What Is Social Media Influence?

What is influence
Really, what is it?

It’s a term that’s really hard to define, especially when it comes to digital marketing. Klout deems themselves as the standard of influence, but is it actually influence that they measure? It depends – what are your goals?

If your goals are to have as many re-tweets and likes as possible, then yeah, they’re probably a decent measure of influence. But there are issues with gaming Klout sores that might render these engagement scores completely useless.

But what if you’re a brand trying to influence people to buy, or try out a new product? Klout can’t measure that. So what do you do, how do you measure influence? How do you even define influence?

What do the experts think?

Some of the top experts on “influencer marketing” don’t even agree on a definition of influence.

Jure Klepic (@jkcallas) states in one of his article that:

“popularity is not influence and influence is not popularity. I believe that the strategy of finding influential people is an old marketing tactic. With the web, we should focus on established connections and not simply on influential people. These people may not be as visible as the celebrities, and they may not have the highest Klout rankings, but they have the right attributes to produce the positive results you need… Marketers who can find and motivate large numbers of people with this type of clout will fare better than those who rely on celebrities with Klout.”

Now compare this to another influence expert, Mark W. Schaefer (@markwschaefer), who states that social proof is the best measure of online influence, or maybe the ONLY measure of online influence. In an article, he says that:

“A badge like number of Twitter followers or a Klout score may be the ONLY mechanism we have to determine influence in the online world.  Offline, we may have the chance to meet people, or ask a mutual friend to help us determine credibility.  But this type of validation is often not possible online, so we seek a shortcut, and on the social web, there are plenty of them!”

Even the experts don’t agree on the definition of online influence! Who’s right? Is the true definition somewhere in between? What is social media influence?

So what is social media influence?

Here are my views on the definition of influence: Influence is the art of creating action. In the case of social media, this could be creating action personally, or on behalf of a brand.

Your mom is an influencer, your friends, your boss, celebrities, actors, physicians, a stranger, etc. Anyone, at any point in time, can have influence over your actions. Even when they’re not there, they have influence over your actions! Have you ever found yourself wondering what your loved ones would think about you doing a certain action, or buying a certain product? They’re not physically there, but they still influenced your actions.

The point is influence means something different to everyone. From a brand perspective, it really comes down to what are your goals, and then finding people that can help you achieve these goals. If it’s brand awareness you want, find a few influencers with large audiences that can spread your message around. If you want sales, find people that can credibly talk about your product, and get them to help promote your message (e.g. professional chef endorsing a new type of jelly). Find out what you want to do BEFORE you try to find people that can influence action.

What are your views on influence? Do you have a definition you want to share? Please leave a comment below! :)


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  • A lot of the smaller bloggers, and smaller communities on social, can have a great impact once it comes to influence, because they have built trust and relationships, as you mentioned :)

  • It's like drinking alcohol if you are not being influenced by others you will not drink but if someone influences you, you tend to do it right? It's the same as social media influence. Many celebrities, artists, actors, actress etc. post everyday via social media and when someone saw it they like "wow this is good, i want to do it" there goes the influence. Social media influence is vital and very important in online marketing and presence.

  • […] changes for everyone – we’ve wrote our opinions on what is influence (here, here, here, and here), as did several other people, like Mark Schaefer, Jure Klepic, Danny Brown, and Sam […]

  • […] with no real conclusion. Experts have given their definitions, but none of them agree on one. I wrote a post about my views on “what is influence,” with some people that agreed, and some that […]

  • Social scoring as a measure of influence should only be used as a very small starting point. The real question of influence comes from the actions taken and results and what it means to a company's success. I'm really looking forward to this book since it seems to go much further than others:

  • […] digital world that we live in, we need any shortcut we can get. This is never truer than in the Influencer Marketing industry with social scoring. There are many different shortcuts we can use to see how effective […]

  • Awesome dealing! Marketing is the key to introduce with a product to people as well as it is way to reach of goal. Nowadays, digital marketing system is efficient and it is influence properly to people to buy a product. By reading this content, I came to know a bit about how digital marketing as social media influence to people. Thanks for the effective input!

