Darlene Fichter (University of Saskatchewan) with guest columnist Cheryl Avery
"Every life is a profession of faith, and exercises an inevitable and silent influence."--Henri Frederic Amiel
"It is a strange trade that of advocacy. Your intellect, your highest heavenly gift is hung up in the shop window like a loaded pistol for sale." --Thomas Carlyle
Having power and influence, making the things you advocate happen: This is the essence of clout. Does clout matter? Yes. On different issues, at different times, and for different reasons, everyone wants their voices to be heard and their points of view acted upon--or at least understood, acknowledged, and validated in some manner.
Ranking influence is hardly new: We are all participants to a greater or lesser degree. We turn to certain individuals when we need advice or assistance, acknowledging specific expertise among our colleagues. TIME magazine lists the 100 "most influential" people in the world every year. Other such lists, from the Forbes wealthiest people to box office receipts, Neilsen ratings, and New York Times best-sellers, ultimately help us understand influence, popular culture, and the role of persuasion in almost every aspect of our lives. It is no surprise, then, that such ranking tools are brought to bear on social media sites or that they would affect information professionals.
We see, for example, lists of the top 10 law librarian blogs or the top 100 political blogs. How you make one of these lists often is based on a range of factors including popularity, which is certainly one of the metrics of influence.
Other emerging tools try to determine who is influential by using social media channels. The latest one to create some buzz and attention is Klout, Inc. (www.klout.com). Klout uses algorithms to mine someone's Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, LinkedIn, foursquare, and other network accounts to rank a person or a brand's influence. Klout sees influence as "the ability to drive people to action." Klout has not disclosed all the factors it considers when coming up with its score (http://klout.com/corp/kscore), but it does say it tries to measure these three factors:
* True Reach: How many people you influence
* Amplification: How much you influence them
* Network: The influence of your network
The first two factors are straightforward. What is your reach? How many followers do you have on Twitter (excluding bots) or friends on Facebook? Do your followers react to what you share--how "amplified" are your ideas or posts? The third factor, "network," considers how often top influencers--people with a high Klout score--react to your content.
Whether you agree or not with the methodology Klout or other online influence tools such as Kred (www.kred.com) and Peerlndex (www.peerindex.com) use to rank people isn't crucial. Altimeter Group's Brian Solis thinks they measure social capital and potential for influence (www.slide share.net/Altimeter/the-rise-of-digital-influence). How can information professionals use social media to influence those outside the professions to support and enhance our libraries and organizations?
It is clear that the library and archival communities don't want to be ignored in the digital sphere. A recent OCLC research report stated, "We believe it is riskier to do nothing and become irrelevant to your user communities than to start using social media features" (Smith-Yoshimura, Karen, et al. "Social Metadata for Libraries, Archives, and Museums; Part 3: Recommendations and Readings"; www.oclc.org/ research/publications/library/2012/2012-01r.htm). It is surely the word "irrelevant" that catches our attention first. A Klout Score may seem a false construct easily ignored, but it ought to force librarians and archivists to consider why we are on social media sites at all, and whether our expectations for that online presence are actually being met. …