as long as there is a return in it, businesses will continue to woo influencers who have created a niche in which their content—and clout—spreads quickly.
Editor’s note: At Lightspan, we see influence scores as social indicators, but we are convinced they are more social games than true measures of influence. Do we pay attention to influence scores? Yes. Do we make big efforts to increase these scores? No. The scores are too easy to game through repeated mechanical actions, and as a result we discount them as true measures of influence. On the other hand we want all voices, opinions and ideas on our blog. So we welcome this post and any others on the topic. Just email Mana [at] lightspandigital.com with your guest post idea.