Solving the “Measuring Influence” Problem

Or maybe not. But I have an idea. Please follow the bouncing ball for a moment.

Working at a global agency and for big ‘ol brands, I can tell you this: in the real world, your online influencer rating will probably get you some sort of special treatment or a one-off sursey (that’s Southern for “free, unexpected gift”) every now-and-again. Apart from that, as you might have guessed, your Klout or Kred score isn’t worth much – if anything. And, as you also know, when it comes right down to it, brands engage in social because they wanna sell more stuff. That’s where all marketing and communications paths lead.

So when it comes to influence, I want to know how one person influenced another person to actually make a purchase. That’s the influence that I care about. Crack that nut and you’re on to something.

Using things that exist on the World Wide Web today, here’s a thought: The Klouts and Kreds need to hook up with the places where people leave recommendations or are actively making a purchase. Think Amazon or even something like OpenTable. Because these people are already raising their hand and actively participating to let others know their actions and opinions. So when they leave a rating or review – or make a purchase or a reservation – why not give them a field to “give credit” to the person that influenced them to make that purchase? This could be done by simply entering that person’s twitter account.

Yes, I realize that this is flawed idea. Because people aren’t going to volunteer their buddy’s twitter handle for fear a brand will spam them. That’s valid. But maybe by signing up for Klout you give permission – or even opt-in to a program- to contact that individual. Then people could really be rated on their true influence as it correlates to purchases. Because, while it’s nice for someone with 10,000 followers to tweet about my brand, I’d rather know about the guy who has 75 followers but his recommendation (online or off) led to people buying my stuff. That’s a person I’d want to engage.

It could work with anyone from Yelp to Amazon to TripAdvisor to Target’s website…and maybe has the potential to open up a whole new world.

Again, I know it’s flawed. But it might be a place to start. And if you do build on it and make millions, I have some requests.



  • January 11, 2012

    Brad Mays

    There you go again, Spike. Bringing something practical to the table.

    I like the concept. Truth is, most organizations don’t understand who is influencing the sale of their product. By some estimates, there are fewer than 50 people who actually influence the online discussion around and ultimately the sale of a product. This is for large, Fortune 500 brands. For smaller brands, there are even fewer. But, if you talk to brands, most have no idea who those people are. This could be one way to get to that. We’ve got others.

    Trouble is, brands aren’t set up that way. They don’t know exactly what to do with that data. In you example, it’s too granular. But, millions of dollars will be spent on a TV spot with no specificity in the metrics until someone writes down on a card at the store/dealership/salon how they heard about the service/product.

    Another way to look at this is to look at who is in that person’s sphere of influence which, through the power of social media and connected online conversations, we can begin to find out. We’re currently doing this with influencers who may be difficult to reach directly by going to those who influence the influencers.

    If you’re interested, I’ll walk a book across the street to you that talks about how to get to this.

  • January 11, 2012

    Rick Fox

    All very interesting. Trying to put together a plan for measurement around our MWC efforts for a client. Really looking to move past awareness and into action.

    Brad – I’m not across the street, but can you send the name of the book?

  • January 12, 2012

    Brad Mays

    Hey, Rick. Hope you’re well. I like how we’re hijacking Spike’s comments. The book I’m referring to is by Bob Pearson, president of the agency, called Pre-Commerce. It’s based on, among other things, Bob’s years at Dell pioneering their entry into social and the connected online environment. Dell is a shining example of effective use of online channels to drive sales – the company was built on it. Here’s an Amazon link: If I were coming to Chicago anytime soon, I’d bring you a copy. Maybe I’ll see you in Austin.

  • April 11, 2012


    in my world, it is more helpful to know if they think it is possible or not. possibility is the gatekeeper to if individual’s enter “open to be influenced to purchase arena”.
    If one thinks its a fruitloop concept/stupid/mutter under breath/shake their head, this often means it is outside possibility in the individual’s world. That’s how our rational mind automatically responds (why – i’ll park that for now). So 2 scenarios
    — possibility doesnt exist
    — possibility exists
    influence to purchase will happen as a result of both
    but who/how/cudos for influence is very different in each scenario

    the impact of “possibility exist/not” on the “influence” dynamic, increases at an exponential rate the more the individual becomes self-aware. e.g. own their own thinking, understanding how they think, what causes thinking, understands paradigms, can be observer versus ABSORBER of life… blah blah blah…

    so I sense … shifting the focus a little bit back… before the “influencer of purchase”…. will bring greater results

  • June 14, 2012

    Keith Pendleton

    It’s all very tricky. How often are customers influenced directly, but don’t even remember the specific instance that they were recommended a product or service? For instance, I just bought some workout supplements from a site on the cheap. I know that this site was recommended to me online.. but I can’t remember where or when. IMO, this shows the importance of influence when reaching a broad range of people, and how engaged they are with that particular influencer.

    Real talk: I clicked on Spike’s twitter because I thought he was the film director.

  • June 15, 2012

    Spike Jones

    Happens all the time. We’re both skinny white guys, but he’s Jonze. I’m Jones.

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