How do you measure influence? There’s no definitive answer because ‘influence’ can mean many different things. But generally it can be broken down into three key types.
1. Volume: How frequently does this person talk? are they a compulsive tweeter, or do they only post once a month? The more they talk, the more opportunities you have to share your message.
2. Readership: Who (and how many) listen to them? If Stephen Fry mentions you then great! Don’t ignore people who don’t have masses of followers – consider the ripple effect – if influential people listen to what this person has to say then you have the potential to engage with them through your new found friend.
3. Relevance: What do they usually talk about? There may be a popular, frequent blogger who mentions your brand, but if their popularity is built on their expertise in a totally different area, then they may be no use to you. This is most important in specialist areas. Finding a good blogger who specialises in financial services could be the aim, but finding a footballer mentioning his mortgage might not fit your strategy!
There is data available which helps you separate the wheat from the chaff in the blogosphere. Sites likeTechnorati and Alexa have access to millions of blogs, and rank them based on traffic. A high Technorati or Alexa ranking means a high-traffic blog.
There is also many sites which monitor incoming links (or back-links). This is the number of other sites which link to the blog page you’re looking at. The greater the number of incoming links the greater the potential reach of the blog. This ties into page rank – Google PageRank is a good representation of the prominence of a blog on the search engine. Taking the example of financial services from earlier, if someone types ‘mortgage advice’ into Google, you’ll know how far down the page your blogger comes.
What about Twitter? It’s easy to see the number of followers a person has, and who they are. You can also see how many tweets they have posted, and what their area of interest is by looking at what they’ve said. However, it can be a laborious process comparing all this data to work out who the best people to engage with are.
If blogger outreach is a priority, and you want to have all the key information collated and presented in a tidy format, then social media monitoring tools may hold the answer. Yes, they can be expensive, and yes some bits work better than others, but tools like Radian6, Alterian SM2 and Meltwater Buzz will present you with analysis which could prove useful.
Radian6 has a ‘Social Profiles’ section which can establish which accounts across social media belong to the same person. This means if you find an interesting tweet, you can see if the poster also has a blog, Facebook page etc, and look at the various stats on followers. They rate influence out of one hundre, and the criteria are customisable by the user, so if you want to focus on volume rather than readership you can do so!
Alterian SM2 has the capacity to identify important sites as well as influential people. Ranked from 1-10, it is easy to compare and play around with the system to see who is influential, and where they are talking. As with most social media monitoring tools, this analysis is automated, so be cautious, and always check who is being recommended.
Meltwater Buzz has the ‘Meltwater Rank’, which is an aggregation of Alexa, Technorati, and various others. You can drill down and look at the specific data making up the rank, but influencers are initially identified by how frequently they have mentioned the keyword. If a VIP mentions the term only once, they may not be picked up as an influencer.
The most important thing to remember when you find an influential person in social media is that they are influential for a reason. When you talk to them always bear in mind that they’re at liberty to write whatever they want so tread carefully. A brand ambassador with thousands of followers can be invaluable, but annoy an important blogger and you’ll have real problems!