Whether you realize it or not, every tweet, comment and “Like” is being scrutinized and scored for your social influential power. Companies like Klout and Kred are developing complex algorithms that attempt to standardize social influence and evaluate your social muscle to develop strategic business insights for influencer strategies. However, social scores should be taken with a grain of salt, as these algorithms are yet to capture the full picture.  Thankfully, Mark Schaefer analyzes social scoring in his new book Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing. Mark is a globally-recognized educator, speaker, business consultant, and author. His well-known blog {grow}, has been named one of the AdAge Top 150 marketing blogs in the world. In anticipation of our Return on Influence webinar next week, we sat down with Mark for some Q and A.

After writing The Tao of Twitter, what made you focus specifically on influence?
In a way, my new book, Return on Influence, is an extension of the philosophy outlined in The Tao of Twitter. Tao focused on mindset, not just tools, which what people loved about it. And that mindset leads to success. So the natural extension is that power and influence that is created online in entirely new ways

Which industries are doing the best job of identifying and utilizing citizen influencers?
At this point, this is very much in the realm of larger companies and brands. There is a lot of experimentation going on in a wide breadth of industries — entertainment, banking, automotive, and publishing to name a few. But new innovations will begin to drive this down to a local level too, especially with mobile apps on the horizon.

How can marketers target influencers who are relevant to their offerings, rather than just users with large followings?
This type of work has been carried out for decades but it can be very time-consuming and expensive. We have always recognized that there are certain “super-connectors” who can really drive behaviors! The difference now is that influence has been democratized through the social web and we have an opportunity to begin to quantify influence on a mass scale — that is revolutionary! Each of these emerging applications has a variety of paid and free options to help you experiment in this field but a good place to start is with your current Twitter following. Through a platform like the Awareness Hub, users can see the influence scores of those in your audience. That can be a useful place to start.

The social scoring company Klout plays a prominent role in your book, but you also describe Klout as ‘controversial.’ What do you see as controversial about Klout leads you to believe this?
The very act of having your social media presence sliced, diced and packaged into a public score has a significant “icky” factor that feels a lot like high school. I think a lot of people get caught up in the emotion of the thing and are not seeing the underlying science and marketing trend dispassionately.  This is a very important trend, an entirely new marketing channel, and marketers need to understand that.

What do you see at the future of online influence? How will people continue to cause, affect, or change behavior?

The first half of the book examines the fascinating and significant differences between influence in the offline and online worlds. As our social media “footprint” continues to grow, these differences — and opportunities — will be even more profound. If you understand the mechanics of social media influence, this can be a great equalizer. Everyone is empowered to create content, publish ideas and views, and find their own personal Return On Influence.

For more insights from Mark Schaefer, be sure to attend our upcoming joint webinar: Return on Influence. You can also download chapter 1 of Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing.

Do you have any tips on social influence? Share your thoughts and best practices on social influence with our community on Twitter (use #AwarenessTips).