Influence Is Who Knows You

Mitch Joel is fond of saying, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you”. This quote has never been more true than today in influencer marketing.

How do we measure influence in most digital marketing domains?

  • Email marketers look at forwarding and sharing rates
  • Public relations professionals look at who covers us in the news
  • SEO pros track who links to our website
  • CRO pros measure how many people buy from us

In most digital marketing domains, we measure influence based on what someone else does – how they reference us. We measure influence as a function of engagement; the more someone has to do in order to reference us, the greater influence we have with them.

Social Media Influence Measurement

Now, consider the typical metrics we use to measure influence:

  • Volume of conversation
  • Number of followers
  • Opaque vendor scores

Only one of these metrics – followers – tells us about who knows us. Followers is still a weak signal of influence; in the age of the algorithm, there’s no telling if even a handful of followers see our content. Following someone requires almost no effort; a cat could accidentally follow us by tapping its paw on a smartphone screen randomly.

How to Improve Social Media Influence Measurement

Instead of measuring weak metrics of engagement, measure actual engagement.

  • Who knows us?
  • Who talks about us?
  • How much do they talk about us?
  • What do they say?

Consider this diagram of people who have referenced my Twitter account in the past year.

cspenn influencer map

Ask the following questions of an influence scan:

  • What’s expected? I would expect much of the work I do with SHIFT, IBM, and Google to be reflected.
  • What’s anomalous? IBM’s crowd stands out far more than Google and SHIFT.
  • What’s missing? I did some work this year with Digiday and it’s absent. That means no one talked about it at the same scale as the VentureBeat article I did, which is visible. In turn, that means that for my audience, VentureBeat has more influence with them than Digiday.

How does this guide me? Each of these people are people I should continue to work with, as well as understand who their audiences are. If I create content that suits their audiences as well as my own, I should be able to dramatically increase my reach, engagement, and impact.

Influence Is Action

Influence is action, engagement, people doing something. When someone takes action beyond a simple tap of a button, pay attention and engage.


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