There are a ton of websites that attempt (all of them feebly) to measure Twitter Influence, including Klout, Edeleman Digital’s Tweetlevel, Twinfluence among the crowd. It is an open and accessible network. So it lends itself to attempts to measure. So I will posit here the limitations, then bring reality into the discussion which is to measure Reach not Influence.
First of all lets discuss Twitter. Its very conducive to sharing links and information. Many people who use Twitter favor it over Facebook, People Use Facebook, but they Live Twitter. And most users tend to be higher of intelligence, more friendly to technology, and I personally believe in the Top 50% of Earners in the US (or future Earners). But there are some drawbacks. Based on the Tweet Volumes there are between 8mil-15mil people on Twitter World Wide at any given moment. Over half of the 100mil Twitter accounts are rarely used.
There are 250mil Consumers in the US age 14 and over. So obviously scale and influence across that group is limited from Twitter with only 40% of users being in the US. Influence only measures whether people share things on Twitter. Not who they are. Which is a HUGE contextual hole in the data. Or why people share something, which is content of the Tweet. There also seems to be an effort to also measure Tweeter’s expertise, yet they base it on repetitive key words. If I tweeted about the BP Oil Spill for months every day incessantly that does not make me an expert on BP, the Spill, or the Oil Industry! And lastly if I am a Marketer I should only care about driving Sales for my client. It is almost impossible to know this from Twitter.
Who cares about getting a message out Viraly if no one acts on that message, other than Re-tweeting it?
I have observed all forms of Tweeters. From high volume users with very small networks that share among a few friends, to Follower Sluts who follow thousands of people. Since you will only see and read a very small percentage of Tweets in your feed influence must be looked at realistically. The chance of someone Re-tweeting or taking action will depend on two key factors:
1: Did they see the Tweet (most people will see only between 5-10% of the tweets in their feed if that!)
2: What is the content of the Tweet. (is it worth Retweeting?)
Lastly since outside influence can not be measured realistically and the ‘who the person is’ is unknown why even try to give a measure. I can be the CEO of a Company with 100,000 employees. I can have 5 people in my network on Twitter and see a Tweet sharing a new Calendar App that is incredible. I like it so much I send an internal Corporate Email telling 100,000 employees to start using this software. Or I can be rich and famous with a million followers, and maybe I get a Tweet that leads me to buy something at a store that I am then photographed wearing on the Oscar Carpet for 90mil people to see, but never Re-tweet or Tweet that I bought the item?
Yes I know what you are thinking. In both cases there could be a viral response such as the employees sharing on Twitter with their network this great App that came from their CEO (most likely without crediting the CEO). And there will be Tweets saying ‘Did you see what that Star was wearing?. That is all fine and part of Social Media. But remember we are measuring influence on Twitter. Not in Life. In both cases the true influence originators would of gone unmeasured.
This is why I posit measurement should be focused on reach. You can determine the potential for a Tweet to spread based on the web of connections. But you will never know the quality of those connections, ever. You can estimate based on an average chance of 1] seeing a Tweet and 2] how often they Re-Tweet but that is it. This will allow you to give yourself realistic expectations, because that is what this is about. Expectations. As a Brand or Agency you can then not over promise to the CFO or VP of Sales or CEO like so many Marketers like to do.