A client called B.S. on me today. I was asked to judge the potential influence of a blogger and twitterer who had posted a detailed response to some claims that my client had made about his company's product. I came back with an answer which was informed not by our usual in-depth analysis, but by a quick scan of Google, Klout, Twinfluence, Technorati, LinkedIn and several other social media tools and networks -- and one which completely missed the boat when it came to that person's actual influence.
Was my research wrong? No. It accurately reflected the person's reach on social networks. But it didn't capture his real reputation. Someone with little social capital online had a lot of social capital in real life, and without a comprehensive insider's perspective that comes with spending years in an industry (as opposed to a couple months), my characterization was challenged by the Big Boss at my client.
The funny thing is that Chuck and I talk about this all the time -- but I was asked to quickly come up with an assessment so I did, without the usual caveats that I usually attach. Don't fall victim to this: social media influence does not reflect real life influence.
The Four Rs of Influence
In identifying and prioritizing reporters, bloggers, editors, analysts, etc., we measure influence through a proprietary mix of four primary factors, what we call The Four Rs:
- Reach. How many people see this person's content, not just directly, but through other influencers and sharing?
- Relevance. How relevant is the person to your organization's community?
- Reputation. What's this person's reputation with your community?
- Receptivity. The counterbalance that affects how much energy we expend to influence any particular influencer: how receptive will this person be to our outreach and key messages?
In my haste, I ignored the broader aspect of reputation when I whipped together my research, probably costing me a few reputation points myself. While I stand by the internal validity of my conclusions, the external validity, taking into consideration the bigger context, brought me a little embarassment when I referred to an apparent industry bigwig as someone of relatively little influence. A lesson learned.
How are you measuring influence broadly, across both online and offline social networks? Don't forget this important lesson when you do!