What’s inside your influence score?

Recursive ingredient list

In a recent conversation about social media influence, the topic of influence scores came up as a way of measuring how influential someone is. Various influence measures are available to us for identifying who we should do outreach to, including Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, Moz Influence Score, and many new entrants.

One of the key questions you need to ask is whether you know what goes into any influence score, what the ingredients are. If you don’t know what goes into an algorithm, you can’t know what results it’s delivering for you. Edison Research VP of Strategy Tom Webster pithily defines an algorithm as “data + assumptions”, and it’s the latter half, the assumptions, that cause influence score problems.

What assumptions went into the influence score of your choice? Does it rely on things like follower counts? Engagement of content? Reshares and retweets? Unless you know, you don’t have an understanding of what kind of influence you’re targeting. Influence scores based on audience size (followers, etc.) can mean a marketing program based heavily on reach, but not engagement. Influence scores based on sharing can mean distribution, but not necessarily audience size, so if your program goal is broad reach, that sort of influence score won’t work for you.

If you don’t know what goes into the influence score you’re using, you have two options. First, switch to one that does disclose its algorithm. This isn’t always a realistic choice, however, as many of them promote their “proprietary algorithm”. The second option is to do a blended index of influence scores, to smooth out the differences in individual algorithms. This is famously how Nate Silver called the 2012 elections, by averaging together many different polling data sets.

Whatever approach you take, know what kind of influence you’re measuring before you built a strategy and program on top of it!

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Strategy

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Posted on September 23, 2014 in Analytics, Influence, Social Media

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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