Tom Redwine submitted a topic idea about how we measure our online influence. I’ve been thinking about this concept for a long time. On the surface, it seems like an easy question. I thought, “Well, this will be another sort of “resource” post.” But the more I thought about it the more I thought that I really didn’t just want to list the expected answers. As I thought about that, I realized that measuring our online influence is a lot like measuring aspects of our real life, like what impact we have on other people, for example.
Because I’m torn, I’m going to answer Tom’s question in two ways. First, I’ll provide some ideas on how you can sort of start to get your arms around how you might be influencing people online. Then I’ll talk about some ways that aren’t as tangible but are just as (if not more) valuable.
Measuring Your Influence – Resources to Explore
There are two really popular ways to get an idea of your online influence right now. One is Klout and one is Empire Avenue.
I’ve talked about Klout before. It’s essentially a series of algorithms that combine to give you your Klout number (the highest possible is 100). On the surface, Klout seems to be the perfect answer to Tom’s question. You can see what topics you are influential in, who influences you, who you influence, where you rank compared to other people, and what your “reach” is – in other words, how many people see that tweet that you send out.
My problem with Klout has been and remains the fact that it seems too much about quantity and not enough about quality. If you tweet all day every day, you are likely to have a higher score than someone who only tweets a few times a day but tweets really high quality stuff. This encourages people to tweet a lot but doesn’t really encourage a super high quality to those traits. That I find bothersome.
Empire Avenue is another site people are turning to in order to get an idea of what their online influence is. Empire Avenue is more about social currency – how much stock do people place in you? Again, the gamification that is possible in this kind of context just seems too high to be meaningful. If you have a lot of Twitter followers already, you can ask them to do you a personal favor and invest in you. Does that mean you have a lot of influence? I don’t know. Maybe you’re able to get people to do stuff for you, but you already have that mechanism built in.
Peer Index is another influence measurement system. I’ll be honest and say I don’t know a whole lot about it – it doesn’t seem to get as much traction or play as Klout or Empire Avenue. If you have thoughts about Peer Index, please feel free to educate me along with everyone else who pops by!
In addition to these “influence measurement” systems, you can also look at things like your Google Analytics. How are people finding your blog site? You can look at the number of likes you get on Facebook (although again, the gaming involved in that kind of endeavor kind of negates the meaning of it). I might also throw out there taking a look at how people are engaging with you across Social Media platforms. Are your blogs getting tweeted a lot? Are a lot of people on Twitter following you to Facebook or Google Plus? These are less specific measurements of your online footprint.
The less tangible stuff…meet Clarence
One of my most favorite movies of all time is It’s a Wonderful Life, and one of my most favorite parts is when Jimmy Stewart’s character is taken through his life by Clarence the Angel to see all of the lives that he unknowingly affected just by doing what he did. This scene beautifully encapsulates how we can touch other people in our lives and in the world, for ill or for good, without even meaning to.
In the online world, this is equally true. Let me give you a really neat example from my own experience.
About a month or so ago, I wrote up a post listing 60 women in the online world who I think are the bee’s knees. I wanted to highlight these women because they do great things and darn it, they deserve recognition! This past week, a friend told me that her appearance on that list came up in a job interview and that the interviewers were impressed she was on that list. Imagine my surprise that something I put together could reach employers in a place far from where I live, a fact that ended up impacting a friend I interact with on a regular basis.
Does that speak to me about my online influence? It does. Does that matter to me more than my Klout score? It sure does.
The problem, of course, is that we don’t always hear about things like this. We are often left to wonder if we are getting through to anyone at all. But this experience has led me to believe that everything we put out here really can reach any given person at any given time.
For me, the answer to Tom’s question is that you can’t really measure your online influence, but you can mold it to be the way you want it to be.
That’s just my opinion, though. I tend to favor the squishy and intangible. What do you think?
Image by Bert van ‘t Hul. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/bertvthul