Word of mouth is a powerful force of which those that are active in the blogosphere are always aware of. Marshall Sponder is an analyst that is an excellent source on the topic and recently reviewed how other buzz monitoring tools identify influencers.

Influence is a subject that is continually being debated, but we would like to offer you three ways that we measure influence to get your feedback:

1. Identify influencers at the site level

To get started in our look at influencers online, let’s first take a look at the first level of analysis: the site.

We look at the number of inbound and outbound links, the type of site, the frequency and volume of publications, the Google PageRank, and the site audience. Although the influence of an individual site varies with the scope and parameters of monitoring, brands must have a way of quantifying this slipperiest of slippery topics.

Forum Auto, for example, is ranked as an 8.7  on our influence bell curve. You can see the number of inbound and outbound links from various related sites below, as well as use this graphic interchangeably to bring any of the linked sites to the center to be analyzed, just as we have done with Forum Auto.

2. Identify influencers at the post level

While the site on which information is published online affects how influential the information may become, an article (blog post, forum thread, tweet, etc.) itself can become more or less influential over time depending on how many times it has been shared, where, with whom, etc.

Marshall Sponder pointed out that it is the influence of an author that may weigh more heavily than that of the actual site (and will be speaking about it in London in March); why not go to the post itself?

News first broke of an airplane crashing into the Hudson River when a bystander put up photos on Twitpic of the disaster, tweeting,

“There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy”

This information was reposted multiple times, and the author was interviewed by MSNBC only 40 minutes later about what he saw.

3. Identify influencers on a one-to-one basis

How IS it that some celebrities get paid $10,000 (or more!) per tweet?

If you get more, then we owe you congratulations! But otherwise, the rest of us are just trying to figure out who it is that is leading conversations about your brand or industry and how you can connect with them.

Once you can identify influential people on Twitter within your community, or within the communities that you are monitoring, you can better determine if it is worth your resources to engage with this person.

Southwest proved that engaging with Kevin Smith was crucial when he began posting pictures of himself before being asked to step off of a flight recently; they responded within 20 minutes!

We have recently launched our widget for identifying influencers on Twitter that are within your scope, but there are other tools available such as Tweepsearch, Klout, etc.

This list is certainly not comprehensive and still lives much room for debate about the power of influence, how brands can tap into its power, and best techniques for gaining influence online.

What we’d like to know is how you identify influence and use it in your social media campaigns? How do you see the relationship between influence and participation? What can we do to better help you monitor and engage in social media?