Influence is not an easy thing to understand. Yes, there are dozens of softwares out there with understanding influencers as a claim. They measure how many followers people have. They count the number of likes and comments and such to put a number on someone’s “influence” to convince you they know.

But they only give you a part of the picture. They give you a measure of online influence (which is imperfect) but don’t touch offline influence.

Insider Louisville's influencer list for marketing and advertisingMy original reaction to the understanding influencers conversation pointed in this direction. In 2010, I observed that I had a Klout score of 72 (or similar) while Malcolm Gladwell had a Klout score of 50 (or similar). There wasn’t a human being alive then (and isn’t now) who realistically thinks I’m more influential than Malcolm Gladwell. But then, Klout primarily measured Twitter impact and Gladwell didn’t Tweet.

For the record, Gladwell is now a 72 and does Tweet. I am a 63. I have no idea what I’ve done to lose nine points. Heh.

The issue resurfaced for me last week when Insider Louisville, a great web-based news source in my city came out with its list of Top 100 Marketing and Advertising Influencers in Louisville. I was ranked No. 7, probably due to a large online footprint compared to my more Louisville-centric folks. But it was more than that.

Insider Louisville’s criteria had to go beyond the online influence sphere. While Mightily’s Lesa Seibert was No. 1 and has an impressive online presence relative to Louisville, Todd Spencer, my old boss at Doe-Anderson, was No. 2 and has just personal accounts and not a wide-ranging online footprint.

To its credit, Insider Louisville reached beyond the Klout scores and online ratings. According to the report, its measurement, “curates and mines data from publicly available business intelligence resources to identify those who are making a significant mark. Founding a company and getting involved in community endeavors are factors that weigh heavily on an individual’s ranking. Other variables considered range from leadership roles to board affiliations to social media presence.”

So the fact that I co-founded the Louisville Digital Association, served on a couple of non-profit boards and founded both Social Media Explorer and Conversation Research Institute had impacts on the rankings. As they should.

The magic of Insider Louisville’s list is that it considered online and offline. And that’s something no online tool offers. As you look at building your own influencer list and understanding influencers for your brand, know that in order to really know who influences your audience, you have to look beyond the tools. You have to do more work. You have to develop your own measurement system to be inclusive, not exclusive to what’s on the web.

If you’re interested in a lot of my original thoughts on the topic, check out a 2011 eBook I wrote for the International Association of Business Communicators.

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