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Ten Tests for Assessing Influence

by Randall Craig on November 6, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Branding, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Marketing

Tagged as: , ,

Influencers are incredibly powerful, not just because of their reach, but because of their trusted relationships. They can bring your name and your services to a completely new audience. They can provide insights into your market – and the market’s view about you – that are uniquely valuable.  They can recommend you – or skewer you.

Clearly it is important to develop strong relationships with influencers – but how do you know who they are?  And more importantly, how might you assess the power of their influence? Here are ten tests that can help:

  1. The Google test: When you search for their area of expertise on Google, do they appear in the first few entries? Or further down the list? If you search for their name, are they referenced within a number of different sites, or just their own? Beyond Google, check the Bing search engine, as well as their website’s Alexa rank.
  2. The social follower test: While quantity isn’t everything, it is an important factor. How many followers/friends/connections does the influencer have on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn? And if there is a particular Social Network within your industry, how many followers do they have there?
  3. The activity level test: How active are they? How often do they post original thinking? How many shares, comments, likes, and retweets?
  4. The peer acknowledgement test: Have they earned professional recognition within their fields for their expertise and influence? If so, it suggests that they are both well known, and have made an impact – both indicators of influence.
  5. The economic test: How much do they charge for mentions, advertising, or sponsorship? The ability to charge for access is one indicator of the economic value of their influence: the more they charge, presumably the higher their influence. Be wary, however: many influencers see this practice as compromising their independence and objectivity, and don’t “sell” their name to anyone.
  6. The traditional media test: Perhaps we have come full circle, but too often influence is being defined narrowly as online influence. The traditional media test speaks to their recognition outside of the blogosphere and twitterverse. How often are they quoted – or write in – in newspapers and magazines? How often do they provide their perspective on radio or television? Are they regularly called by national media, or only by more obscure (or local) outlets?
  7. The longevity test: How many decades have they been doing what they’ve been doing? Expertise, profile, connections, and influence don’t “magically” come into being all by themselves – it builds over time.
  8. The fancy title test: Some people are given influence by virtue of their job. One definition of influence is an individual’s seniority multiplied by the size of their organization. If one of your goals is to build relationships with this type of influencer (a noble goal for a host of other reasons as well), remember that once they leave their job, you will need to start over with their replacement.
  9. The author/speaker test: How often do they speak on their expertise? Are they paid to speak, and if so, have they earned a CSP? How many books have they written? Are the books traditionally published, or are they self-published and of dubious quality?
  10. The community involvement test: Influence also stems from what people do beyond their day jobs. This may mean leadership in a professional association, faith community, neighborhood ratepayers group, school PTA, kids’ sports league, or their own baseball team.  The more active the person is, the greater their influence.

The most important test – relevance: The question of influence is not complete unless you address the question of who they are influential with. If a person or organization has influence with an irrelevant target audience, then why should you care? To you, that influencer is irrelevant.

This week’s action plan: Who are the influencers in your market? This week, spend a few minutes identifying them, and then put together a plan to build stronger relationships with them.

An alternative action plan: How might you become a more powerful influencer yourself? One clue: Look at the tests above, and consider how your current marketing initiatives move you up the scale on each.

Marketing Insight: In the publishing world, the degree of your influence is often referred to as the strength of your platform. The stronger your platform, the more books you will sell. In the marketing world, influence is both a driver of brand equity, and evidence of the brand’s strength.  The stronger your brand and your platform, the more successful any particular marketing initiative will be. This is true for organizations, and for individuals.

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Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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