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Some Thoughts On Measuring Influence. Some, Admittedly, Douchier Than Others.

Some Thoughts On Measuring Influence. Some, Admittedly, Douchier Than Others.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about online influence and how to measure it. This is always the case, but most recently the focus has been on Twitter and who is most influential on Twitter and why, which seems particularly absurd to me, since I don’t see how anybody could build Twitter as their exclusive platform anyway, even if we had an accurate tool to measure influence there. Anil Dash wrote another good post about the fact that follower counts are horseshit because of the “who to follow” function and suggested users when you sign up. Also, the new(ish) tool for measuring influence on Twitter, Klout, is attempting to gain ground by doing things like making deals with the Palms casino in Vegas and Virgin Airlines to give special VIP treatment according to Klout score, and rather than interpreting this for what it is — a marketing maneuver paid for by Klout (the Klout party at Blog World Expo was hosted at the Palms, and I’m guessing this was not a coincidence) — some bloggers are using this as evidence of Klout being the same thing as clout. Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking about influence and how it manifests itself, and how it could be measured, if it could be measured. Below are some disorganized thoughts on the topic.

1. My Klout score Is 31, and it was 28 before I registered on the Klout website.

A Klout score of 28 gives me the Klout authority, roughly, of your neighbor’s Persian cat. Maybe a little less Klout than your neighbor’s Persian cat, if your neighbor’s Persian cat happens to be featured on Icanhascheezeburger.com a lot. So, basically, I don’t have any Klout, but I was able to increase my score by 9% just by signing up with them, thank goodness. I wonder how they measure influence — other than buying into the idea of Klout, of course. Let’s see: retweets, and @replies, “amplification of message” and “engagement with influencers.” Hmmm. Well, that would be a tough one, huh? When you are somebody who tweets things that are, say, like this, in reaction to the behavior of one of the “influencers” in question:

You don’t tend to get a whole lot of “engagement” with the “influencers.” You also don’t get a lot of retweets, because people are too afraid to retweet that. But what you do get is a bunch of DMs going on behind the scenes, both to you and to other people. Does that count as influence? I don’t know. Because I have a Klout score of 28. So if I need to get a reservation at The Palms, I’m calling up this @800dailygiveaways woman and seeing if she can get me that suite with the basketball court.

2. The most influential statements are tough to retweet.

Not all retweets are created equal. It’s easy to retweet things that are shallow, just like it’s easy to comment on a post that is about something mundane or that directly asks for practical advice. If you tweet something thought-provoking or controversial, you are less likely to get a retweet or an @-reply because it’s more difficult to respond to those kinds of tweets, particularly on Twitter. There are only a handful of users who will respond to you on those things, and they will make up your core group. This does not mean you are not influencing people with those tweets. It also doesn’t mean that all of those retweets about “awesome, inspiring posts” denote influence whatsoever. The only thing they often denote is some effort to kiss ass or repay a previous retweet on the part of one user to another. It’s easy to retweet a post about zombies or bacon, but that doesn’t mean the person who originally tweeted it is influential.

3. Several of the people on the Klout list of mommybloggers are people I had to unfollow because of Twitter party spam.

This isn’t meant as a slam on the actual users themselves, because as far as I know they are great people. However, I question a means of measuring influence that marks several people as “influential” that I personally unfollowed *only* because the volume of sponsored tweets/Twitter party hashtag spam was so high that I couldn’t stand it anymore. They are being retweeted and engaged with because *they are paying people to do it*.

4. All lists are arbitrary, but this one annoys me because it pretends to be scientific.

Whenever there is a list released in the mommyblogosphere, there’s a problem. There are hurt feelings, people don’t understand why the same people are included, or why one person was left off. This one is uniquely annoying in that it uses some kind of algorithm that makes it seem as though it should be credible, but in reality it’s just as flawed as the others. Influence manifests itself in a variety of ways, some more public than others. Some people are influential in a very public way. People can see how influential somebody like Oprah is in, say, female populations, because there isn’t a lot of shame in saying you like Oprah. But what if you were to try to track Oprah’s influence in a male population? You’d still get an idea that she’s influential, but it wouldn’t be an accurate portrait of how influential she is, because there are huge sections of the male population who are simply not going to cop to being Oprah fans.

5. Best of lists and tools to measure influence in social media are just traffic grabs and/or tools for lazy brands and marketers.

At best, the “best of” mommyblogger lists lead to a huge rush of traffic for Babble (and all of the other websites that publish them on a semi-regular basis). At worst, they are a means of giving marketers an easy and inaccurate way of figuring out who these supposedly powerful mommybloggers are that they should be targeting for their pitches. So all of those awful PR pitches that people like to complain about, in effect, can be traced back to these kinds of lists. It’s annoying. Everything about it is annoying. Stop giving these people credibility by acting as if the process is legitimate.

