Who are you most influenced by?
The standard response might include your parents, a trusted friend, a wise teacher, or even a religious leader. Of course, these influencers will change throughout your life. For example, your mother might play a very important role during your youth, but this gives way to your peer group in your teenage years. A university professor might guide your choice of profession and then your colleagues at work play a more important role during your adult life.
Influence is defined as the ability to have an effect on the character of someone. Pre-internet, this meant that face-to-face contact with people enjoying a dynamic conversation was the critical context for developing ideas, rapport and influence. Today, some argue that rich conversation has given way to online interactions as measured by Facebook and Twitter. My position is that these social networks are more about interacting with content generated by people as opposed to interacting with actual people. Thereâ€™s a difference.
One organization at the forefront of measuring social media analytics is Klout (www.klout.com). This San Francisco-based company creates profiles on individuals and assigns them a â€śKlout score.â€ť These scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a higher assessment of the breadth and strength of oneâ€™s online influence. Klout has even developed supplemental measures. â€śTrue reachâ€ť is based on the size of followers and friends who actively listen and react to their online messages. â€śAmplification scoreâ€ť relates to the likelihood that oneâ€™s messages will generate actions (e.g., retweets, likes and comments). â€śNetwork impactâ€ť reflects the influential value of a personâ€™s engaged audience.
This is all fine and dandy and provides an interesting exercise for determining who actually â€śroarsâ€ť the loudest when she tweets. However, there are several objections to Kloutâ€™s methodology, including assuming that any online user has no major influence in the real world (i.e., the old- fashioned way, by actually talking to people). Nevertheless, I checked out my own Klout score and itâ€™s 31. This compares with The Hamilton Spectator at 54, Dalton McGuinty at 61, and Barack Obama at 86. I have about 2,000 Twitter followers, but to be honest, I donâ€™t know how many of those actually read what I tweet or how many server bots that total includes.
I think the more interesting analytic is the list of topics that Klout says Iâ€™m influential about (i.e., business and communications). Well, thank goodness, that makes sense. Klout also tells me whom in particular I influence. I wonâ€™t share that list with you, but let me just say itâ€™s pretty cool to see who reads your stuff, â€śretweetsâ€ť your comments and â€ślikesâ€ť your commentary. It feels a little weird to know so much about how you virtually operate in the social network universe. Plus, to summarize all of that activity with one number seems a little absurd.
I understand that Kloutâ€™s next logical move is to partner with retailers, which then offer special discounts to highly influential people. Imagine a luxury watch company offering 50 per cent off to a high-Klout-score individual who promotes the brand. So, we might see different prices for the same product on Amazonâ€™s website based on your Klout score. Now I see where this is going.
I recall some time ago when we had a similar debate about oneâ€™s credit score. Everyone cried, â€śHow can you come up with a single numerical expression of a personâ€™s credit worthiness?â€ť Well, we did, and refined it over time, and now everyone pretty much accepts the methodology. Perhaps this will happen with Klout, too. Maybe, maybe not. I think that being influential is something you canâ€™t artificially manage. Either people listen to what you have to say or they donâ€™t. If, as Klout recommends, you have to ask certain people to â€śretweetâ€ť what you said in order to boost your score, well then you clearly arenâ€™t influential at all.