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Sunday
Sep092012

What’s the Best Way to Measure Influence? DIY Not Klout!

I recently stumbled across the Infographic of Who’s Who of Social Influence Measurement and while it’s no surprise to see the social influencer industry growing, it’s a little worrisome.

As nonprofit senior leadership starts taking social media more seriously to engage supporters, they are also starting to ponder their own organization’s influence. Fair enough. If your organization is going to devote staff resources and time in social media, you should have a solid understanding of the audiences you are reaching, and how strong those relationships are. For example, if I were the Executive Director of an environmental organization working on climate change, I would want to know that the people who my organization and I engaged with on social networks, like Facebook and Twitter:

  • Were consistently engaged in conversations with us around climate change.

  • Took action on important advocacy actions when we talked about them on social media.

  • Looked to us as an authority on climate change across social media.

  • Shared our advocacy actions with their friends and colleagues on social networks.

  • Participated in our online contests, such as photo competitions, etc.

  • Shared personal stories with us about how climate change was affecting their communities.

  • Donated money during urgent appeals – even if it was $10.

  • Were comprised of a mix of people; including activists, people who were interested in learning more about climate change, people who were on the fence, reporters and bloggers who covered climate change, volunteers, donors, board members, etc.

I feel like we are losing sight of two important factors when measuring influence.

  1. It’s subjective.

  2. You can’t divorce offline influence from online influence.

Apps like Klout that use secret algorithms to supposedly measure how influential you are across social media channels can never really tell you if you or your organization have authority within the community that you seek to have influence in. As Paull Young at charity: water says, the most powerful analytics is the human brain. Another word's do it yourself (DIY).

No influencer app can ever accurately measure sentiment by running keywords through a program, because it can’t account for the different contexts of human conversations. Only a human being can do that. And heck, that can even be challenging for humans to determine when they are solely reading words and aren't able to see people’s facial expressions and body language as they speak.

But as organizations try and continue to justify the ROI of social media, there is a lot of pressure to produce lengthy reports to illustrate how they are preforming – thus the growth of influencer apps and products. My advice? Take influencer scores and reports by Klout, Kred, Twitalyzer, etc. with a grain of salt. If you are really engaged with your community, you will manually see how influential you are within your niche community. For example, you will see when the conversations are more active, you will see what gets RT’d or shared the most on Facebook or Google+. You will see what photos or commentary gets the most “Likes” or pins on Pinterest and fosters ongoing discussion. You can even see how many of your social media followers are also on your email list with social media append service providers like Small Act’s Thrive. This can be very helpful knowing which of your biggest donors and super activists are engaged with you on different social networks. And most importantly when you start to analyze your influence manually, you will interact with people as members of your community and not view them as just another number, which unfortunately is how these apps view influence.

Right now you might be thinking, "Yes, this sounds great, but manually going through this data is a time suck." I'm not going to lie. It's definitely going to take more time then looking at a random Klout score once a week. But it's worth it, because you will get a much clearer picture of how engaged and "influential" you are within your community. Try testing this approach: After you dive into your data manually and assess it, compare it to some of the influencer products and examine such things as:

  • Does any of the data you gathered match up?

  • Where does it fall short?

  • What did you glean manually that the influence products could not tell you?

  • Are the “influencers” that the product recommended really people who would be valuable to your community? Sometimes the keywords they match up to your profile are helpful and sometimes they are not. This is just another reason to do your analytics a little more DIY!

Reader Comments (4)

Measuring influence is great, especially for egocentric individuals. What organizations really need to measure are outcomes. So, rather than being consumed with the social Web as an isolated set of tools and user experiences, it should be managed as part of an overall marketing plan. This will help marketers set and steer a meaningful course and give executives a means to evaluate expenditures.
September 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Schreiber
There is some interesting work being done out there looking at social influence at the comment level. So for example, a comment in Google+ gets shared by many people. Is that comment more influential than a post that only gets shared by a few people? It would seem so. Just another way of looking at influence...
September 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom Wondra
@David I definitely agree. Thanks for elaborating on the importance of focusing on outcomes - which equals real world change.
@Tom - great points about comments being part of influence and are often not taken into "influence scores" by many of the apps and products.
September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllyson Kapin
Nice article. I'm surprised that KissMetrics didn't make it into the infographic. They are a great analytics company who actually focuses on measurement of people and not "vanity metrics"
September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSkelly

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