Share With Me How YOU Measure Online Clout

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.”
~ Native American Proverb

Prediction (possibly for 2010): Whoever cracks the code that unlocks a really accurate way to measure online clout will be sitting on a goldmine.

Accurate is italicised for good reason. On Twitter, for instance, there are several tools (Twitalyzer, Grader, etc) that will analyse any given Twitter profile and return a score ranking that user against everybody else. But a moment of fun aside, they’re all pretty meaningless as they place far too much emphasis on number of followers, which is a quite redundant (and easily gamed) stat.

So, and continuing to focus on Twitter, where else can we measure clout? How about how often an individual is retweeted? Perhaps, but celebrities get more retweets than anybody – even the dullest of the dull – and while they certainly have a lot of influence on Twitter, that’s not quite the same thing. So retweets as a measure of clout aren’t necessarily reliable.

And it’s worth noting that just because somebody has a ton of clout on one social network doesn’t mean they necessarily have clout on the entire internet. There are lots of giants on Facebook who have absolutely no presence on Twitter whatsoever. Vin Diesel isn’t perhaps the best example of somebody with genuine clout, but with over seven million Facebook fans he’s certainly got a lot of presence, albeit limited to just the one place.

Is a couple of hundred thousand followers spread over two or three social networks more indicative of clout than several million on one? Is a thousand fans on Facebook of more value (in a clout sense) than a thousand followers on Twitter?

And what of the person with enormous offline clout who then becomes an online presence – does that reputation immediately move over from the ‘real’ world to the virtual, or does it take a little (or a lot) more than that?

It seems to be that the most accurate way we currently have to measure online clout is through good old-fashioned word of mouth. And while that is often on the money – good and bad news has a habit of travelling fast – it’s difficult to quantify and many times one man’s social media guru is another man’s snake oil peddler. (More often than not, if the latest research is to be believed.)

I don’t really have an answer here, but it’s a subject that fascinates me. Certainly, I’m curious if online clout – across all of the internet – can ever be accurately quantified and ranked.

I’ll give you an example: Seth Godin has an enormous amount of online clout (and has written an enormous amount about it). Aside from an account that sends out updates from his blog, Seth doesn’t really use Twitter, but if tomorrow he actively started tweeting he wouldn’t see a fraction of the coverage that Oprah Winfrey received when she logged on to Twitter for the first time. Oprah’s ‘real world’, offline clout dwarfs Godin’s, who is an absolute non-entity to your average man on the street. And while Winfrey’s online clout is at or close to zero – it takes just a couple of minutes to browse her Twitter account to realise this – if she ever does or says anything meaningful or controversial within her profile it will always start waves. But who has the genuine online clout? For me, it’s Godin, but for probably 90% of people, it’s Winfrey. How do you measure that? How do you rank it?

So, I’m handing this one over to you guys: please hit the comments and share with me your thoughts and feelings on the elusive, but in my opinion extremely valuable answer to this problem. When you are following a person, be that on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or any social network, via a message board or chat room, or even through an online newspaper or magazine, how do you measure their reputation? Do you have to be told that they’re this great and worthy person, or do you always find out for yourself? (Or both.) And is some clout across many mediums of more importance that absolute clout on just one?

Tell me: how do YOU measure online clout?