This article in Time magazine, “The Democratization of Influence” selected the top most influential people of 2011. “Influence is impossible to measure,” the article noted. “It’s a little like what social scientists call the butterfly effect: the idea that a tiny change in one part of a system can yield gargantuan changes later on.”
The Web and social media have transformed the dynamics of influence by lowering barriers to entry and opening up the field. Business cannot ignore this new reality –neither can PR and communications professionals. As this article “Why Social Influence Matters to Business” notes: “Social Media has forced businesses to reassess the definition of influence. Influencers are telling us what to do on a regular basis across the social sphere, but who is listening and how does it affect our behavior and buying decisions? A trend that has gained considerable attention in recent years is measuring influence, both in real life and in the social world. Depending upon whom you talk to, these people who are termed to have influence also have considerable value in the marketing world and weight with other peers in Generation Y.”
In the past, notions of influence and “social capital” were psycho-social measures understood almost intuitively, often assessed according to a person’s strategic positioning inside and between connected networks. Assessing whether someone was a “player” or had “clout” involved interpreting a complex set of tacitly communicated impressions. It was not a precisely measurable science. In the social media world, influence can be measured with software tools. Social influence metrics is now a booming business. As influence shifts from old media to the Web, analytics tools provide fine-tuned metrics that identify and measure the new “influencers” on the Web.
Klout has quickly established itself as a standard measure of social media influence. Klout measures social media influence by taking into account activity on a variety of networks: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and so on. On Klout as a phenomenon, see this article in the New York Times, “Got Twitter? You’ve Been Scored”. For more on the social media inputs Klout measures, see this article in Mashable. This article titled “Your Klout Score: Why You Need to Care Now” insists on the importance of Klout scores. Another article explores Klout measures with the question: “Is Klout a Good Judge of Your Social Media Influence?” Finally, this article takes a more reassuring approach towards anxieties about social media influence measures: “Fretting About Your Klout Score? Calm Down Already….”
Klout isn’t the only social influence measure, of course. It is now facing competition from other tools such as Kred. This article assesses the various tools being used to measure social media influence, “12 Tools to Measure Social Media Influence (Maybe). Also see this article in The Next Web: “Klout has competition, Peoplebrowser announces new social influence tracker Kred”. A final world to digital PR guru Brian Solis, who calls this new landscape of social influence the “egosystem”. For Solis’ thinking on influence see this article “How do you increase social influence? Don’t think about the score”.