Measuring Online “Influence”: More Context Please
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Measuring Online “Influence”: More Context Please

Paul Holmes

Okay, I get it: provocative headlines help attract attention. But I can’t help thinking that in this instance—“Justin Bieber is more influential online than the Dalai Lama or U.S. President”—the shock value is counter-productive. The Guardian’s story is based on findings from Klout, described by its creators as "the standard for online and internet influence." According to the report, “a complicated series of algorithms, the system adds up a person's tweets, likes, pings, LinkedIn connections, Google mentions, status updates and other social media musings. The ripple effect of that online contribution is used to measure how much influence a person has online and, by inference, whether they are worth listening to.” Unfortunately, the conclusion undermines the methodology. If the folks at Klout really believe that Bieber is “more influential” than Obama, either their measurement system or their definition of influence is deeply flawed. The most obvious conclusion is that this new “standard for online influence” lacks context, that it fails to ask important questions such as influence over whom, and influence to what end. Corporate communicators looking to learn a little more about online influencers from this system would do well to drill a little deeper.
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