How to measure internet influence

This article was first published on November 15, 2010 at The Online Marketing Mix.

Marketing requires that you influence the attitudes and decisions of others, and there really is no more cost-effective tool to try to influence others than the internet. But how can we measure our internet influence?

To begin with, we need to take a look at the range of tools that we use to spread our influence. Using a wide variety of the top-tier social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube is a good initial indicator that your influence is spread across a wide variety of platforms.

It may pay dividends to specialise in using a particular tool or platform. For instance some people become YouTube superstars, or prominent at blogging, and that is fine, but that does not mean that it does not also reap rewards to extend your influence beyond your normal audience in an attempt to influence others in others on other social media platforms.

It used to be that followers or friends was the equivalent of influence. But nowadays, many individuals and organisations ‘game’ the social media systems by offering prizes or special offers – essentially, bribes – simply for following them. The ‘pure’ currency of counting followers in order to measure influence is nowadays devalued so we need to look at other ways in which we can measure influence.

Ways to measure influence on Twitter would be to see how many people re-tweeted a particular tweet. People tend only to re-tweet things which are particularly interesting or profound, so those who get multiple re-tweets are likely to be exercising more influence than those who simply have lots of followers. Similarly, those who receive a lot of replies to their tweets are also likely to have a wide sphere of influence, and those people who are tweeted about are also more likely to be exercising influence over others.

If you put your mind to it, it is now relatively easy to build up a friendship base numbering in the hundreds. We all probably have friends on Facebook who themselves have a disproportionately large following of friends, here again we can see that the purist interpretation of equating a large number of friends with a large influence is not necessarily the case. Perhaps a better way to measure influence on Facebook would be to analyse how many people make comment on or ‘like’ the updates you post, or how many people share with others the videos or pictures that you shared with them.

As with Twitter, on Facebook people really only pass on or comment on the things which they find interesting, so if your comments or status updates are not being liked or shared or commented upon, you might want to consider why that is the case.

Let us not forget your website in all this. You may have a normal website which people can just read, or you may have a website that you blog at which people can leave comments on, and there are ways to measure influence with both these types of website.

Firstly, take a look at your site statistics. Most website hosts offer site statistics as part of their package, but you might want to look at Google Analytics as a way to help you measure influence. Note the difference between ‘visitors’ and ‘visits’. You might get a lot of visits, but if the number of visitors stays low over time then consider how to increase the number of individual visitors you have. Also, check how long people spend on your website. If you have a blog and the average time per visit is measured in minutes rather than seconds then your influence is probably on the up.

Bounce rate is also an important indicator. The ‘bounce rate’ is simply an indication of how many people ‘bounced’ away from your site after reading only one page. Ideally, you want a low bounce rate which would indicate that visitors to your site find a variety of the content on your site interesting.

If you are running a blog, how many people leave comments on your posts? Do other people cite you in their blogs, link to you or share your musings on Twitter or Facebook?

As you can see, there are many ways to measure influence. Simply counting the number of friends or followers in your network may not be the best benchmark.

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