Influence is More than Just a Number

My last post was about online influence.  I suggested looking beyond the most obvious metrics when trying to take the pulse of someone's influence, in other words, size, or reach, for example, may not matter as much as other factors.

Now, I go one step further and advise against taking any single number, formula or metric too seriously.  There is no subsitute for being close to an industry – or, better, hearing from actual customers – about the content sources and people that influence buying decisions.  Let me explain by way of an example.

We were working with a client in the area of business intelligence, and had discussed briefing a boutique analyst – one who seemed to have all the right influencer "bells and whistles" (names have been concealed for reasons that will soon become obvuous).

The analyst is prolific on social media, and well-known in the industry.  Over years of working in the data management and BI spaces, our team had become somewhat familiar with this person – we had seen his name around, and were impressed with his prevalence in online discussions about the space.

However, in comparing notes with the client, we collectively decided not to pursue a relationship with said analyst.  While he may look great on paper, this person is also known for having opinions that are "coin operated," shall we say, and for being somewhat of a loose cannon.  In other words, regardless of his influence on BI purchasing (which was unclear, in any event), we decided not to, due to the potential stigma and risks from too close an association.

This gets to the importance of taking into account reputation, as Britt Michaelian so eloquently pointed out in her recent post Social Media Influence vs Online Reputation.

So,while it may be tempting, be wary of efforts to boil influence down to a number. Whether it's 1000 Twitter followers or one million, Klout or some other score; there is no foolproof system for indentifying the best influencers for a space. Ultimately, there's no substitute for knowing the players and hearing directly from customers about how they make buying decisions.



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