Elizabeth Hill: Step Away From the Influence Score

Step Away From the Influence Score

This past week, I had an interesting exchange with a potential client around digital influence. Maybe they read our most recent post on Klout as our conversation really focused on how to correctly identify influencers and the role different social media tools should play.

Now it certainly would help “get the word out” about something if I could figure out a way to get President Obama to tweet about my client’s topic of concern as it’s pretty clear the the President is an influencer. But what about the rest of us? Who among us are the true influencers?

Last year, User Insight conducted an internal study to help lay the foundation for our social media intelligence practice. This research included over 240 hours of one on one, in-depth interviews with social media users, coupled with numerous hours spent analyzing past research findings about why consumers make purchasing decisions. Through this research, User Insight’s strategists know how people influence one another both online and offline

Information Sharing 150x150 Step Away From the Influence Score One pattern we uncovered is that, within social media communities, there is a group of users that chat heavily online and want to be influencers. If you asked this group if they are influential online, they would say yes.When you ask others if they are listening to these chatty social users, the answer is most likely no.

There is another group hanging out in social media who are less chatty but always seem to know what is cool and interesting. This group is quiet and strategic with their posts. If you look at Klout scores or an influencer graph, these users, at first blush, do not appear to be influential. However, when these social users talk, many of the people that do follow them listen. In fact, the chattier ones will swoop in,take their content and share it as their own!  In this way, these folks are truly influential.

Use Klout, Kred, or your social listening tool of choice and there is no guarantee that the truly most influential people will  pop up on your radar. It’s necessary to really dive into posts and look at not only what is being shared — but how and who are the individuals sharing. Once you understand their true digital ecosystem and watch them interact online, you can identify the real influencers. Trust me, I too am bummed it isn’t as easy as a free online tool.

Originally published 30 May 2012 on the User Insight Blog. Elizabeth Hill is a Social Media Strategist at User Insight and can be followed on Twitter @elizhill


  1. Thanks for this post and the discussion! I agree very much with your point. There seems to be almost an “industry” around driving things like Klout scores, but as we know many people are seemingly “passive” but have strong influence when they do make recommendations. Also theses scores do not take into account the impact of blog posts and so on they write. I think the challenge is nurturing people that will be real advocates for a brand, not just influencers who can reach a lot. I have blogged on that and have added a link that hope helps add to your debate and points you are making.