In the online world, we are drowning in a sea of metrics. We know just how many people visit your blog. We graph your rising list of Twitter followers and Facebook fans. Now, I don’t want to shock you, but those are all just numbers.
I love numbers, okay? I’m always looking for ways to track them and find more accurate ways of showing them and representing them to clients. But I’ve also come to realize that there are unknowables that can’t be expressed by upward trending graphs of site visits, or momentary upticks of Facebook friends, or rising and falling Klout scores.
What really counts? Riding the wave of influence.
As difficult as it is to measure, becoming an online influencer is probably the most important thing you can have happen online.
I define influence as people who listen to you, believe in you, and then take action. On the simplest level, this is a retweet or Facebook ‘share.’ Moving up the social ladder, it’s a journalist who is inspired to write about you, or an online acquaintance who is moved to become a client.
Influence, also, can be measured. I use SocialMention and Icerocket to map a client’s online reach, and Topsy analytics is a nimble tool to delve deeply into who’s taking about what on Twitter. We compile all the data we find there and learn quickly whether our latest online campaign reached the people it needed to reach. With some analysis, we can see if our latest TweetChat rippled the online pond or if a blog was picked up by news aggregators.
But wait. I’m going to go ridiculously simple on you now.
The best kind of influence of all is simply this: providing a soundbite on television, a podcast, or in a documentary, or being quoted in an article in an influential blog, newspaper or magazine. It’s easy to make fun of TV now (doesn’t Howard Stern appear on some show?) but major media appearances ripple the online ocean. If you are quoted, even briefly, in an online journal, or the online version of a newspaper or magazine, this pays enormous dividends later – you will turn up in Google searches for years, and even better if the journalist included a link back to your site when quoting you. That might make a quote online even more valuable than a TV appearance, over the long term.
How to make influence happen?
- Become aware of who is most influential and popular on your Facebook and Twitter feeds
- Research the gatekeepers of programs and publications you like – friend and follow them
- Look over the listings at HARO to see what journalists are looking for
- Send press releases using PRweb.com or PRnewswire.com
- List yourself as an expert on ProfnetConnect.com
- Get to know a service like PRleads.com, which connects you with journalists
Connecting with journalists and producer/gatekeepers is a long-term process, so don’t expect instant results. It’s about building relationships, and even on a supremely ephemeral medium like Twitter, credibility counts. Communicate a clear sense of mission in all your online communications. People need to know what you stand for.
Lee Schneider is consultant at Red Cup Consulting, an agency that works with clients to build online influence.