How do you quantify influence?

January 4, 2010 at 10:19 AM 15 comments

As you all are well aware, I’m a measurement girl.  I’m finally able to take on the whole measurement process at work, and it’s up to me not only collect data but figure out what it means for my clients.  Now that I’m focused on social media, I’ve started to wonder more about how influence should factor into my analyses.

We all know that when someone like Katie Paine or David Armano writes about a topic or event, we are more likely to pay attention.  But how does someone like me take that into account?  One blog post from a big name in social media compared with 100 blog posts on little-read blogs – which is more important?  How do you quantify influence?

I don’t mean to ask this in a hypothetical way.  I mean, if you were to give weightings to blog posts or authors based on influence, how would you do it?  Do you assign a higher number based purely on followers or based on how many comments a blogger receives?

And once you figure out what metrics are most important, how do you assign numerical values to them?  Are thousands of followers worth 5 points?  Twenty comments per blog post, is that worth 7 points?  Do you see what I’m getting at?

I recently read through the algorithm used to find a Twitter user’s Klout score.  I think this is a really thorough start, but I’m still curious how each of these factors are weighted and compared to one another.  Which do you think should be weighted most heavily?  And how much heavier should they be than others?


Entry filed under: Measurement, PR metrics, Social Media, Twitter. Tags: , , , .

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Eric Goldman  |  January 4, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    Just love the fact that you are a “measurement girl”. So many marketers are still stuck in the “it’s all intuition” of Marketing 1.0 and have not yet understood that Marketing 2.0 has shifted marketing from an art to a science. So let’s hear it for Metrics!
    I use a tool called Sysomos ( to calculate a number of metrics concerned with Social Media Marketing, or SMM. One of these is indeed, “Influence” or what Sysomos calls “Authority” and it is measured on the number of readers of a blog, for example, plus the same type of “trustworthiness” used by Google to calculate the value of a link (numbers of external links to this site and the trust factor of the sites linking to this one). Sysomos also uses relevancy to te searched term, frequency of posts – useful in that a blogger who seldom publishes on a topic is be definition not as “valuable” as one who posts on a regular and frequent basis.
    But all in all, I take your advice to the hilt and calculate the Return on Marketing Investment of our SMM campaign as a whole. In fact, we do this for our website overall, too. If you’re intrigued by how we do this, feel free to check out these posts:
    1) How to calculate the ROMI of your website as a whole:
    2) A list of the 10 best free ROI calculators on the web:
    3) How to build your own ROI calculator (perhaps for your social media campaign):
    The blog also has a post on the process we use to run our SMM campaign – readers may find it useful in designing their own approach. Just search the blog for “How to run a Social Media Campaign” as I don’t want to be spammed by leaving too many links.

    • 2. Rebecca Denison  |  January 4, 2010 at 2:51 PM

      WOW! What an amazing comment!

      Thank you so much for all of those links, I will have to look into all of those after work. Those all sound like perfect resources for what I’m interested in! I really want to set up a generalized framework based around the work that I do that could work influence into the mix. I feel like a lot of what I do is simply telling a client where conversations are taking place and why, but I haven’t yet been able to show which conversations are having the most influence on potential customers. It can be obvious at times when a blogger writes about the company multiple times, but often I know influence is far more subtle than that. And I really want to explore it!

  • 3. Jackie Adkins  |  January 4, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    Whew you sure know how to ask the tough questions Rebecca. I would say that readership/followers do need to be a factor in influence, but that the engagement is a more important factor (# of comments and @ replies on Twitter). I’d put RT’s in a category separate from engagement and lump them with linkbacks, as they’re both more representative of someone saying “Hey, I valued this, so I want more people to read it.” I also think that the variety of these linkbacks and RT’s is something to consider. You could get 1000’s of RT’s or linkbacks from a few sources, but the person receiving linkbacks/RT’s from multiple sources may be the more influential one.

    As to how much weight you place on each of these, that’s tough. As I said, # of followers/readers would probably be lowest of the three, but it’s hard to argue it shouldn’t still be a factor.

    Wow, I know those are some very random thoughts, but it was such a great question I had to offer up SOMETHING 🙂

    • 4. Jackie Adkins  |  January 4, 2010 at 4:25 PM

      Also, it’d be interesting if there was something that bridged platforms and accounted for blog influence, twitter influence, and even offline influence (speaking engagements, employment level, etc.). Now THAT would be wicked cool!

      • 5. Rebecca Denison  |  January 4, 2010 at 4:27 PM

        THAT would be the ideal! YES! Can ya tell me where I can find that? Ha ha.

        But really, that’s definitely the direction I’m looking…

  • 6. Bryna  |  January 4, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    What about looking at how online influence translates/compares to offline. I’m thinking, position/career/job, executive status, employees under them, business revenues, books written, magazine articles published, scholarly journal articles published, etc. I think those are really useful measures of influence. Just a small thought. I’m not 100% sure that’s where you’re going or if you just need the online metrics.

    • 7. Rebecca Denison  |  January 4, 2010 at 4:28 PM

      I was thinking strictly in an online sense as a way to measure how content is spread online, but I do like the way you’re thinking. It wouldn’t be a bad thing at all to consider offline factors (but oh boy, that makes it even more complicated!) when calculating influence. Thanks for your input, Bryna!

  • 8. Richard  |  January 4, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Always a favorite subject.
    Some good comment already getting the conversation started, but I would just add a curveball based on my reading of this sentence from the post:
    “We all know that when someone like Katie Paine or David Armano writes about a topic or event, we are more likely to pay attention.”
    Understanding who the ‘we’ is in that sentence is really important. While ‘we’ (social media addicts, measurement geeks, PR pros, whatever) might be influenced by people like Katie and David, does that influence map over to other groups that may not be familiar with them? Is there really one number that can be determined to quantify an individual’s influence across all audiences?
    I agree with the others who have brought up notions like engagement and retweets (as well as more ‘RL’ factors like professional responsibilities or publications). In addition to these things, I suppose that the context of influence is malleable depending on the audience.
    I think that developing a true influence metric will have to take into account the differing levels of influence that actors have over different audiences.
    Just some thoughts!

    • 9. Rebecca Denison  |  January 4, 2010 at 4:42 PM

      Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

      I hadn’t even thought about it like that, but you are completely right, I am thinking about influence within the context of those who are “in the know.” Katie and David probably have very little influence over anyone outside that circle because you must be a member of the social media club to know who they are in the first place. So do I measure their influence and somehow factor in how many people they influence? You certainly have given me a whole new level of influence to think about, Richard. Thank you very much for your insight on this! I tend to get on one track and get so entrenched that I forget I may be going about it all wrong. Thank you, thank you!

  • 10. Mark W Schaefer  |  January 5, 2010 at 9:33 PM

    I had a thought, but after reading these comments I have become suddenly humbled and quiet. Please move along. never mind me.

    • 11. Rebecca Denison  |  January 5, 2010 at 9:58 PM

      Don’t be silly, Mark! Do share what you were thinking! After these comments, I’m completely starting from scratch and any input is incredibly valuable!!

  • 12. MrBarns  |  February 1, 2010 at 6:57 PM

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  • 13. Stacy Sims  |  February 2, 2010 at 12:54 PM

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  • 15. Robert Shumake  |  February 2, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    There’s good info here. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Keep up the good work mate!

    Robert Shumake


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