There’s been a lot of talk lately about online influence and how to measure it. This is always the case, but most recently the focus has been on Twitter and who is most influential on Twitter and why, which seems particularly absurd to me, since I don’t see how anybody could build Twitter as their exclusive platform anyway, even if we had an accurate tool to measure influence there. Anil Dash wrote another good post about the fact that follower counts are horseshit because of the “who to follow” function and suggested users when you sign up. Also, the new(ish) tool for measuring influence on Twitter, Klout, is attempting to gain ground by doing things like making deals with the Palms casino in Vegas and Virgin Airlines to give special VIP treatment according to Klout score, and rather than interpreting this for what it is — a marketing maneuver paid for by Klout (the Klout party at Blog World Expo was hosted at the Palms, and I’m guessing this was not a coincidence) — some bloggers are using this as evidence of Klout being the same thing as clout. Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking about influence and how it manifests itself, and how it could be measured, if it could be measured. Below are some disorganized thoughts on the topic.
1. My Klout score Is 31, and it was 28 before I registered on the Klout website.
A Klout score of 28 gives me the Klout authority, roughly, of your neighbor’s Persian cat. Maybe a little less Klout than your neighbor’s Persian cat, if your neighbor’s Persian cat happens to be featured on Icanhascheezeburger.com a lot. So, basically, I don’t have any Klout, but I was able to increase my score by 9% just by signing up with them, thank goodness. I wonder how they measure influence — other than buying into the idea of Klout, of course. Let’s see: retweets, and @replies, “amplification of message” and “engagement with influencers.” Hmmm. Well, that would be a tough one, huh? When you are somebody who tweets things that are, say, like this, in reaction to the behavior of one of the “influencers” in question:
You don’t tend to get a whole lot of “engagement” with the “influencers.” You also don’t get a lot of retweets, because people are too afraid to retweet that. But what you do get is a bunch of DMs going on behind the scenes, both to you and to other people. Does that count as influence? I don’t know. Because I have a Klout score of 28. So if I need to get a reservation at The Palms, I’m calling up this @800dailygiveaways woman and seeing if she can get me that suite with the basketball court.
2. The most influential statements are tough to retweet.
Not all retweets are created equal. It’s easy to retweet things that are shallow, just like it’s easy to comment on a post that is about something mundane or that directly asks for practical advice. If you tweet something thought-provoking or controversial, you are less likely to get a retweet or an @-reply because it’s more difficult to respond to those kinds of tweets, particularly on Twitter. There are only a handful of users who will respond to you on those things, and they will make up your core group. This does not mean you are not influencing people with those tweets. It also doesn’t mean that all of those retweets about “awesome, inspiring posts” denote influence whatsoever. The only thing they often denote is some effort to kiss ass or repay a previous retweet on the part of one user to another. It’s easy to retweet a post about zombies or bacon, but that doesn’t mean the person who originally tweeted it is influential.
3. Several of the people on the Klout list of mommybloggers are people I had to unfollow because of Twitter party spam.
This isn’t meant as a slam on the actual users themselves, because as far as I know they are great people. However, I question a means of measuring influence that marks several people as “influential” that I personally unfollowed *only* because the volume of sponsored tweets/Twitter party hashtag spam was so high that I couldn’t stand it anymore. They are being retweeted and engaged with because *they are paying people to do it*.
4. All lists are arbitrary, but this one annoys me because it pretends to be scientific.
Whenever there is a list released in the mommyblogosphere, there’s a problem. There are hurt feelings, people don’t understand why the same people are included, or why one person was left off. This one is uniquely annoying in that it uses some kind of algorithm that makes it seem as though it should be credible, but in reality it’s just as flawed as the others. Influence manifests itself in a variety of ways, some more public than others. Some people are influential in a very public way. People can see how influential somebody like Oprah is in, say, female populations, because there isn’t a lot of shame in saying you like Oprah. But what if you were to try to track Oprah’s influence in a male population? You’d still get an idea that she’s influential, but it wouldn’t be an accurate portrait of how influential she is, because there are huge sections of the male population who are simply not going to cop to being Oprah fans.
5. Best of lists and tools to measure influence in social media are just traffic grabs and/or tools for lazy brands and marketers.
At best, the “best of” mommyblogger lists lead to a huge rush of traffic for Babble (and all of the other websites that publish them on a semi-regular basis). At worst, they are a means of giving marketers an easy and inaccurate way of figuring out who these supposedly powerful mommybloggers are that they should be targeting for their pitches. So all of those awful PR pitches that people like to complain about, in effect, can be traced back to these kinds of lists. It’s annoying. Everything about it is annoying. Stop giving these people credibility by acting as if the process is legitimate.
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