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Reputation is a delicate thing. It can take years to establish, and can be destroyed in seconds. In today’s age of the Social web, everything is transparent. Developing a strong reputation on the web has become more difficult, as has gaining a high level of influence. When you think of it, we are all influenced by others in one shape or form. Conversely, we are all influencers, to a certain degree.Who do you influence on the web? How many people? How strong is your influence? How do you gain influence? There are a few tools out there to help you answer these questions. So let’s start by defining online influence. Do you think someone on twitter who has 20,000+ followers is influential? Maybe. But not necessarily. Influence goes far beyond followers and subscribers. Influence, by definition, means “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behaviour or opinons.” In an age on online transparency, influence has become more complicated to achieve. Social Influence is made of of five main factors: Credibility, Trust, Relevance, Timing, and Alignment.

Credibility

Are you credible? Do you have the knowledge and expertise on the topic for which you are trying to be influential? TSN Hockey analyst Bob McKenzie has an enormous influence on hockey fans through his Twitter account (with over 209,000 followers), blog and TV programs. Why? Because for the last 25 years, MacKenzie has lived and breathed hockey at every level in all corners of the earth. He is extremely credible on his topic of influence, hockey.

Trust

How much will you trust someone you’ve never met in person? Would you ever buy a product because someone online told you to? Gary Vaynerchuk is a great example of someone who has used a transparency and honesty to develop a strong level of trust among his followers. Vaynerchuk is well known for his video podcast “Wine Library TV” which featured weekly episodes in which he would sit behind a table and reviews wines. Vaynerchuk’s honest and laid back style during these episodes gained him a large following and turned him into one of the most influential wine reviewers in the world.

Relevance

Are you giving your audience what they are looking for? A lot of people fail to achieve a great deal of influence becuase they miss the target here – their audience is misaligned and their message is all over the map. I am a reader Avinash Kaushik‘s blog – he is influential on me. Why? Becuase he blogs about analytics. That’s it. That’s why I follow him, and that’s what I expect to read when he writes a new post. If one day he decided to blog about horse racing, I would be confused and I would leave. Relevance is huge.

Timing

Timing is key. Can you deliver your message to your audience in a timely fashion? Sometimes being timely can make or break your influence with a certain audience. I rarely use the same example twice in one blog post, but this is an exeption. I’m going to use Bob MacKenzie again for this one. He is always the first one to report anything hockey – a trade, suspension, a healthy scratch, what Daniel Alfredsson is having for lunch…okay maybe not that much, but his ability to report detailed hockey news in an extremely timely fashion is staggering – and one of the main reasons I follow him religiously on Twitter.

Alignment

Are you in the right place? Aligning your message with your target audience is one of the most overlooked aspects of building influence.  Should you be using Twitter? LinkedIn? Google +? Take Justin Bieber for example. He went from a simple teenager in a small Canadian town to one of the World’s most famous and influential pop stars by using YouTube. His target audience (probably 95% teenage girls) are heavy users of the video sharing site. He is the perfect example of gaining influence through strategic alignment.

Measuring your Influence

So how much influence do you actually have? Who do you influence? What topics are you influencial on? Well there are a few free tools out there that help you determine your online influence. The most well known is probably Klout. If you haven’t heard of Klout, here is how they describe themselves:

The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others. The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure: True Reach (how many people you influence), Amplification (how much you influence them) and Network Impact (the influence of your network). 

So first of all, Klout will give you an overall score – mine is 54. Secondly, they provide you with a Klout Style – I am a specialist – meaning that I am “not necessarily a celebrity, but within my area of expertise my opinion is second to none. My content is likely focused around a specific topic or industry with a focused, highly-engaged audience.”

Klout then breaks down individual scores for the three aforementioned elements: True Reach, Amplification and Network Impact. They also provide a list of topics for which you are influential. Apparently, within my network, I am influential about Small Business, Media, Beer, Ottawa, Facebook and SmartPhones. I can then break it down even further. I can see which specific people I influence the most, and on which topics. Similarly, I can see who influences me the most, and on which topics. For example, my biggest influencer is Chris Brogan, and he influences me on Blogging, Social Media and Marketing.

Understanding your influence is key to Social Media success. Are you in the right place? Are you influencing who you want to be? Are you missing the mark? Tracking my Klout score has personally helped me fill in the gaps where I am missing out, and realign my Social Media strategy.

How will you become influential using Social Media?