Finding Your Influence Is Just A Placebo. Edelman May Be Harvesting Your Data.

We all want to know who in the industry is an influencer. It seems that the first place people may look to find folks to reach out to these days would be on Twitter. But how can you find out how influential these people are? One you probably rely on looking at their conversations and things that they post. Before Twitter, the best way was to look at those blogs listed under specific tags on Google blog search or Technorati. Now with more conversation taking place and Twitter becoming mainstream, it’s becoming more flooded with people wanting to talk and thinking they’re the best topic commentator – some whom are well known and obvious, but others who aren’t. So how to separate influencer from wannabe?

That’s where public relations firm Edelman has come in. They’ve created a “nifty little service” called TweetLevel and what it supposedly does is allow you to measure the influence of any particular Twitter user. Just enter in their username and (barring any huge traffic push), you’re going to be able to generate an influence number. Very much like how HubSpot’s Twitter Grader is, the number is probably nothing more than a placebo. Yes, as a marketer, you might be more intrigued to use that number to evaluate the worthiness of someone as to whether you should do some blogger/twitter outreach to them, but for all intent and purposes, the numbers generated through these apps to help “discover” your social media “worthiness” is nothing more than a placebo. It almost ranks as much as the number of Twitter followers you have or the number of lists you are on. These forms of “status” in social media mean nothing…but I suppose it makes you feel good from a more selfish reason, right?

TweetLevel.comTo make you feel all warm and gushy inside, measures your importance on Twitter on a sale of 1 to 100 – obviously the higher your score, the better you are over everyone else…or at least as it relates to influence. But what are these metrics?

Influence – obviously this is an important one because it’ll show you how to rank compared to all your friends & shows you whether people listen to you when you say it.

Popularity – are people flocking to follow you?

Engagement – are you having a conversation with people in your community or are you simply pushing out content that people may or may not care about?

Trust – what makes you so believable and can you affect people’s buying behaviors?

So now that you know of the main factors in how to influence someone, what does this all mean? While I’d like to think that offers something more than an arbitrary number that might give you some slight bit of advice on how to improve your interactions, I’m weary to think that the numbers actually will mean anything – hence my reference it to being a placebo.

But I bet to Edelman, it’ll mean a whole lot more. Why? It’s because they could potentially be harvesting your information to build a giant database that they could filter and build upon to provide to their clients. It seems that the way to get people to “volunteer” their data would be to make it somewhat entertaining, almost like a game. With HubSpot’s Twitter Grader, it makes it seem that you’re in competition with everyone else to try and have the highest number. But deep down, the database is being built that the creators could potentially harvest and use to help build a better marketing & PR program. It’s smart. I mean, there’s nothing proprietary or private being lifted, just an analysis of people who are truly active on Twitter who would participate in this entertaining platform and provide their Twitter handles. Edelman could then just use that information and, depending on the needs of their client, could just go reference any list and say “let’s reach out to these 100 active Twitter users because they have an ‘influence score’ of over 80” or something to that effect.

Another approach could be that Edelman would want to be able to rank Twitter users by their so-called influence and bring them to an exclusive event or have them pitched a specific demo or if companies themselves tried to assess their own “influence” using, then reach out and do some potential business development.

I’m not saying that Edelman has created a really bad service here. On the contrary. I think that it’s a good internal system for them to use, but it’s also exploiting the naivety of those who think that status (e.g. number of followers, Twitter influence, number of lists, amount of retweets, etc.) means everything. But, while that may be more of an internal battle for the individual, on the whole, this system will aggregate a genuine list of active Twitter users who are passionate about the platform and also their industry and find out which ones are worth pursuing as influencers.