Posted on June 12, 2012 by appinions

Personal vs. Contextual Influence: What’s the Difference?

There are two broad areas of focus in digital influence – personal and contextual – that offer two different ways to identify and measure influence.

If you’re scratching your head about the differences, you’re not alone.

To help you better understand this emerging market, we’ve put together a brief comparison of personal and contextual influence and the tools that are available for each.

Personal Influence

Personal influence tools capture and rank or score data attributed to a person’s social profiles, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

The user’s profile is the primary data resource for the measurement process in this case, so one of the key differentiators between personal influence measurement tools and contextual is permission. Without permission from the user to access their data on these social networks, these tools are largely blind.

Personal influence tools often examine the size of the audience and certain demographics as well, though how much weight each hold varies by tool.

Klout, PeerIndex, Kred and PeekAnalytics are a few examples of personal influence tools. These tools offer free access to the data associated with a user’s social profile, as well as perk programs for promotional or incentive-based influencer outreach.

Tools like Klout and Kred, for example, focus on influence as a direct measurement of a person’s overall ability to drive action. This is largely assessed by analyzing social proof, or how many followers, retweets, replies, “likes” and mentions someone receives.

More specific benchmarks for measuring personal influence include:

  • Number of followers/fans
  • Frequency of activity on social networks
  • Follower ratio
  • Keyword semantics

Contextual Influence

Contextual influence, on the other hand, places a larger emphasis on the content and context of information. In other words, contextual influence measurement tools are built to identify and measure who has influence in a particular topic, subject or market.

Additionally, these tools look at all public data available online – instead of just social networks – to determine who is an influencer. Because these tools search and analyze the entire web, they are able to provide a more complete picture of influence by looking at who is shaping opinions around a specific topic.

These premium tools are generally enterprise-focused and do not assign public rankings or scores. You must have a paid account to research and identify influencers. Therefore, these tools are more geared more for brands and agencies who want to:

  • Measure influence around a specific topic by monitoring actions/reactions to an influencer’s content;
  • Monitor topics and conversations over a range of timeframes, including real time; and
  • Monitor who is shaping opinions around a topic in your market.

In addition to Appinions, TRAACKR, mPACT and SpotInfluence are examples of contextual influence tools that offer insight into in context of the market, topic or conversation that you’re trying to measure.

Why the Difference Matters

Both sets of tools have their place in the marketer’s toolkit. If you want to reach out to people with a massive audience or find out more about an individual’s influence, personal influence tools will help you. But, if you want to identify and target people based on the context of their influence, contextual influence measurement tools will be a better fit.

The bottom line is that agency and brand marketers need to understand the full spectrum of influence – from methodologies to available technology – so that they can implement the most effective and relevant outreach strategy for their market, namely one that drives action, not just talk.

For a comprehensive guide to influence measurement and the various tools available, click here get your copy of the Realtime Report’s Guide to Influence Measurement Tools.

Image credit: ausiegall