Straight Talker Brian Solis on Measuring Influence

In the world of social media information, there are two kinds of people: straight talkers and goofy talkers. Every time a new tool emerges promising to ratchet social media marketing up another notch, goofy talkers roll up their sleeves and go to work. Disclaimer: I have been known to be a goofy talker on occasion, but I call it playing the devil’s advocate.

The recent proliferation of social influence-measuring tools is a perfect example. Think of all the things you’ve heard about Klout: it’s the answer to everything, it’s the answer to nothing, it’s smart, it’s stupid…my head is spinning. Then came Kred, Traackr, Empire Avenue, mPact, and on and on. Each one claiming to do something the others couldn’t.

We know that defining influence is important and elusive. We forget that social media is an evolving, fairly new media whose boundaries are only as narrow as the creativity of people. However, what we really need to crack the influence nut is smart, strategic information about how to find influencers and put their social capital to work, not more questions about the legitimacy of influence tools.

And finally we have it. Altimeter’s Brian Solis has put together a new “how-to” report for business that makes sense of all the grey information floating around out there on influence. I read the report on a link from a piece he wrote for Social Media Today called, “The Pillars of Influence and How to Activate Cause and Effect,” also worth a read.

Here are some takeaways from the Altimeter report, “The Rise of Digital Influence: A How-To Guide for Business.”

  1. Understanding word-of-mouth is just the beginning.  “Responding to word of mouth in crisis is not enough. By better understanding how digital influence works, and with the help of these emerging social influence services, businesses can proactively shape and steer positive conversations and eventually desired outcomes.”
  2. Identifying influencers has the potential to take your information deep and wide and save you time and money. “Businesses have a finite amount of money and time: therefore they must identify the most connected people they can to help extend their reach.” (Dr. Bernado A. Huberman, HP influence researcher)
  3. The score is not the thing. “Influence as a score is imprecise. Brands cannot afford to make marketing or engagement decisions based on scores alone…Social capital is the key that unlocks digital influence. Companies borrow social capital from connected consumers in an effort to change behavior (influence).” There is a need to know what kind of influence your connectors have.
  4. Different tools measure different types of influence: stature within personal a network, total  reach, topical expertise, etc.  The score just represents a benchmark that “transforms a connected consumer into a potential influencer. In the end, the true measure of influence is determined by an outcome or extent of the change.”
  5. Definition of digital influence: “the ability to cause effect, change behavior, and drive measurable outcomes online.”
  6. There are three pillars that form a framework for assessing ability to influence.
    1. Reach: popularity, proximity, goodwill
    2. Resonance: frequency, period, amplitude
    3. Relevance: authority, trust, affinity
  7. Two types of graphs play into the influence scheme. The social graph (community of friends) and the interest graph (community of focus). Both can be useful.
  8. Size doesn’t always matter. David Armano (Edelman Digital) said in the report, “The size of networks to cause effect is irrelevant. The idea that only large networks can cause effect is a myth…now you can connect with people based on common  interests through the influential voices who are frequently the hub of important conversations.”
  9. A number of business goals can be furthered with the help of digital influence initiatives: brand awareness, brand resonance, WOM reach, sales, sentiment, demand, and more. For instance, if awareness is a goal, look to recruit influencers with popularity and goodwill.

The report also includes good case study reads from the Microsoft launch of Windows Phones, Starbucks’ launch of a new brew, and a Virgin America influence initiative (all done via Klout Perks). The report concludes with an introduction of the Influencer Action Plan template from Altimeter and an excellent review of influencer services (14) divided into tools for measuring reach, relevance, and resonance.

This report is a huge step in the puzzle of defining and using online influence-measuring tools effectively, and gives organizations a good start at learning how to develop influence initiatives of their own. Take a read and use the comments for your takeaways. How do you define influence?

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