Digital Influence is Real. Measuring It? Not So Much

Altimeter Research has released a new report on The Rise of Digital Influence, written by respected social media analyst Brian Solis. The report provides a good overview of an important, emergent topic in social business, and I’m grateful to Brian and his colleagues for sharing their original research.

For now, however, I’m taking this whole field of digital influence measurement with a huge grain of salt (–>).

There’s no question that digital influence is a real phenomenon, and that it’s increasingly important in sales, marketing, and customer service. Like everyone, I live and work in overlapping networks of people, and in every group there are invariably a few people we all regard as mini-celebrities for their deep knowledge and passion in some domain, whether it’s Italian food or improvisational jazz. And yes, social networks provide brands with new ways to identify and connect with these disproportionately influential people.
But having reviewed the methodologies behind the algorithms used, I’m pretty skeptical of the current value of these services.

Part of the problem is that none of the services available today measures true influence, including the really important stuff people do in the offline world. Instead, their software algorithms are limited to tracking social capital and topical authority based on specific kinds of online activity.

Also, no one has yet provided data proving the effectiveness of any of the influence metric systems available, in part because even the vendors aren’t really clear on what’s being measured. I’m sure this will improve greatly over the next few years; we’re just not there yet.

Bonus! The report includes an appendix comparing the products from 14 vendors in the digital influence space (Appinions, eCairn, Empire Avenue, Klout, Kred, mPACT, PeerIndex, PROskore, Radian6, Traackr, TweetLevel, TweetReach, Twitalyzer, and TwitterGrade).

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Altimeter Research report: http://www.slideshare.net/Altimeter/the-rise-of-digital-influence

Rock salt crystal image courtesy of włodi via Flickr.

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