Why Channel-Specific Influence Measurement Still Needs More Context
With news of changes to Klout’s personal influence measurement platform, there has been an inevitable uptick in the debate over how we should be measuring this thing called influence.
No stranger to the debate, Jay Baer offered his insights on Klout’s alogrithm updates in The Fight for the Future of Influencer Analytics.
Equally no stranger to dissenting opinions, Jay challenges his readers (and himself) to explore where influencer analytics might be headed. Specifically to this point, he asks:
As I think about the future of influence, I wonder if maybe the future is in specific influence scores, not general ones?
Jay is referring to channel-specific influence measurement, where influence is not merely a broad, general measurement of personal influence across all social networks and channels.
As he points out, brands give far too much weight to the size of an audience as a benchmark of influence instead of identifying influencers by their ability to influence action (which Jay states varies by topic, but even more so by platform).
In other words, no one achieves a blanket of influence across all networks. Rather, each of us has an established platform where we are more connected and capable of driving the conversation and impacting behavior.
For some, it’s by choice (Jay mention Chris Brogan gravitating to Google + as a good example of this). Other times, it’s an evolutionary process based on why and when you joined a particular network, and how you approach moving the conversation dial on this particular network.
But Jay’s points on channel-based influence brings to me a larger question:
Are we shooting our own feet by putting too much emphasis on who or where we are measuring influence instead of what we are measuring?
I see channel-based influence measurement as a natural extension of personal influence measurement, at least according to how most personal influence tools measure influence.
Tools like Klout and Kred measure influence as a reflection of an individual’s ability to drive action (but only on social networks). This overarching view of influence is assessed by analyzing social proof – that is where followers, retweets, replies, “likes” and mentions come to play.
This exact notion has served as ground zero for some of Klout’s biggest detractors – i.e. you can’t capture true influence with a universal score – as few believe that there is anything remotely resembling universal influence that can be captured and measured accurately.
If you truly only want to measure who is influential on a given social network, then it may help to look at the contextual evidence of someone’s influence within a specific channel. Otherwise, we risk creating overly generalized “scores” of influence that are merely surface level.
Where Channel-Specific Influence Measurement Gets Tricky
Is channel-specific influence measurement going deep enough? Can we rectify the missing offline influence by measuring sites like Wikipedia? What if an influential CEO has pull offline but doesn’t engage on Twitter, Facebook or Google +?
For me, it’s not that channel-based influence measurement isn’t more viable than a blanketed approach (because it is). It’s that channel-based influence still seems just as dangerously limiting as these absolute measurements of personal influence, if only slight less so.
- Because we need more context than network-specific measurements of influence.
- Because we’re still relying too much on third-party social data sources to measure many of these channels, limiting our visibility to the social preference of a given influencer.
- Because we’re not digging deep enough into topical influence to determine who is driving action on specific topics, but more importantly whether their opinions on these topics are relevant to why we’re measuring in the first place.
- Because we have to look at all public activity – both online and off – to get a true benchmark of how a person’s content or opinions on a particular topic may influence others.
- Because we need a better understanding of what opinions drive action – not just who has the largest audience on a given social network.
When we look at true impact of an influencer by topical relevance, we’re really talking about a deeper examination of who’s saying something relevant to our particular industry, not just who’s saying something the loudest.
It’s simply not enough to measure an influencer’s ability to drive action. Measuring around a specific topic can help us identify not only who is shaping conversations in our market, but also how their opinion on said topics are driving action.
These same core topics can lead our content marketing strategies, our PR and media outreach campaigns, our tracking processes. They can indicate where our share of influence in a given conversation is strongest, and where we’re falling short on contributing our expertise to topics that we should be leading, not chasing.
It’s time that topical and contextual data deserve a prominent seat at the influence measurement table. It’s that kind of intelligence that will give brands the edge with their marketing efforts.
What are your thoughts on measuring channel-specific influence? Is that a valuable metric? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Image credit: Anthony Kelly