Announcing A New Social Media Influence Measurement Tool

I realize that there are a number of tools already on the market that purport to measure your social media, or Twitter, influence. But I’m pretty sure I can do a better job of measuring this than they can.

Allow me to introduce a new social media influence measurement tool: The Potemkin Score.

First, a little about the name. According to Wikipedia:

Potemkin villages is an idiom based on a historical myth. According to the myth, there were fake settlements purportedly erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigory Potyomkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. Potyomkin had hollow facades of villages constructed along the desolate banks of the Dnieper River in order to impress the monarch and her travel party with the value of her new conquests, thus enhancing his standing in the empress’ eyes.

In his book Proofiness, author Charles Seife extends this concept to what he calls Potemkin numbers — phony statistics based on erroneous or nonexistent calculations. For example: Justice Antonin Scalia’s assertion that only 0.027 percent of convicted felons are wrongly imprisoned was a Potemkin number derived from a prosecutor’s back-of-the-envelope estimate; more careful studies suggest the rate might be between 3 and 5 percent.

Statistics from Klout or Twitter Grader are nothing but Potemkin numbers. Fancy calculations that purport to measure one’s influence. defines influence as “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.” In this context measuring someone’s Twitter influence is impossible, or at least as Klout and Twitter Grader do it, seriously misguided.

The first problem is that these current scoring mechanisms have a limited view of the actions being taken as a result of someone’s purported influence. Second, they have absolutely no insight into opinions.

Measuring influence has been a marketing challenge for years — ask anyone who has tried to attribute the impact of advertising or direct marketing campaigns on sales.

But that’s no problem for the likes of Klout and Twitter Grader.

For example, after just two weeks of tweeting, @CharlieSheen has a Klout score of 94 and a Twitter Grader score of 100. Yes, @CharlieSheen has a lot of followers, and yes, we hang on every word he tweets to see how far he can stick his foot down his mouth. But this is not — let me repeat, NOT — influence.

So I have constructed a new measure of social media influence: The Potemkin Score (no point in trying to disguise what it really is).

There are two steps in calculating your Potemkin score:

1. (Klout score + Twitter Grader score + Twitalyzer score) / 3

2. Multiply the number you get in Step #1 by your Influence Importance score. The score ranges from 0 to 100. To give you some guidelines on determining your score:

0 = I don’t give a rat’s ass about my social media influence score

50 = My social media influence score is important to me

100 = I absolutely, positively have to have a high social media influence score, and will do everything within my power to ensure that I have a high social media influence score.

Allow me to help you analyze your Potemkin score:

 1: Congratulations, you’re a normal, well-functioning human being. Well, in social media, at least. In real life, you might be a demented psychopath, but you’re doing a great job of hiding that in your social media interactions. Unless, of course, you’re lying about your Influence Importance score.

2: It really doesn’t matter what I say about this group. There are only about 3 or 4 people in the world who have a really high score on the left axis and a low Influence Importance score — Oprah, Justin Bieber, Dalai Lama. And they’re not reading this blog post.

3: You have no life. Your compulsion with your social media influence and the steps you’re taking to get high Klout and Twitter Grader scores demonstrates a sickness and delusion about what’s really important in this world.

4: Your first name is Lou. I’m just not sure if your last name is Nee or Zer.


13 thoughts on “Announcing A New Social Media Influence Measurement Tool

  1. Oh..Come on. I definitely got a kick out of comparing my influence & authority with that of my Prime Minister, EX-PM, Opposition Leader, Ex-Opposition Leader & tweeting it at them. And yes, none of that stuff has any clue as to really how much influence I have or haven’t, but it is fun to pull their legs.

  2. Dean: I don’t think Klout and HubSpot see their scores as “fun”. They’re trying to position those scores as legitimate metrics.

  3. A wonderfully insightful analysis.

    The Potemkin Village concept was used, as I’ll guess you know, to great effect in Blazing Saddles.

    Perhaps those who score 3 or 4 in your grid need to “go back and git’ some dimes” so they can pass through the proverbial Toll Booth of Influence. Perhaps, instead, they’re all just “Doing the French Mistake! Ooh-la-lah!”

  4. Great post Ron. I agree that Klout and Twitter Grader are absurd representations of “influence.” Given that social media is now part of a marketers’ toolkit, what are the best ways to identify potential brand evangelists online?
    – Fernando Elizalde

  5. Ha, been too long Ron since I’ve made a trip to your site and low and behold you happen to include something about HubSpot. I’ll try and put my two cents on the whole grader tools that they’ve created.

    The way I understand your website grade or twitter grade for that matter is it tells you how prepared you are to get found online through organic traffic or in the twitter example, have influence over the network based on who you follow, who follows you and how often you get retweeted.

    The problem, which I think you’ve pointed out, is how can a robot really know if what someone is talking about is legitimate and worthwhile to the community at large?

    The answer is, it can’t. But if you did have something to say that was meaningful and worth my time, our time and everyones time that had a need for the service you are putting out, then your grade is important.

    I’ll throw another analogy back to you. You could be a kid in high school getting straight A’s and be primed to do well in college and onward. However, you decide to take a lot of drugs (read Charlie Sheen) and stay out every night only to miss class and flunk out. You were prepped to do well but the content you presented just wasn’t able to hit the mark.

    Site’s looking great and with my new Feedly app I plan on getting back into reading more blog posts.

  6. Thank you so much for this. I have been seeking the perfect measurement score for years now and you have finally produced something that actually works. I bow down to you and your greatness. May your research always have sample sizes greater than 4.

  7. I like it a lot. I know there is a serious point in it, but you have to laugh. This week I’m heading to the Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) 3rd European Summit on Measurement. Maybe I should raise this as a case-study?!

  8. Thanks for your comment, Hugh. Sounds like a cool conference. The real question that really needs to be raised is: Of all the things that need to be measured, do we really want to spend our resources (time and money) trying to measure online influence?

  9. Great post. I’ve been moaning for ages about the nonsense of scores without real meaning, but never managed to put it in such a clear or entertaining manner.

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