How Do You Gauge Influence In Social Media & Beyond?

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By Megan O'Neill Comment

Can you measure influence by Twitter followers, website hits, and Facebook “likes”or does the definition of influence run much deeper? We take a look at how influence can be gauged on the social web, as well as in the real world. How do you gauge influence?

Last week a short documentary called ‘Influencers’ was released. The documentary explores what it means to be an influencer through interviews with fashion editors, CEOs, consultants and influential individuals. The documentary offers up some character traits that influences generally have, including confidence, passion and the ability to think outside the box. I’d like to examine these character traits, and then take a look at how influence can be gauged online, in the blogosphere and in social sites like Twitter and Facebook. But first, check out the documentary in the video below!

What makes an influencer?

I think that the interviewees in the ‘Influencers’ documentary do a great job of outlining what makes an influencer, so what character traits do influencers possess?

Confidence

For one, an influencer is confident. In the documentary, Rob Stone, CEO of Cornerstone, says, “I think an influencer has a certain confidence that probably not many people have; that they know what they’re doing ’cause they’re comfortable in it.” If you aren’t confident that what you are doing and the ideas you are spreading are positive, innovative and good then why should anybody else believe that they are. When you are confident in yourself, your values, your ideas, and your products you are in a much better position to influence others into following your lead.

Passion

I think that passion is one of the most important character traits that influencers possess. When you look at people like Robert Scoble, Oprah and Ashton Kutcher, some highly influential people, you know that they are truly passionate about what they do. Scoble didn’t just pull tech out of a hat; Oprah didn’t decide to throw a passion for golfing aside to become a successful television host and philanthropist. These people have a passion for what they do and that passion rubs off. Don’t try to become influential on Twitter by tweeting about real estate if you really have a passion for ant farming. It just won’t work.

Thinking Outside Of The Box

Influencers are creative; they are early adapters; they are inventive, non-conformist and innovative. Influencers think outside of the box, coming up with new ideas and sharing them with those that they influence. That is what makes them influential. If you just re-hash other people’s ideas then you will never be a true influencer. Sharing other people’s ideas means that you yourself are being influenced by them. However, when you can be truly innovative and creative then you are in a spot where you can influence others with your original ideas, opinions, and products.

Influential

Okay, I know it sounds obvious to say that an influencer is influential, but hear me out. You can possess all of the above qualities – confidence, passion and creativity, or the ability to think outside the box. However, if nobody is listening to you and reacting then you are just a regular Joe, not influencing anyone.

How do you become influential? It takes a lot of work, for sure, and also, like many things, boils down to chance. However, if you are a true visionary with amazing, original ideas then you’ve got a good shot! :-)

Gauging Influence In Social Media

So how do you gauge influence across the social web? The answer isn’t totally clear-cut, as there is no real formula to determine without a shadow of a doubt who is an influencer and who is not. However, there do seem to be some misconceptions about influence that I’d like to debunk, mainly in Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere.

Twitter

In the early days of Twitter many people gauged influence on the number of followers a person had. However, it is becoming more and more evident that followers mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. These days you’ll find people with thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of followers that got their followers from a service. Either they paid money to get people to follow them or they followed thousands of people in exchange for being followed back in return. In these cases, followers do not equal influence. In fact, they equal quite the opposite!

So if you can’t measure influence on Twitter based on followers, how do you measure it? You can measure influence based upon the number of retweets, the number of @replies, and the number of people who tweet about the influencer. These factors show that the person is actually having an influence on other Twitter users and getting them to spread the word and share whatever it is they have to say.

Facebook

The same thing goes for Facebook. Having a lot of Facebook friends doesn’t mean a whole lot. There are groups on Facebook that you can join in order to make friends around the world or make as many friends as possible. Are these quality friends that are actually reading what you have to say and reacting to it? Probably not.

True influence on Facebook is gauged not by how many friends you have or by how many people “like” you, but rather by the reaction to the actions you take. When you update your status how many people “like” and comment on it? When you upload a picture or video how many people share it? Influential individuals usually get a lot of comments, likes and shares.

The Blogosphere

When it comes to blogging, influencers are the bloggers who come out with breaking news first. They don’t just rehash what has already been written about on countless other blogs. They come up with original, creative and interesting content and get it out there before anybody else.

Influence in the blogosphere can be measured by page views. However, sometimes content gets a lot of page views and shares because people think it’s stupid, ugly or idiotic. Therefore, there are a few more accurate indications of whether a blogger is influential. For starters, how many people comment and are the comments positive? You can also take a look at how many people share the blogger’s posts on Twitter and Facebook. And finally, check out how many other blogs link to that blogger in their own articles. Do other bloggers give that person credit for breaking stories? Do they get quoted a lot? All of these things are signs of influence.

So what do you think makes a person influential on the social web and beyond?

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