Without fail, at every social media conference I attend, someone will approach the microphone during the Q&A portion of a presentation and ask the speaker or the panelsts, "How are you measuring influence for your blogger outreach programs?" Or, "How can we replicate what you're doing to decide whether certain online personalities are influential?"
The answer given is always the same. And that is: there is no easy answer. "We just know what we're looking for," is often the response. Or, "There's no formula that will work for everyone. You have to decide for yourselves what you're looking for and then find a way to identify those people."
They're not just dodging the question. The bottom line, frankly, is that there is no single place to plug in a name or a URL and get an answer to the influence question. Sites like Klout, Alexa, Hootsuite and Technorati have all attempted to become the go-to place to measure influence, but they're really just one piece of the puzzle.
I have at least five steps I like to take before I even look at those sites - if I look at them at all. In my world, the questions posed to me often sounds like this, "Is it worth my time to comment on this particular blog?" Or, "There are too many blogs out there. How do I decide if I should add this one to my rss reader?"
These are the first steps I take when answering that question:
- Evaluate the content first. If the content of the site fits your area of interest and you enjoy reading it or have a reaction to it, others might as well. If you would enjoy reading and commenting there regularly, and your extended audience would also find the content useful or engaing, that is the most important thing.
- Evaluate the site's community. Who else is commenting there? Who is the blogger linking to? Do you recognize names you know?
- Do a Google search for the blog author's name. This is basic research. Has the blogger written any books? Have they been quoted in the media? Are there other credentials that show up in a basic search?
- Do a Google blog search for the author's name and for the URL of the blog. This will reveal whether other bloggers are linking to the author's blog - and how often.
- Do a Twitter search for the author's name and the blog URL. This will reveal who is tweeting about the author and the author's blog.
I compare the exercise to the same thought processes you use when hiring event speakers. It's not all about the the numbers. The most expensive speaker is not always the best speaker for you. The one with the most books or the best reviews is not necessarily the best pick for your event. You want to hire the speaker who will resonate with your audience and align with the messaging of your event. It's the same when evaluating a blog. Become a regular reader and commenter at the blogs that align with your own goals and those that will resonate with you and your audience.