A Four-Dimensional System for Quantifying Social Influence

Influencer marketing and engagement work continues to grow and become more complex. We need a robust framework for assessing (and ideally quantifying) a person’s level of influence. We can do this by breaking influence down into four dimensions: Relevance, Authority, Reach and Accessibility (the RARA system). Together, these dimensions allow a quantifiable, data-driven and robust approach to influence work. 

Influence is complex. But in the communication/marketing industry, many people still seem simply to equate reach with influence. In this logic, if someone has two million followers, then they must be twice as influential as someone with a million followers. Influencer pay is certainly a function of overall follower count, a correlation that has been justly criticized.

But we all know there’s more to influence than reach.

There are three other things, actually. Together, they are the four dimensions of influence.

They are Relevance, Authority, Reach and Accessibility.

Together, these dimensions form a complete model of social influence, both online and offline.

When we are doing influencer selection work, we consider each dimension and then bring them together to form a composite assessment of an influencer’s appropriateness for a particular brand or campaign.

Relevance

Do this person’s values overlap with the brand’s? Are they on-topic?

Is this person already speaking, publishing, posting and sharing material that is naturally relevant to the brand? To the target audience? Is it on-topic for the current activation or campaign? If you were to put the brand’s logo on the end-frame of one of this influencer’s videos or posts, would it look natural?

What about their personality? Does it overlap with the brand’s identity and the likely audience profile? With psychometric profiling technology we can get very specific and objective here.

These are all factors that will affect the person’s relevance score.

Authority

How trusted is this person’s expertise in this subject area?

Are they discussed or linked to by peers or media as someone who knows about the topic at hand? Do they have professional experience in the field? Are they perceived as an expert? These are some of the factors will increase their Authority score.

Reach

How many members of the target audience are paying attention to this person?

Not just total followers – that’s just a lifetime number of how many people have clicked ‘subscribe’ at some point. We have the technology to get more specific. How many people are watching/reading/listening right now? Are they the kind of people we need to reach?With the right tools for demographic analysis we can get very specific on this.

In many ways this is the least important dimension of the four, because reach can be bought very effectively through targeted paid spend.

Accessibility

How willing is this person to work with the brand?

This is a function of the influencer’s position and of their attitude towards the brand. They may be very popular and booked months in advance. They may command high fees. They may be a total fanboy/girl of a rival brand. They may be employed in a position that restricts their ability to speak freely. Any one of these factors would reduce their Accessibility score.

The RARA system: Quantified Influence

Together, we call this the RARA system. It means we can be very specific and very targeted with clients when we recommend influencers to work with.

The major advantage here – and the opportunity for value to the client – is that we can actually measure each dimension of influence, based on data relating to each one, processed through proprietary algorithms. The following inputs give us a score from 0 to 100 for any influencer for each of the four dimensions:

  • Relevance can be measured through keyword matching, entity-defining KPIs, and many other sources.
  • Authority can be measured through contextual search ranking, social media engagement statistics, and so on.
  • Reach is well-studied, and we have the technology to be quite specific about exactly what type of person is paying attention to which influencer and when.
  • Finally, Accessibility can also be measured as a function of influencer location, existing brand partnerships and fee expectations.

The specific details of our method are confidential, but the system is robust and works across languages, regions, and can account for influence both online and off.

This means influence can be effectively quantified. And if it can be quantified, it can be mapped, like this:

Quantified Influence

Don’t get too hung up on the names (they’re from randomnamegenerator.com). The point here is to illustrate what a landscape of influence looks like, around a given topic or brand area. These could be pet bloggers, video game streamers, or politicians and journalists. The system works equally well for all of them.

The horizontal axis measures brand relevance. The further to the right, the more this person is creating content that fits well with the goals of the specific client communications campaign.

The vertical axis  measures topic authority. The higher up, the more this person is trusted to speak on the subject of the communications challenge.

The size of each bubble measures reach. Larger bubbles indicate this person has a larger engaged audience.

Finally the hue of the bubble measures accessibility. The darker the bubble, the more that person is willing to work with the brand and shares brand integrity.

Contextual Influence

This system is contextual. Any individual’s scores will vary depending on the specific topic and activation their scores are being mapped against.

  • Relevance varies according to brand and communications topic. An influencer could be on-brand for one brand but irrelevant for another.
  • Authority varies according to topic. I might trust Zoella to recommend a makeup brand, but not a motor oil.
  • Reach varies according to target audience. An influencer with 10 million teenage girls following her has a very low reach if the brand partner is an IT security firm, for example.
  • Accessibilty varies according to brand partnership. An influencer might be very open to working with a techn brand but now a mining company, for instance.

So while it’s not possible to give an individual general scores, it is possible to assess any individual’s appropriateness very precisely for any specific brand partnership.

Therefore, this method offers a robust and conclusive method of determining which individuals should be partnered with for a given communications objective.

Conclusion

The RARA system solves the problem of deciding which influencer a brand should partner with.

By breaking influence down into four dimensions, we isolate the various components of influence and make it easier to assess.

Furthermore, through our data-driven approach and proprietary algorithms,  we can effectively and consistently quantify influence. This makes it possible to objectively compare influencers from different regions or platforms on a like-for-like basis and make appropriate partnering and budgeting decisions.

If you’d like to find out more about the RARA system and how we apply it to client work at Edelman, let me know.

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