In Connecting With Consumers, I devote an entire chapter to research and measurement, including a discussion of techniques for identifying influencers. Without getting too deeply into the Gladwell vs. Watts debate over whether a small core of super-influential consumers matter more than others in determining how everyone else behaves in the marketplace, the notion of a well-connected, powerful few is a compelling one for marketers, and the numbers prove it: more than $1 billion is spent per year on WOM campaigns targeting influentials, an amount that is growing at 36% per year.

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“Marketers love the idea of needing to reach a small group of people to ‘tip’ a product. You’re saying ‘I am in control—I am the biggest influencer, because I’m going to influence the influencers!’”
  - Joe Pilotta, VP Big Research

The influentials idea in marketing harkens back to the long-standing 80/20 principle (also known as 'Pareto's principle') from economics, which suggests that in most situations, be it marketing, politics, sports, whatever, a small minority of people (20%) are vital in having an impact over the rest of the population. Given their predilection towards inflation, some marketers have upped the ante by suggesting that a 90/10 principle operates for consumers.  So let's just assume that influentials are massively important.  The first question that then comes to mind is how does one find these characters?  Although I describe a number of ways that marketers have attempted to identify consumer influentials, I think my personal favorite is the elegantly simple peer nomination approach, whereby group members are asked to name the individual within the social group that is most admired and apt to be emulated.  The basic logic here is that true opinion leaders are persons likely to be highly regarded by their peers.  This was the approach used by Hasbro back in 2001 to identify opinion leaders who would be in the best position to spread the work about its handheld game POX.  Company representatives visited video arcades, skate parks, and playgrounds and posed the following question to adolescent boys: 'Who's the coolest kid you know?'  They then sought out the designated cool kids and asked them the same question until the resulting hierarchy of cool finally led them to someone who answered 'Me!'  

The peer nominations approach, and the similar self-designation (or 'key informant' method ), are likely to be impractical for marketers more bent toward quantification, not only in the sense of identifying influentials, but also of measuring their likely impact and reach, so efforts continue in the development of influencer measurement instruments.  And so it is that a brand new Twitter-based influencer metric has been added to the connected marketing arsenal - the Klout Score.  Developed by Joe Fernandez's San Francisco-based company--you guessed it, Klout--an influencer score is obtained via the assessment of more than 25 variables intended to tap three critical measures:

  • True Reach: the size of your engaged audience and friends (essentially based on number of followers you have clear influence over minus spam followers and inactive accounts)

  • Amplification Probability: the likelihood that your message content will be acted upon (i.e., it generates retweets, sparks a conversation, or leads to clicking on a link)

  • Network Score: the influence level of your engaged audience (i.e., the extent to which you stimulate an action or capture the attention of influential audience members)

Fernandez explains that the idea for the metric came to him while he was recovering from painful jaw surgery:  "During that time all I could do was tweet and update my Facebook status," he says. "With all these conversations going on, I thought it'd be amazing if we could measure who had the most impact."

In addition to a determination of a Klout score, the approach also enables the placement of an influencer into a Klout classification scheme, which is comprised of 16 specific style of influence classes.  The classification is based on factors such as how often you tweet, who you follow, who follows you, and how your audience interacts with your messages (e.g., 'thought leader,' 'syndicator,' 'networker,' 'specialist,' and so on).

According to the Klout blog, the Klout score has been successfully combined with location tracking and tweet tags to find top influencers for Virgin America.

Want to know what kind of influencer you are?  Go to, insert your Twitter name, and find out. 

More information on Klout's influencer metrics is available at and at the Klout website.

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