The Web, as we knew it a few years back is no more. Broadcast is now an outcast. It’s social now, and the transformation from seeing the Web as a megaphone to as a telephone is all but complete. Also, as the conversation shifts online, we are witnessing another remarkable shift – that of influence. And the implications of that are nothing short of profound.
Is social a radical new concept?
Not really. I mean if you come to think of it, this transformation of the Web is quite intuitive and follows naturally from the fact that humans by nature are social. And from that perspective it becomes easy to understand the rapid evolution of multiple platform technologies that have enabled the present day Web to be more natural and easy-to-use than the machine-inspired, static code of the older times. As a result, people of all ages from all the various strata of society have been able to find a channel for making their presence felt online and are sharing their ideas freely, frequently, and globally. We exist today in what is being called as the 'knowledge economy'.
So how does this impact me?
Well, it all comes down to differentiation. Think of it this way, why do you need to get into a great school? Why do you need awesome CV points? To differentiate yourself from your competition...to stand out. This goes as much for individuals as for consumer products. When everyone you know is online, the game is not anymore about visibility – the real thing is credibility. And credibility is what builds influence, and influence drives action. Therefore, whether you’re looking for a new career, or connecting with other like-minded people, or growing in your current profession, or even promoting and selling your product, building influence for your personal or business brand is key.
Got it, but how do I know how influential I am...by the number of my connections?
As you might have guessed, your online influence is only partially determined by the number of your connections. What’s key really is how your connections engage with you, which translates into the strength of your network. Measuring influence is still an evolving area, but there are multiple metrics out there that are attempting to build standards for online influence. Needless to say, it’s not an exact science and depending on who you ask, there are strong opinions on both why they are inaccurate and only activity-based, as well as why they are doing quite a great job at analysing influence.
Let me briefly introduce you to some of the most popular measures of online influence these days:
The Klout Score is a number between 1-100, which essentially represents your influence. Klout claims to arrive at this composite score by measuring data/signals from multiple social networks as well as “real world data” from say LinkedIn, Bing, Wikipedia, etc. Broadly determined by a ratio of the engagement you generate with your social network compared to the amount of content that you share, the Klout score remains arguably the most popular of all influence metrics out there right now.
The Kred Score, in addition to influence, measures something known as “Outreach”, which reflects on how you interact with others and help them spread their message online. Influence is measured on a 1000 point scale, whereas Outreach is measured on an infinite scale, as generosity is assumed to be infinite! Kred also claims to be more transparent than others, as it tells you exactly how your score has been calculated and what actions have impacted it, though critics argue that its transparency in turn makes it quite vulnerable to manipulation.
Although having an approach similar to Klout and Kred for measuring influence, PeerIndex relates more to the type of content you generate and the people who consume and interact with it. Aiming to identify your authority on a particular topic, the PeerIndex helps you understand the kind of people you influence online and to what extent.
And your point is?
The world has gone online and the social web is a reality, which has redefined the entire scope and scale of conversations among people. To drive action in this super-connected and super-social world, one needs to grow in influence, which too is gradually shifting online. Influence is impacted by various factors and the most important amongst them are credibility, expertise and the ability to convince others. Many new start-ups are intently focused on grading this influence and have developed multiple tools for the purpose. Even though there remain many limitations of these novel methods, depending on the context these new metrics provide quite useful information about one’s ability to drive action or one's social capital, and that has profound implications from a business perspective. The accuracy of these tools is only going to improve further, and true influencers would play a very important role in the new knowledge economy.
What do you think of these new approaches to quantify influence? Share with us in the comments.
© Jayant Rana, 2013
Images courtesy: photoraidz / KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net; Salty Waffle; Thomas Hawk / Foter / CC BY-NC