Today’s guest post is written by Tammy Kahn Fennell.

Social media has given rise to an entire new level of narcissism. We all want to be heard, and to be respected.

Twenty years ago I bet you never thought that taking a stroll in the countryside or eating at a restaurant would be worthy of broadcasting out to your friends, family, and business contacts, but here we are.

Just last week I couldn’t help but tweet out a picture of a blackberry crumble I had just baked. Given that, it’s no surprise a new industry has emerged, the “influence measurement” industry; another way to make us feel more, or less, important.

Leading the influence measurement pack is Klout, who will mash up your interactions on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Tumblr, and more, and send it through their algorithm to score you.

Yes people, you are now being scored based on the online influence you wield.

PeerIndex is another service which is gaining popularity and one to which you may want to pay some attention. It is similar in concept to Klout, but they take it a step further and focus more on how influential you are within your niche and areas of interest. Essentially, if you’re the Justin Beiber of the real estate world, you’ll have a higher score even if no one has heard of you in any other industry, which is a perfectly reasonable idea.

Scores are always controversial. I mean, do we really need to be measured?

Narcissism aside, I think the answer is yes.

Think back to the rise of websites, and Alexa scores and Google page rank. It’s really easy to look the part on a website.  A professional looking website with a smooth talking marketing rep could make the site sound really big and really successful.

But, before you decide whether it’s worth your time to do a joint promotion with them, one of the first things you probably do is have a peak at their Alexa or Compete score. Someone whose site is ranked 1.8 million is likely to be all talk, but if they’re less than 150,000, you may want to explore them a little more closely.

Influence scores work in the same way. When I’m seeing @ replies come through on Twitter, or people contacting me through Facebook, a quick influence check lets me know if I’m talking to a zero or a hero. It’s not perfect, and I don’t make my decisions solely based on someone’s influence score, but in a fast moving world we need a little help to allow us to make quick decisions.

Gaming the system

These algorithms are not perfect. We have a test account that has a Facebook and a Twitter presence, and does pretty much nothing besides post RSS feeds and the occasional test update. “His” influence score seems to keep rising. And this makes sense to an extent – even though “he” isn’t interacting with anyone. People can stumble upon him and find what he is posting, and even retweet it. But, the fact that “his” influence has increased exponentially speaks to the fact that there aren’t sufficient checks in place to ensure that influence is based on human interaction.

Danny Brown recently wrote about gaming the Klout system and how quickly he was able to establish himself as an expert in sheep thanks to Klout’s own tool K+.  Sure, there are ways to game it right now, but the influence industry is still in its infancy and we’ll continue to see vast improvements.

Are they here to stay?

The success of these influence measurement tools is based on the development community’s desire to integrate with them. Klout is already present in apps such as Hootsuite and MarketMeSuite. Peer Index has a list system that is widely used by organizations to show the influence of their community as a whole. The success of companies such as Compete and Alexa have set a decent precedent showing the usefulness of measurement tools, so I think it’s fair to say they will likely continue to grow in relevance, provided they continue to improve their algorithms.

Key takeaway

Influence doesn’t mean everything, however it is a form of measurement that should not be ignored. It shouldn’t dictate how we feel about ourselves or whom we interact with, but it’s worth keeping an eye on, and to use to cut through a lot of the noise that’s out there. Businesses and marketers all have a need to measure. They need to make sure they’re spending time connecting with the right people and having influence scores as a gauge helps everyone be a little smarter in their approach.

What do you think?

Tammy Kahn Fennell is the  co-founder of the social media marketing dashboard, She also runs, the community driven blog, by MarketMeSuite users, for the world.

One last thing: We hope you’ll join us for a very informative webinar on crisis communications this Thursday. We’ll learn from Alicia Kan, who led her marketing team through a crisis that went global thanks to social media and escalated to street protests. She’ll share her experience and some do’s and don’ts. Thursday, September 8 at 11 a.m. CT. This webinar is $50 and you can buy it by clicking here.