There are a lot of services that purport to measure your online influence. Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex will slice and dice your social media presence, and turn you into a number. The higher your number, they argue, the more influential you are. It's bullshit. But it's bullshit that's increasingly accepted a serious currency.
Just because people talk to you, or about you, on Twitter, that doesn't mean you have real-world influence. My Klout score, for example, is 66, which is the same score as Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary—arguably the most influential messenger alive. Hey, we're the same! On PeerIndex, I actually outrank @PressSec, 56 to 48. Which exposes a simple truth: peer-ranked influence scores are ridiculous. To prove it to you, we're going to try to turn a drunken 20-something blogger into the Internet's Most Respected Mom.
The most notorious of these services is Klout, but they all work similarly. Klout's big idea (which came to its founder Joe Fernandez when his jaw was wired shut and he could only communicate via social media) is that follower counts are important, but audience engagement is the real metric that matters—how many times people @ message you, retweet you and spread your messages and links. It looks at Facebook and LinkedIn and other social media signals too. It has fancy algorithms, but the bottom line is that it uses the ways other people react to you to measure how influential you are.
Klout not only measures general influence, it's topical too. Not only does it look at overall influence, but it also awards scores on specific subjects. And one of the ways it does this is by letting other Klout users award a fey little "+K" to people they find influential on a particular topic. (Kred, which also measures subject-specific influence uses a +Kred metric. Originality!)
So if I think you are knowledgable on the topic of, say, rocket science I can give you +K in it. In this way, the crowd can make one an
expert influencer. It means your years of education and hard work are meaningless, because the greater authority is what other people on Twitter think.
It is, of course, also a great way to troll.
You know who is highly influential on the topic of Homosexuality? Rick Santorum. That's because Klout is pretty easy to game. Just give someone +K on something, and they are suddenly an
expert influencer on it, whether they want to be or not.
Santorum has been subject to "Klout bombing," which is why he's now so homo-influential. But the thing is, Santorum really is an important voice on that topic—even if only in the sense that he argues against gay marriage. His positions are very much helping his presidential bid, in fact. And of course, as a former Senator and one of four men left in the fight for the Republican Presidential nomination, Santorum is by definition an influential person.
You don't need Klout or Kred or PeerIndex to tell you that Rick Santorum matters. If you do, you are a clay-eating idiot.
But what we want to know is whether or not anyone can become an important voice on Klout and PeerIndex and the like. Is it possible to make someone who is not already an established voice the leading voice on a particular topic, even if it's totally irrelevant? Someone like, say, Kyle Wagner, Gizmodo's burrito loving, Twitter-challenged, computer-losing, editorial assistant? Could Kyle become not just an
expert influencer on being, say, a mom, but the leading expert influencer online, at least according to Klout? Can he beat out Klout's current top influencer on the subject, Andrea Fellman?
Fellman's Twitter bio says that she's "A Mom that hasn't lost her style to Motherhood! Editor of SavvySassyMoms.com, Contributor BabyCenter's Momformation, iVoice for Village.com." Her Twitter handle is @savvysassymoms. She has 33,769 followers. She is clearly credible.
Kyle's twitter bio reads "gizmodo peon who loves beer and comic books and falling down." He is well-known for losing 3 computers in 4 months, buying too many burritos, and avoiding the dentist to the point where he needed emergency surgery on his jaw. Is that who you picture when you think of a mother-figure?