How Do You Measure Social Media Influence?

Social media has become one of the most powerful communication vehicles in the modern world. It connects people from global communities to engage, share and educate each other. We can learn about different cultures and business practices. We can build relationships and interact with customers, suppliers, and prospects in unimaginable ways just a few years ago.

The explosion of social media has changed the way brands communicate. It has also changed the way we measure influence. In the past, the influence was primarily based on factors such as reach (how many people you could reach), authority (how credible you were), and engagement (how interactive you were).

But there are new ways to use social media influencer measurement beyond vanity metrics. With the explosion of data, we can track how often someone is mentioned, how many people they reach, how much their content is shared, and how engaged their audience is.

So how do you measure social media influence?

Is it the total number of followers an influencer has across their social channels? Do they have to be verified? Is there a standard engagement rate required that determines real influence?

The truth is that these are all right questions to ask, but there is no correct answer. Everyone measures social media influence differently. Some are more sophisticated, but there’s no standard for social media influencer measurement because influence is subjective.

But that will change. It has to change.

Influencer marketing continued to grow even in 2021. 68% of marketers in the U.S. will use influencer marketing by the end of this year. Identifying and measuring social media influence will be critical to that growth.

Here’s a video discussing the 1:9:90 influencer model, an intelligent way to segment influencers within a particular market or topic area.

Marketers use a common framework for measuring influence. It’s based on three unique data points–reach, resonance, and relevance. I have added a variable that I call reference.

Measure social influence using audience size

In this context, I equate reach to equal audience size. In other words, when reviewing influencer measurement data points, it’s the aggregate numbers of their followers across all channels.

From my perspective, reach is one data point very similar to impressions. It’s not an objective metric when you isolate it from other variables. However, it does have power when used within the context of more extensive influencer algorithms that measure influence.

To make it as simple as possible, the reach can be calculated as the total sum of an influencer’s followers on social media. This includes the following:

  • Twitter Followers
  • LinkedIn Connections & Followers
  • Facebook & Instagram Connections
  • YouTube Subscribers
  • RSS subscribers

It’s just a number. I refer to it more as the “potential audience size” when measuring social media influence.

Relevance can measure social media influence

This type of influencer measurement can only be used when identifying topical influencers and not really for influencer campaign measurement.

Relevance can mean so many different things to so many other people. What’s relevant to you may not necessarily be relevant to me. In this context, relevance is also just a number when talking about how to measure influence. It counts the mentions of keywords and phrases used about a specific topic.

I also want to add that the relevance metrics are incomplete without analyzing the resonance of the content created and shared by the influencer.

Measure social influence using resonance

This is an authority metric. It goes hand in hand with relevance and measuring topical-based influencers. The best way to illustrate measuring influence is to give you an example.

Let’s say you are looking for Clubhouse Influencers. You certainly want to ensure that they have a decent following on the platform. That’s a given. You’ll also want to see how often they talk about Clubhouse, the rooms they moderate or participate in, or mentions of social audio platforms. The more they talk about, the more relevant they are, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have authority on the topic.

The way to identify if they have authority is by measuring the engagement of their content. Resonance answers the question, “Does his/her topical-based content resonate with their audiences?” Resonance is an engagement metric. It’s a like, comment, share, retweet, etc. It’s not looking at their engagement numbers in totality. It’s only calculating the data based on the content published about the topic. This is a best practice for social media influencer measurement.

Reference: Do other influencers even know who they are?

Reference isn’t an easy metric to attain. But it does validate if the influencer is being “referenced” by a 3rd party. That 3rd party can be anything or anyone important to your business: other influencers, analyst reports, Google search results, or a specific audience.

I work a lot with B2B influencer programs. We identify influencers using a variety of different methods. This reference metric is one we like to use often. Here’s what we do:

  • We build an audience first (e.g., IT decision-makers, C-suite)
  • We perform an affinity analysis and identify individuals that a high percentage of the audience follows.
  • We track their conversation to see how often the audience mentions or engages with the influencer. This data can be found by performing a conversation analysis.

There are a lot of different ways to measure social media influence. The key is to do something. Find a metric you can use so that you can make intelligent decisions.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.