Should You Reconsider How You Measure Online Influence?

Have you ever considered how becoming an influencer in a selected subject matter could impact your business? If so, you have probably explored Klout, Peer Index and other tools for measuring online influence, so you could determine how you were stacking up to the competition. In doing so, you probably learned that online influence is a function of reach, impact, efficiency, and predictability within a given subject matter.

Online Influence = Reach + Impact + Efficiency + Content Relevance +Predictability

Each of these applications uses some combination of these factors across a number of online channels to measure online influence. Below are commonly accepted definitions of each of these inputs:
Reach: the number of people that you can influence either directly or indirectly via a given channel
Impact: the quality of influence that an individual is able to exert via a channel
Efficiency: the marginal return that can be expected per a resource or unit of time
Content Relevance: the focus of an individual in terms of content
Predictability: the predictability and consistency of an individual within a given channel

However, there is one factor you probably did not consider when looking at these metrics: how much weight does the algorithm place on each channel? This information is proprietary and has likely been altered over time, but one thing is clear. These weights do not adjust with subject matter and consequently these scores are an imprecise measurement of influence that should be taken with a grain of salt.

Take, for example, the venture capital space. The ultimate goal of influencers in this space is to increase their company’s competitiveness in winning deals. To do so, they are trying to drive brand awareness for their company, demonstrate their startup or expansion stage business acumen, and provide entrepreneurs with a glimpse of what it would be like to work with them (since investors generally end up sitting on a company’s board). Thus, it would make sense for venture capital firms to target investor information and early stage business best practices as key subject matters of influence. However, when OpenView surveyed entrepreneurs about where they go to learn about this information, we learned that 0% rely on Facebook for finding information about investors and only 7.1% utilize it for learning about early stage business best practices. Based on this, it is very clear that Facebook is not a very good channel of influence for a venture capital company.

This is not to say that Facebook would not be a great influence channel for a gaming company or a e-commerce business. In fact, I would be willing to bet it would be. The point I am making is that the importance of each channel is variable across subject matters and industries. This is not reflected in any of these algorithms and I doubt it ever will be due to the complexity of integrating the information.

To be successful as an influencer, you need to incorporate this factor into your influence strategy. And to accurately evaluate your online influence in a given subject matter you need to account for the importance that your target audience places on each of these channels.

OpenView Labs used this methodology to rank the top 10 technology venture capitalists in a report that we published earlier this week called Social Media Mavens: A Look at Venture Capitalists on the Web. We also explain exactly how we went about doing so. OpenView Labs plans to publish a sister report later this quarter ranking the online influence of technology venture capital companies. I highly recommend reading these reports to get a better sense of how to think about influence channel strategy and how to evaluate your influence efforts.

Over the next few weeks, I will write a series of posts sharing effective influencer tactics for blogging, Twitter, and LinkedIn channels that we learned from our research for this report.

Brandon Hickie is a market research associate with OpenView Partners. Opinions expressed here are entirely his own.

Image credit: Photo of OpenView logo courtesy of OpenView Partners

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