|noun\ˈin-ˌflü-ən(t)s, especially Southern in-ˈ\|
|1 a : an ethereal fluid held to flow from the stars and to affect the actions of humans b : an emanation of occult power held to derive from stars|
|2: an emanation of spiritual or moral force|
|3a : the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command b : corrupt interference with authority for personal gain|
|4: the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways : sway|
|5: one that exerts influence|
The definition of influence is in the eye of the beholder. Webster’s dictionary offers a variety of interpretations (as indicated above), with number 4 seemingly the most relevant to the discussion of online influence. Klout, a tool which measures your influence across the social web argues that online influence is more than just a popularity contest.
“We believe that influence is the ability to drive people to action — “action” might be defined as a reply, a retweet, a comment, or a click.” (Klout)
Klout uses over 25 variables to produce your online influence score. Among those variables are:
- True Reach – The size of your engaged audience. Over 2500 followers/friends doesn’t necessarily mean you have true reach. True reach is measured by the number of followers who actively participate, listen and/or react to your content.
- Amplification Probability – The likelihood your content will be actioned by your engaged audience through the form of retweet, response, Facebook “like” or comments
- Network Influence – The influence level of your engaged audience. Are opinion leaders, experts and industry heavyweights among your followers?
Mashable debates that principles of brand, expertise and trust underscore the concept of influence . The stronger the brand, the wider the influence. Expertise is contingent on your depth of knowledge and ability to disseminate information. Subsequently the title, Expert, is one that is earned and given by others as a result of trust and rapport. Trust is earned over time, as a direct result of consistently delivering promises and fufilling expectations.
Influence VS. Popularity
Having each accrued over 5 million followers, Twitterati heavyweights Ashton Kutcher, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber are undoubtedly popular, but are they influential? Results of Fast Company’s Influence Project and a study conducted by Northwestern University argue no. Though celebrities may garner a critical mass, research revealed that the majority of their content (tweets) were left ignored by the millions of their followers. True influentials are specialists/experts in their respective field, who “dynamically change the opinions of people on specific topics, or the topic of the moment.” (The Telegraph) Click here for a listing of new influentials.
Whether you are in agreement with all definitions, or just one, influence involves two parties: the influencer who produces content (newsworthy information, expert advice, music, gossip, a winning goal) which ultimately inspires or compels the recipient (influencee?) to action.
If you had to choose one characteristic that drives influence, what would it be?