Measuring influence on Twitter: Who "cares?"

Recently, I found myself backstage at a Black Eyed Peas concert courtesy of my best bud, who handles the band. A chair on the side of the stage was offered to me, a few feet away from the action. Below, a tent filled with food was at my disposal.

My friend is very influential in the music business. As a result, I got hooked up. But at no point did his influence really rub off on me.

Influence matters

Last Sunday, my inbox was deluged with new Twitter followers. It continued all weekend. In torrents.

I could have shut the emails off but between spam flotsam and porn jetsam I like keeping track of my account as I regularly remove or block the unsavory.

On Tuesday, I learned Stefan Swanepoel released a list of the “most influential real estate people on Twitter.” I was on that list.

Obviously, Stefan has some influence. He persuaded hundreds of people to take action and follow me. But is that as influential as it gets? Can he influence them to read our blog? Hire us?

I also wondered why, exactly, these agents chose to follow us. Stefan claimed we’re influential. In what way? Under what context or circumstance?

This got me thinking about the various Twitter strategies offered to agents and the crowds of people they’re coached to follow, tweet to and ultimately try to exert their own influence upon.

Finally, I wondered what if any effects there are when 400+ seemingly un-influential people follow me for no reason but never engage me.

I decided to find out. I made two phone calls as soon as I was able to locate an AT&T signal.


Call #1

I spoke to Stefan regarding his list. It was put together as a takeaway during a live presentation for agents and brokers who don’t know where or how to get started. His list offered attendees a starting point. 100 people to follow.

There was no strategy behind it. No guidelines. No advice on what to do once they hit the follow button in order to get these influential individuals to follow them back. Or how become an influencer themselves.

I asked Stefan what makes the folks on the list influential. He offered me his criteria:

  1. Quality of posts
  2. Quantity of posts
  3. Number of influential people they follow
  4. Number of influential people who follow them

Nothing scientific. These are things he values. I don’t disagree.

A few days later Dustin published his own list of influential people. This list was half the size and ranked by influence based on an API he wrote.

Call #2

Joe Fernandez is a friend of mine. He is also the founder of Klout, a service that measures influence across the social web. We talked about influence, Twitter strategy, popularity and what it means in the grand scheme. I sent him Stefan’s list and asked if he could run all the names through Klout.

I found the results incredibly confusing. At first glance you notice that the number of followers a person has does not directly correlate to how influential they are within the greater context of Twitter. Nor does their volume of Tweets. In fact, some on the list with many followers and many posts ranked much lower than others with less of each.

So I asked Joe to explain his assessment of influence. Here’s what he had to say:

MD: Joe, give me the elevator pitch on Klout to lay groundwork for this discussion.

JF:  Sure. There are people who possess great influence. They can use it wisely and can make things happen. The same holds true in social media. Klout measures that influence for each person across multiple topics.

MD: How do you do that?

JF:  We use a metric we call “True Reach” which represents the number of followers that care about your tweets. We look at how influential those people who care about you are and then we normalize that data across all of the people on Twitter to come up with a 1-100 “Klout Score” representing overall influence.

MD: What do you mean by “care?”

JF: “Care” is defined by actions followers take, such as retweeting or engaging you in conversation on your post. We’re tracking over 3 million people now across Twitter and measuring “care” across 25 different variables.

MD: In other words, Oprah, Obama and Bono follow me but never react to my posts. That’s an example of not caring.

JF: Right. But if they take action on your post, and their followers take action on their action of your post thus creates a domino effect, Klout translates that as influence.

MD: This explains why some with high follower counts have low scores?

JF: Yes. A large number of followers that are not engaged does not make one influential. Influence is the ability to drive action. People with huge follower numbers but have a low Klout Score aren’t driving actions.

MD: What is the value in amassing social influence?

JF:  We’re talking about social capital. Your ability to influence others has currency. Companies are no longer looking at customers and determining their lifetime value based on the volume of stuff they’re going to buy.  Companies now think about the “network value” of each customer – their connections, followers, friends and the influence and ability they have to drive others either towards or away from their brand.

MD: Can influence be created?

JF: Sure. In the past it was always about the high school quarterback being cooler than the chemistry class whiz kid or the rich guy being treated better than regular folks and that’s the way it is. Through social media anyone can effectively build and engage an audience.

MD: Why is measuring and amassing influence important for real estate people?

JF: 96% of Gen-Y uses social media. They’re real estate’s next customer. What they value, how they search and how they decide will be guided on their platforms of choice and through the counsel of others across social media. Influence matters. An agent will one day matter to those consumers who themselves have built up social influence.

MD: What’s an average Klout Score?


JF:  15.

MD: Really? That seems awfully low.

JF: We’ve seen people with 2,000 followers who Tweet all the time but have a Klout Score of 3. Some of the people on both lists you referenced have scores that rank low. Some don’t even rank yet.

MD: But yet they’re considered influential.

JF: Well here’s the thing – all told, influence is still relative and personal. A person with a score of 3 could be considered very influential to one person – Stefan or Dustin in this situation. In that context, that’s all that matters. Klout does not attempt to detract from that reality at all. We measure some things, but not everything.   


MD: What would be an unnaturally high score?

JF: 60 and above is bordering on influential royalty. One person on Stefan’s list scored an 80. That is unusually high.

MD: Any advice for real estate Twitter users?


JF:  Don’t waste money buying followers (which I can prove a few people on that list did). Don’t waste time following people just so they will follow you back. Don’t be noisy with your tweets. Create saved searches (on Tweetdeck) for your market area so that when other people talk about it you can jump in the conversation and provide useful answers to their questions. Tweet like you’re an expert on your community and other people searching will inevitably find you. Engage in real discussion, not just @ message your followers one by one to tell them “good morning.” Also, consider who you follow. We notice that many real estate agents are following other real estate agents and that’s their entire strategy. They need to reach outside their category and create reactions across a wide band of topics. Become the person people turn to when they have a question and you will be truly influential.

MD: Last question: The 400+ people that followed me in two days. Did that decrease my Klout Score or diminish my influence?

JF:  No. But they did little to increase your influence. Here’s your challenge: Research who these people are and adjust your Twitter strategy to engage a portion of them. This will increase your score.

MD: Great. Just what I need – homework.

JF: You asked.

Theory of influential relativity


While Klout measures social influence across 25 different variables, it missed at least two: Stefan and Dustin’s variables. And they matter too.

While there is no perfectly constructed instrument to measure influence, it is clear that attending to a sound methodology and strategy regarding who you follow, what you say, how often you say it, and how much value to bring to multiple communities is the clearest path toward building influence.

And however you measure influence, that just makes sense.

Here are the Klout Scores for everyone on Stefan’s list:

– Davison Twitter: 1000wattmarc