Measuring Social Influence: The Big Picture

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0 - to - 100 in your social

0 – to – 100 in your social

After an intense week of social networking that ended with a conference, (Distilled in New Orleans) I think I finally have a better understanding of what I should be doing. It’s taken a long path to get me here; I thought I’d share it with you, our readers, in the hopes that you’ll gain some usefulness.

Sometimes, I think about hiring someone else to do my social networking – some social media guru who can turn each tweet into gold. According to the analytics, according to the numbers, I’m doing it wrong.

A WTF Moment…

For instance, when you’re unfollowed by over 300 people in a week, it’s a big hit to the ego. This happened, although I haven’t changed anything. I engage with my followers, share great links, and continue to add great people to my Twitter and Facebook lists.

Now, around Level343, everyone can attest social is a big topic for me. This is one reason we love to include various social networking blogs. Every so often, we even send them out as guest posts. I’ve been an avid troller of top Twitter analyzers, in fact.

Now, let me be really honest and quite opinionated; none of us get it. I don’t’ care if it’s a paid or free tool, not one of these things has been truly able to capture how well we’re doing with our social networks. How can I tell?

Signs of Movement, Authority and Influence…

  • We often receive wonderful emails from our readers.
  • We close new clients on a monthly basis.
  • At conferences, people recognize me and talk about the impact we’ve had on their lives and work.
  • In short, there’s been a lot of positive movement and recognition as authorities in certain areas of the online marketing industry.

And yet… and yet, I look at Klout, Twitalyzer, the top respected analytics (or at least the ones everyone says they use), and my accounts suck. Not only do they suck, but also they tell a tale of miserable failing.

To Hell With the Numbers

To hell with numbers

To hell with numbers

What I’ve noticed is the RT’s you get, how many new followers per week, how many FollowFridays you’re mentioned on – they don’t matter. I don’t care what the numbers show. Why?


The metrics by which they’re choosing to grade me are not of value to me.

Let’s take influence, as an example. What does it really mean for these programs? Not too much in the grand scheme of things. A better measure of influence for us seems to be things like:

  • Amount of incoming traffic – Is it going up?
  • Amount of visitors – Are there more return than new? If yes, good.
  • Comments – Are readers commenting and engaging?
  • Engagement – Are followers responding in conversation?
  • Clients – Do we have any?
  • Potential Clients – Are people contacting us for work?

See, we put out approximately 15 – 20 pieces of content a month. We get excellent returns for those pieces, especially when you consider how many writers work on our blog. Depending on where they’re posted, we get anywhere from 30 – 300 RTs, 40+ comments, lots of good link love and meet wonderful people who read and like them.

The Big Picture

This may not seem like a lot to some people, but we have to look at the big picture. The big picture is a 2000% growth or more in all areas of our site over the eight, nine months. It’s working with the type of clients we’re looking for – the ones who respect our opinions and expertise. It’s people coming to us for thoughts about XYZ or asking us how to do ABC.

This isn’t braggadocio; far from it. This is simply pointing out that, no matter what the Twitalyzers or Klouts or InfluenceXYZPrograms say, we’re doing something right. Could I buy followers off eBay? Could I manipulate or otherwise game these systems to artificially hike my scores? Could I fake these results? We all know the answer to these questions.

The Total Answer, Bright Light, Shining Lightbulb of Understanding

Thinking about all this, it hit me. I could fake those results and get the numbers I really want to see. Not only that, but nobody would know the difference! How can these signals continue to be as important as they’ve been knowing that?

So what’s the real answer, then, if it isn’t numbers?

Well, as much as we use social strategy as a way to get numbers, we need to change what we look at. We’re building a community, not just a way to funnel money to our site. If you really want to build a brand, as I wanted to do when I first started engaging through social media, you have to have a face.

People have to know who you are to be able to really like what you say.

Real influence is changing. For example, You’d think the New York Post is influential wouldn’t you? Yet, for every 45 articles they put out, they might get one link back (or one citation). Other places, you can post two articles to get a link. Some places, a single article can get tons of links, in the form of quotes, citations, or ongoing conversation about the article.

What’s Important to You?

What’s important to you

As a CEO, brand strategist, etc, what’s important to you? Is it having high numbers? Do you want blind influence, or do you want people who actually engage with you, come to you for help, or merely to say hi? To me, this is more powerful than numbers can ever be.


So, it finally comes down to building a community instead of faking one. You can have a ton of fake storefronts to make something look like a huge town (metaphorically speaking), but a stiff wind can blow it over, right? Think about your favorite influence measurement tool – could it withstand a rough smack?

In other words, if you lost 300 people in one week, what would happen to your numbers? Would you freak out if your numbers dropped dramatically?


We need to find other ways to measure how we’re doing in social. How can you really measure if what you’re doing is working? Can you really trust these numbers – should you?

Let’s finish this article up with this: look for other ways to find out how you’re doing. Don’t forget about the people who follow, read, and learn to respect you. They aren’t just numbers. They’re your business cheerleaders.

What do you think? What signals should we really be using to measure our social standing?

By |2017-05-29T05:00:25-07:00March 28th, 2011|Branding, Online Marketing, Social Media|

About the Author:

International SEO consultant is my title...but who cares about those? What I love is creating strategies that include marketing, social, SEO, relevance, ruffling feathers and starting revolutions. What you read on this blog will hopefully inspire you to continue the conversation. When I'm not multitasking around Level343 I sneak away and go sailing. I'm crazy about pistachios, and of course Nutella.