Measuring Influence in Social Media

4 Jun

Every week there are multiple articles and posts on measuring Influence in social media.  The vast majority of these focus on assessing who are the ‘Influencers’ – those analysts, pundits, micro-celebrities and visionaries whose words and actions influence others in their online communities.  Influencers are an important element of your audience targeting strategy.  (Here’s a great post from Todd DeFren on audiences and influencers).

Influencers are a potential social media strategy, but we should measure social media objectives to determine whether or not programs are working as planned.  For that we have to turn to the other type of online influence, audience influence.

With audience influence, we want to understand what influence, if any, our social media efforts have had on audience opinions, attitudes and behaviors.  Here’s a social media measurement model that shows where audience Influence fits with the other major measurement stages, Exposure, Engagement and Action.

Social Media Model.pptx

  • Exposure – to what degree have we created exposure to content and message?
  • Engagement – who, how and where are people interacting/engaging with our content?
  • Influence – the degree to which exposure and engagement have influenced perceptions and attitudes
  • Action – as a result of the social media effort, what actions if any has the target taken?”

In the model, successful relationships with Influencers would be represented as an aspect of Engagement – i.e. Influencers have the ability to influence if and how consumers engage with brands.

To measure audience influence typically requires primary research to quantify attitudes and opinions and to assess the role, if any, social media efforts had in any attitudinal changes and subsequent behavior.  Once we understand how Exposure and Engagement are impacting Influence, and whether or not Influence is motivating Action, we are well on our way to the understanding and data necessary to demonstrate the true ROI generated by social media.

In summary, determining who has influence should be part of your audience targeting strategy, determining whether or not you are creating audience influence should be part of your measurement strategy.

See it a different way?

13 Responses to “Measuring Influence in Social Media”

  1. Forrest W. Anderson June 4, 2009 at 1:17 pm #


    Great post. The great rush to get into social media shouldn’t mean we ignore setting objectives and following the normal disciplines of communication. I like your model, too. Nice graphic.

    Forrest W. Anderson

  2. metricsman June 4, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    Thanks for your comment, Forrest, I appreciate you stopping by. The basics have not changed, just what we apply them to. -Don B

  3. Rick Rice June 5, 2009 at 11:53 am #


    This is a very logical approach and a good reminder that we just because the channel is relatively new some of the old rules and requirements remain. I like the graphic too – nice visual of the process.

    You know me, I just hope people listen and follow your advice here.

    Rick @RTRViews

  4. metricsman June 5, 2009 at 12:12 pm #

    Thanks for your comment and kind words, Rick. Knowing what to keep and what to change as new technologies and capabilities come on line is important. In some ways the more things change the more they stay the same. Our mindset and tactics may need to change, but we don’t need to throw out 50 years+ of learning about how communication works just because we create news ways to communicate. Thanks again, Don B

  5. Joe Hodas June 7, 2009 at 9:46 pm #

    Thanks Don. Good read. Question though–with the frantic trend towards making SM part of the game plan no matter what the objectives are :), many smaller accounts want social media because its hot, but arent sure what it is, no less how to measure it. And certainly arent interested in really expensive analytics for measurement. What are your thoughts in those situations when the client probably doesnt fully understand it, doesnt want to pay to measure it, but surely wants results and a level of buzz about the product or company?

  6. metricsman June 8, 2009 at 11:03 am #

    Hi Joe, thanks for stopping by. (Sorry about your Nuggs – I was rooting for them too. Next year.) To your, ‘I’m not sure what it is but I know I want it’ question. What I might suggest:
    1. Try to set reasonable expectations. The best course for a company/brand new to social media is to listen first, then decide if, how and where to engage in the conversation. I would try to translate the expectation you set into measurable objectives – even if you decide not to actually measure them fully.
    2. Listen to what people are saying in social media about the company/brand, competitors and the industry/category. Showing your client or company what people are saying is often eye-opening and will begin to suggest possibilities of how this might work for them when they choose to engage.
    3. Do a competitive analysis to show how direct competitors and perhaps a couple of best in breed companies are using social media. Are they on Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, YouTube, etc? How are they participating in each community? I’ve always found showing competitors are doing something new is a good motivator to get a company off the dime.
    4. Based on the objectives and what you learned by listening, develop a strategy to engage in the social web. Start with the basics – YouTube, Linked-In, FaceBook, Twitter. Blogging isn’t for everyone, but could be a good thought leadership strategy/tactic.

    The measurement piece doesn’t have to be expensive. Start with measuring all activity on the various web properties where the company has a presence, including the social media channels. This can be done for free with Google Analytics. The more sophisticated piece of how to measure engagement, influence and actions occurring within social communities. I would leave that piece until year two of the program.

    Hope this helps! Thanks again for the comment.

  7. Chloe Z November 17, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    I totally agree with your suggestion that primary research is needed to assess attitudinal changes and subsequent behavior. Actually I just finished my thesis paper on the uses and gratifications of Facebook users, their attitudes towards brands with presence on social media and their behaviors of interacting with those brands on Facebook. The research is based on in-depth interviews with Facebook users. The Result, though not generalizable, shows that our social media efforts don’t turn out the way we want it to be. At least on social networking sites such as Facebook, attitudes towards business profiles and their viral efforts are negative. However, I don’t know how to “quantify” this attitude. Look forward to your future posts on this.


  8. Laura Kinoshia (@lkinoshita) April 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    You say, “to measure audience influence typically requires primary research to quantify attitudes and opinions,” but can’t one measure behaviors and their outcomes instead? For example, if you observe one person sharing information or making a recommendation to others, and then can trace others connected to that network acting on that information or following that action (through a specific message or keyword) is that not an indicator of influence? Especially when it’s observed that the patterns repeat?

  9. metricsman April 18, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    Hi Laura, Thanks for your comment. Certainly in some cases the scenario you suggest is a valid approach and will yield great data. Influence can be inferred in these cases. But to some degree it is still measuring influence by proxy. It would be better to do what you suggest and supplement that with primary research against a panel of the same users to better understand if you have truly changed (i.e. influenced) people’s attitudes, beliefs and opinions. ComScore and others offer this sort of hybrid approach. Thanks again.

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  1. Knowing your influence a good thing? « 1 tech blog Ouye - August 11, 2010

    […] couple of articles I really liked reading about influence: from → Conversations ← […]

  2. Bringing Some Clarity to Social Media Influence « - December 10, 2011

    […] is a necessary pre-condition to Influence. (This social media measurement model addresses the distinction) Without engagement you don’t have the opportunity to influence. […]

  3. Don Bartholomew: Bringing Some Clarity to Social Media Influence – Influencer Marketing Review - December 11, 2011

    […] is a necessary pre-condition to Influence. (This social media measurement model addresses the distinction) Without engagement you don’t have the opportunity to influence. […]

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