Why Social Media Influence Matters, and 5 Ways to Measure It

By Olsy Sorokina


Image by whatmattdoes via Flickr
Image by whatmattdoes via Flickr

What is social media influence? Back in the early days of the web, when savvy meant having your own Geocities site, influence was evaluated based on the number of pageviews displayed on your fancy counter widget. The arrival of Myspace and Facebook gave us more to measure: the size of your social media audience. Then came Twitter, which meant users’ social media influence was also judged based on the reach and resonance of their messages.

Criteria that make up someone’s social media influence haven’t changed much over the years; what has changed is the value of having power in an online community. Once business owners and employers recognized social media as a multipurpose business tool, social media influence became the way organizations evaluated potential employees, and gaining that influence became a top priority for social media professionals—in turn, creating new jobs.

Why does social media influence matter now?

Social media influence matters on multiple levels. For businesses, online influence signals better engagement with customers and a smarter social media strategy. On an individual level, social media influence can be a sign of advanced digital skills and an ability to create interesting social media content.

To break this down further: for business owners, a better social media influence of the company social accounts can improve their brand’s visibility in the online community and increase the reach of their social messaging. This is an implicit purpose behind investing valuable resources into a social media team or a social media manager.

How can you measure social media influence?

Just a few years ago, we didn’t know how to measure how “good” someone was at social media beyond the number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends on their account, or the number of likes or favourites they received on an average post. Now, we have more meaningful metrics such as reach and engagement that allow us to assess how well someone manages their social networks. There is also a wide selection of social media influence measurement tools, each offering a slightly different method of evaluation of social media worth.

For example, Hootsuite allows you to see each user’s Klout score when viewing their profile in the dashboard. A Klout score is a number from 1 to 100 that reflects the user’s social media influence, calculated based the user’s levels of reach and engagement with their audience—the bigger the influence, the higher the score. While Klout is the most straightforward way to evaluate someone’s social media influence—you can’t argue with a number—it doesn’t provide you with many other numbers to justify the score. Other social media influence measurement tools often don’t give a conclusive verdict, but instead show you the statistics on metrics such as reach, engagement, sentiment, number of retweets, and let you make up your own mind about that user’s level of influence.

Here are 5 tools to measure social media influence


Topsy measures social media influence based on other users’ interactions with the content an individual shares. This tool ranks your profile based on how much your social media content is shared and, in turn, the influence of the user who shares it. Topsy uses these metrics to create an approximation of your content’s reach, with reach determining relative value of that piece of content.

However, Topsy’s influence measurement functions are not always obvious. The most explicit signal to it is the “Influencer” search option, where you can input a topic keyword to see who is considered an expert in the subject. Searching by any other category also displays the most influential content first, as well as the overall sentiment associated with the topic, and the trend over the past month.

Additionally, Topsy’s Analytics tool can point to an overall influence trend of up to three keywords, domain names or users. The latter trend search can be particularly interesting for those who want to compare their social media influence to their competitors’, for example, by inputting the official Twitter handles.

* Update: Topsy is no longer available. The service was purchased by Apple and shut down in December 2015.


The focus of PeerIndex’s social media influence evaluation tool is audience measurement. The app allows you to search for influential followers in your field; you can search by hashtag or keyword and filter by geographical location. Similar to Klout, PeerIndex also provides a score, which is based on how active the user is on social media, how often other users engage with them, and how influential their social media following currently is.

Fun fact: PeerIndex PiQ app is newly available in Hootsuite’s App Directory. Find out more about the app, as well as how you can use it in your dashboard here.

Hootsuite Insights

Hootsuite Insights (formerly uberVU via Hootsuite) surfaces influencers who are actively driving a conversation in real time. Rather than base influence solely on number of followers, Insights determines influence based on relevance to your specific search terms. Insights uncovers in-depth data on influencers who are currently driving the conversation around your brand, company or product and actively increasing engagement and extending reach. This helps you find and connect directly with those who are influential on the topics that matter most to you, not just those with large social followings.


Similar to Klout, Kred also gives your social media account a score. The score is composed of influence and outreach: influence is based on the amount of mentions, retweets, and replies to you, and outreach relies on mentions, retweets and replies sent by you. This social media influence measurement tool displays the Global Kred by default, but you can also see the breakdown of your Kred score based on different fields in case you want to increase your influence or reach to a certain kind of professional. You can also endorse other users by giving them Kred, which increases their Global score.

Kred gives a map with geographical locations showing where their social media influence is the highest, which is advantageous to businesses wishing to expand to a different region. It also summarizes your account’s best-performing posts, as well as a mention summary for each month to see which users you interact with the most.


Twtrland measures social media influence based on statistics it collects from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

There is also an opportunity to search influencers on Twtrland by skill, location, or name. If you are hiring, and want to check the social media influence of a candidate, you can look them up by name. The user’s Twtrland’s profile shows what fields they are influential in, an overview of top content, as well as the influential users in their network. While the basic influence measurement is free, a more in-depth analysis of the network is available for Pro users.

If you are looking to connect with other professionals in your field, Twtrland allows you to see the social media accounts of users it deems to be most influential. It also displays similar fields, if you’re looking to expand to other professional areas or looking for social media influencers in a field similar to yours.

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