On Metrics and Influence

There have been a few discussions, not least #nhssm which have discussed ‘metrics’ (ways of measuring influence) relating to social media over the last week. This has coincided with a change in the way that Klout, one of the ‘standard’ measures of ‘influence’ has changed their algorithm, causing much distress to those who have seen their numbers plummet.

I’ve never had a high Klout score so didn’t have much to lose – perhaps that’s why I’ve not taken the change as hard as some. I haven’t been ‘involved’ in social media for too long either so probably wouldn’t mark myself very highly but it’s been interesting watching the fuss and focus given to these measures.

Claire has described in her blog here,  background about Klout and measures of influence in general and I won’t repeat her – not least because it is a great post.

I think more broadly about what it is these measures, not just Klout but PeerIndex and others which are popping up all over the place  actually mean.

A part of the problem is that there is no obvious transparency. The reason for this is clear. The companies doing the measurements are private ventures and don’t want to share their innovative new ways of deciding who has ‘influence’ in the social sphere. However the clear problem with that is that we, as users, don’t know exactly what and how we are being measured.

The second problem is the issue of assigning influence a number in the first place. I have a vague difficulty with this as I do think that ‘social media’ is not separate from ‘mainstream media’ influence.  Influence means different things to different people and to different recipients of that knowledge. People who are very influential to me, my close family, for example, would not figure on a ‘metric’ designed to quantify all manner of relationships and interactions and these metrics don’t take account of the real  human relationships of a partner or a friend or a respected boss/colleague.

Your salary level or rather, disposable income isn’t measured in this metric but that is one of the key factors that determines my ability to consume products or not (often something advertisers would be most interested in).

By measuring follower counts/retweets/shared information/conversations, the metric is not able to measure the quality of content.

The fact that Justin Bieber has a Klout score of 100 is case in point.

My thoughts are that human beings, by our nature, like to quantify and classify everything. We have names for species and like to ascribe values to anything that might possibly be quantifiable.

This is because we like to compare ourselves with others and ‘do better’ – the natural competitive streak, perhaps.

But knowing ‘influence’ regardless of the way it is measured also allows for cash value to be ascribed to particular types of users of social media and it also implies that there are ‘right’ ways and ‘wrong’ ways to use the medium. Those with high scores are somehow judged to be ‘better’ than those with low scores which for me, goes against the principal of everyone finding their own way and what works for them.

These figures and numbers won’t be going away though as they provide useful data to a variety of companies who want to target campaigns and make all kinds of relationships and interactions quantifiable.

The future is in metrics, whether they mean anything or not – I suspect we will increasingly see  more specialised services which allow different aspects of interactions to be measured.

In the meantime, I take these scores and marks with a pinch of salt and as a bit of fun. I am a name not a number!

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2 responses to “On Metrics and Influence

  1. Pingback: Social media metrics: reach ≠ quality « George Blogs

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