Over the last 24 months, a number of tools have crept up promising to measure your influence in social media.  These tools all take some core measurements (followers, retweets, mentions, etc.) across your social networks and then attempt to tell you how influential you are in social media.  Some go as far as to assign a score or identify what topics you may be influential in.  Some use a black box algorithm.  Some use a more straight forward charting/graphing approach.  At this stage, for most B2B marketing purposes – as far as I can tell – it’s all a crock.

This type of measurement – combining several metrics to come up with an overall score – is really only valuable if you aspire to be an industry pundit, thought leader,  a social media maven, or public speaker justifying their fees.  However, for HCM tech vendor customers its only helpful for finding said pundits, bloggers etc. for marketing programs or events.  This is not really helpful for anything more.  I would go as far as to say, it’s not helpful for most, other than those few pundits jockeying for placement on an influencer list.   (e.g. HR Examiner’s Top Inluencer lists are a good place for vendors to monitor the thought leaders over time.)

I would argue that being the “most influential vendor” does little for you when it comes to business results, or giving actionable data.

The argument for influence measurement in the B2B environment sounds a little like someone trying to argue the ROI out of social media marketing.  (read: someone that doesn’t want to be held accountable)  By glomming together several metrics and creating a “don’t look behind the curtain” kind of black box, you can tweak your argument to drive your marketing spend in any direction you desire.  For example, you could argue for increasing budget just to keep “out-influencing” your competition.

Each social media property can be viewed as a channel.  Each channel comes with demographics and associated stats.  These channels (i.e. facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, etc..) can drive different metrics that relate in part or whole to Demand Generation, Press Relations, Analyst Relations, User Satisfaction, Brand Awareness, Brand Sentiment, Reach, List Development, etc.  Depending on your business goal each of these can be measured independently down to a cost or effectiveness measurement.

As new channels present themselves – Pinterest for example – a certain level of experimentation has to be done up front to really understand the value of the channel.   However, to enter into the channel without understanding your business goal, is fool-hardy.  Pinterest could be a lead or sales engine for one type of vendor, and a brand awareness accelerator for another.  If you enter the channel measuring for the wrong goal – but, looking at overall influence, you may sink a lot of cash (sunk cost or otherwise) before you realize the wasted effort.

Influence, by definition, is impossible to measure to any degree of certainty in the B2B marketing and sales world,  while business drivers are completely measurable.  How do you leverage Social Media to drive the business outcomes you want?  That’s where we go from here….