Online Influence and Smoke-Filled Back Rooms

Online Influence and Smoke-Filled Back Rooms

The other day a friend took a poke at me on Twitter by noting that my Klout score had dropped and that another friend had risen above me. Now this friend was joking because he knows I don’t take Klout seriously, but beyond that, there was a simple explanation for the drop in my score. Because of our move, I took a few weeks off from blogging, and greatly reduced my activity on Twitter, Faceook, and other social platforms. Since I returned a few days ago, my score has begun to rise again.

So does the reduction of my activity online mean I am any less influential than I was when my score was three points higher the week before? And am I now regaining influence merely by increasing my activity online?

Thankfully, it seems as though many are beginning to see through the fallacy that is Klout, and are understanding that you just can’t simply create an algorithm based on online activity, frequency of activity, level of engagement, number of retweets, and more. I just don’t believe it can be done. Even if you are able to somehow include more contextual elements and sentiment analysis, there are too many other factors that can’t be quantified.


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These algorithms can only measure what is done publicly online. Period.

What about offline influence? Like any other aspect of our lives, you can’t really separate online and offline influence. In the same way you can’t separate online and offline marketing and communications. They work hand in hand.

What about private influence? Remember those smoke-filled back rooms of yesteryear where deals were made? I live just a few blocks from the Hamilton Club, a private social club that dates to the late 1800′s. There was a time when it was limited to only men, and I’m sure there were plenty of back room handshake deals made in smoke filled rooms back in the day. They were more important and more binding than any of the deals made in public.

The same thing happens in the online world. For all of the public conversations I have on Twitter or Facebook, I have many more privately with some of the same people. Whether it be Facebook chat, Twitter DMs, Skype, Gchat, or email, this is where the more important conversations take place. The public tweets and updates only go so far. Big decisions and more important sharing go on behind the scenes.

Add to all of this the ever changing dimensions of influence

. Positive vs. Negative influence. Varying levels of influence. Influence across categories. And so on.

These are just a few of the reasons that I’m not convinced influence can be measured.

Don’t get me wrong; I believe in influence, and believe that it can be a powerful tool if harnessed properly for marketing. But I don’t believe it will be done through any level of algorithm or measurement. I believe that the human touch and sentiment will always be needed in identifying influence and influencers, more so than any number. Much more so.

This is also why I’m eagerly awaiting the May release of the new book Influence Marketing from my friends Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella. I’m not sure I’ll agree with them on every point, but they approach the topic from a very balanced and reasoned angle. I love reading their blog on influence marketing, and would encourage you to do the same as we move into new and nuanced areas of the world of social media.

Will I continue to take Klout perks when offered? You bet! But it’s all a game that’s waiting to be gamed. It has no meaning.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe influence is something that can be measured with any level of accuracy?

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