  • I think to influence is to make someone b interested in what you are doing or saying.Often when we talk about social media people take their minds mostly on teens of which is not ryt

  • Thanks for the shout out but my quote was taken out of context. In my book Return On Influence I explore many sources of influence, but more importantly, compare and contrast the differences between these sources in the online versus offline world. Tis is the biggest mistake critics of social scoring are making. They are trying to force fit traditnal views of influence into an online world. It doesn't work. The old rules are obsolete. Titles, university degrees and the control of scare resources may make you powerful in the offline world but might actually cripple you in the online world. Businesses must understand this to succeed.

  • Daniel,

    Thank you for putting spotlight on a topic that deserves one!

    We do need to look at how influencers can optimize our social space. This is very key for brands concerned with ROI.

    The Peer Index, Kred and Klouts are a place to start in finding influencers. The numbers are an indicator to some extent. Someone with a Klout score of 83 is probably more experienced, tweets a lot and has developed a good number of eyes and ears for their electronic updates. Whereas a person with a Klout score of 23 is probably newer online and maybe not regular on their platforms.


    That same individual with a Klout score of 83 might just broadcast all day and game the system. Are they really an influencer? Would they really listen to those that approach them to befriend and champion their brand? Those experienced in a real way in the social space know the answer to that question.

    That Klout is the ONLY mechanism is a short-sided view. To get real things to happen, ya have to be real…

    Identifying the influencers on the social platforms is a start. But to cross reference who actually listens, engages, and gets response is a key step. Is it a bit more time consuming? Sure. But I'd bet 10 Klout points it would bring better results than merely looking up a Klout list of top influencers.

    There is also something to empowering small clusters. Utilized correctly a few individuals with passionate ties can really make a message move!

    In the social space, the key is relationships. With people. In reality, many attached to a brand's bottom line don't care about Klout (or the others) and don't even know it exists.

    They simply talk to their friends about stuff they love. And they tell 2 friends, and they tell 2 friends, and so on, and so on, and so on……….

    That's influence.

    Thanks for giving us all something to ponder, Daniel,


    • Thanks for your comment Keri!

      I agree, Klout can be a starting point, but shouldn't be the only metric involved. Also, Klout is highly dependent on Twitter activity. What if someone has a very successful blog, and they market it purely through Facebook and Pinterest. They probably would only have a Klout score of 20-30, because Klout would look at their Twitter handle and not the whole picture. It can be very deceiving in some cases.

      A lot of the smaller bloggers, and smaller communities on social, can have a great impact once it comes to influence, because they have built trust and relationships, as you mentioned :)

      Thanks for stopping by Keri!

  • Daniel, Thanks for this post.
    this is an interesting discussion and i happen to agree with much of what you write (and quote) here. In my experience, business owners, managers, CEOs and their teams suffer from an internal "identity crisis" so they often don't know WHO they are and WHY they are. Often, they get into business driven to a goal of generating a bottom line $, without the foundation of a real plan, strategy, identity or purpose. Therefore, when it comes to how to market and sell their products or services, they struggle with the "quick-fix-next flashy thing/app/platform/influencer-search" and become disillusioned. What's more, they often view Social as a quick fix. Once I can get a business leadership team to FOCUS on a clear identity, direction, and willingness to strategize/pivot/be creative in their outreach approach (which encompasses more than SM), they are much happier with their bottom line results. Stats and numbers have their place…and, perhaps even Klout scores (although i'm not thoroughly convinced). Specific, measurable results can be influenced, but not without the PEOPLE who drive those results. When a business puts it's resources more strongly into their people, investing in relationships, trust, and loyalty (ala Ted Rubin), magic can happen.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment Lynn!

      I agree with what you're saying. Often times companies don't know who to look for when it comes to outreach, because they don't know what they need. Once they figure out who they are/want and what they need to get done, the research, planning, and execution becomes a lot easier. :)

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