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Comments (14)

  1. Oct 25, 2010

    I was going to agree with you, but then I looked, and my score is 33. Apparently I’m more influential on you. These are the topics on which I’m influential:

    Vegetarianism (I’m a vegetarian, and sometimes I ask Twitter questions about meat, like how much of it I need to buy when I am having carnivores over)

    Barbie (I tweeted ONCE about putting together my kid’s Barbie Dream house, and several people retweeted it)

    Ikea (I went there twice in a month once, and complained about it. Then I complained once more, about having to put the furniture together)

    Bacon (Once I said I was sick of hearing about bacon. Another time I wrote a post with a title that was something like “This post is about bacon” so that people would click on it and I could make fun of them for doing so.)

    Wisconsin (Well, yes. I live in Wisconsin. I did not know I was influential here. I am debating whether to use my influence to save us from the awful Republican who is about to become our next Senator…or to get the natives to stop wearing wedges of cheese on their heads, at least when a TV camera is pointed at them. I’ll ponder it.)

    Pork (It took me a while, but I finally remembered that once I tweeted that I was having such a weird day that if a pig flew by my window, wouldn’t be surprised. Apparently this makes me influential pork-wise, even though I haven’t eaten pork in 20 years or so, and I’m not even sure what sorts of meats come from pork.)

    It picked up NONE of the topics where I might actually have some influence.

    So, in conclusion: this is the dumbest thing ever. That’s pretty much always the case where people take a normal word and give it a kooky spelling.

  2. Oct 25, 2010

    You intrigued me, so I went to check my score. I was surprised to even have a score (10), but giggled like a schoolgirl when it went up to 27 (?!) after registering.

    So, I think I’ve pretty much proven your point #1.

  3. Oct 25, 2010

    Uhhh… I have a Klout score of 26, even though my Twitter stream is private? How the hell do they know?

    I call shenanigans. Also, I suspect my neighbor’s cat is more influential than I am.

  4. Oct 25, 2010

    Well, you WERE more influential than I am (on Ikea, pork, bacon, and Barbie) until I wrote this post. Because now, my score is 35. Somehow. I have now moved up into the realm of Portuguese Waterdog who lives down the street influence.

  5. Oct 25, 2010

    Wow. More than 100% increase for just signing up, huh? Did you click through to the post I linked where everybody is lining up to talk about how wonderful Klout is? And did you notice that this post has three comments? I love the mommyblogosphere!

  6. Oct 25, 2010

    Because . . . they KNOW. OOGA BOOGA. Your neighbor’s cat is totally more influential than you are. But don’t worry, I will put in a good word with the 500giveawaysaday chick for you.

  7. Oct 25, 2010

    I really don’t like Twitter. I have to sift through so much garbage to see a few interesting tweets. I agree that a lot of tweeting seems like ass kissing, or worse, ads. On the other hand, if someone gives you a mention, it’s nice to say thank you.

  8. Oct 25, 2010

    It’s funny – did you realize that Peter Shankman of HARO wrote a post that’s the opposite of yours today? (see here: http://shankman.com/thoughts-on-klout-psychology/) After reading it I was shaking my head and saying “really? I’ve got to worry about *another* popularity contest? The Interwebs feels more like high school every day” until I saw your post in my reader. So thank you.

    (I upped my own score by connecting it to Facebook. I also moved from being a Socializer to being a Specialist. What a relief! Everyone knows that only kids who are in marching band are Socializers. Oh, wait, I was in marching band. For four years.)

  9. Oct 25, 2010

    All those “popularity” lists are so annoying. Have you seen the content on many of those blogs? A good majority – I love. But the rest – yawn.

    I have a score of 50 w/o registering or whatnot and I’m not on the official Klout list.

  10. Oct 25, 2010

    Well. I signed up and now I am a 28.

  11. Oct 25, 2010

    I’m starting to think those are paid placements. I’m not kidding. This is a totally unfounded accusation, but that’s how these stupid “articles” are reading to me. Either the entire blogosphere has completely misplaced their cerebral cortex, or Klout is paying people to write about how their service is OMG FUCKING AWESOME.

  12. I think I’m just going to start re-tweeting myself, install the Alexa toolbar on my computer, link all my social media accounts to each other, accept all friend requests and start writing controversial posts just to piss people off. That should get me on at least one list. *snort

    There are a few people I agree with in terms of their being on those types of lists. The deserve it because they write really, really well. Others? I can only shake my head. But, Babble gets people talking and in the end that seems to be their goal.

    Thanks for putting this more in perspective. I didn’t make the Palms/Virigin connection.

  13. Oct 26, 2010

    Non-signed up I have a Klout of 19 and my topics are tonic water, anxiety and insomnia. I get the last two, but tonic water? What?

    Anyway, this sort of stuff skeeves me out. I don’t know..the sense of entitlement combined with a blown out sense of importance mixed with attention-starved sycophants begging for a nod of acknowledgment seems like it will all lead to bad things. Bleh.

    Unrelated, I *really* need a list of mommybloggers so I can keep up with the various snark twitter feeds. Guesswork takes too much time.

  14. Nov 3, 2010

    Screw you guys, I have a Klout score of 53 so I am all about THIS IS REAL!

    Also, I am a “thought leader” and most influential about iPhone

    Which is awesome, because #izeafest happened like two years ago.

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