In the past couple of weeks, we have been witness to the furore about online influence reaching new heights. It was, for the most part, thanks to the rekindling of the public debate around online influence measuring and its effectiveness brought about by the recent release of Brian Solis’ report ‘The Rise of Digital Influence‘, the continuing (semantic?) debate between ‘influence’ and ‘relevance’, and the appearance on the market of new apps and programs seeking to cash in on online influence. And tacitly accepting what I put forward here quite some time ago: imperfect and vastly improvable as the current algorithms are, there is no way back to the old days and influence is the de facto new online currency – all with massively important and far-reaching consequences for online reputation, online marketing and above all personal branding.
A newcomer to the list
So far we have been accustomed to online influence measuring programs being free and somewhat (Klout) if not fully (Empire Ave) gamey. That has just changed with the appearance of Traackr, a company whose products are already being used by some major agencies and brands that promises to ‘find the influencers that matter most to you‘… for a fee. Traackr complements its commercial offering with the creation of ‘alpha-lists’ (α-LISTS) of influencers around a given topic and its philosophy is embodied in the company’s motto ‘Relevance Drives Influence‘. Whatever the value of Traackr’s solutions, the fact that online influence and its measuring are being seemingly successfully commercialized can only be interpreted as a sign of things to come.
Most individual users have come to associate online influence with Klout, and have been quick to point out some of the more or less obvious deficiencies of the ever-popular program – deficiencies that they have, at times, unfairly used to color the whole concept rather than the specific app. In defense of Klout, before we go any further, it is worth reminding critics that Klout (as indeed most of its peers) is still in Beta-phase and that its sphere of influence is almost exclusively the online medium.
In other words: you can be massively influential offline and have a Klout score below that of someone who is simply more active and focused on the internet and the social media in their strategy. Those looking for a more serious, transparent, and maybe even scientific approach to online influence are advised to try Kred, Peer Index or ProSkore for a perhaps more satisfying tool to their specific taste or need (their algorithms are different is proven by the fact that my Klout score went down last week while my Kred score went up during the same period. Go figure).
Urgent matters to consider
But whatever the value of a given program, there has never been a more urgent and pressing set of circumstances for personal branders to start taking the whole concept of online influence seriously, become familiar with its philosophy and tools, and strive to be more influential within their communities by adding value.
Before becoming an influencer oneself, identifying influencers, and being conversant with online influence, measuring is important for several mutually-reinforcing reasons. Here are five of them:
1. It helps us to find role-models who may be achieving the same objectives we seek to achieve in our niche so that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel with our personal branding strategies
2. If we come across real value in their content or contribution, we may become evangelists and help them spread the message just as I did in this post with Brian Solis, Traackr, Kred and others
3. We may find powerful allies who can help us achieve our goals fast-track
4. Our networking initiatives can be more closely targeted and focused
5. We can make full use of objective (even if as of yet imperfect) criteria to determine our (hopefully growing) relevance and outreach within our community and what social media are yielding the best results for us
The list could potentially go on but the message is clear: online influence is here to stay and we are just witnessing the dawn of a new era full of promise and at the same time pregnant with uncertainty – at least until algorithms and programs become more sophisticated and accurate, and the commercialization of influence starts bringing on some tangible and demonstrable benefits for brands.
And that, dear personal branding friends, is most certainly going to include our own. It is increasingly looking likely that one day not that far ahead the first line of our online CVs or résumés will include a standardized online influence score. While what that will entail for our online personal branding remains to be seen, being proactive in this area of ever-growing importance is one of the best pieces of advice I can pass on at this point. Your personal branding success may hinge on it sooner than you expect.