It’s been a bad week for the American airline Southwest. Movie director Kevin Smith, also known as Silent Bob, was allegedly kicked off a flight because he’s too fat to fly.  He vented his spleen on Twitter and the next thing your know, the airline was in the middle of a major PR crisis as the story was retweeted among Smith’s followers, and then made it onto the agenda of most American mainstream media companies.

Kevin Smith is a bit of an extreme case, but this kind of incident happens every day to all kinds of brands and organisations, especially those who are consumer facing. Anyone left to queue for too long or served luke warm soup can immediately publish his displeasure for all to see.

But how can you tell if a flamer has any influence on Twitter?  Looking at the number of people following that profile will give you an indication of popularity, but it’s not a good indicator of influence. For example, a disgruntled tweep may only have 50 followers, but if these individuals are MPs the actual influence could be much greater.

Luckily there are a few free tools online which help determine Twitter influence.  A smart one is TweetLevel, launched a few months ago by Edelman PR, which helps in understanding how ‘important’ someone is, and therefore how much effort and time should be invested in any one individual who is tweeting negatively.

TweetLevel compiles Twitter data from more than 30 sources and feeds the data through an algorithm to rank an individual according to four weightings:

  • popularity (number of followers)
  • influence (level of interest in what’s tweeted)
  • engagement (level of activity and participation)
  • trust (belief and faith in what’s tweeted)

With more than 1.6 million followers, Kevin Smith is popular, this is true.  But perhaps more interesting is his high trust score of 88.5. So when he complains about a brand, people are actually listening to what he says. Instant PR disaster for Southwest!

TweetLevel reveals some interesting facts about the Isle of Man Twitter community. @Pokerstars , the profile of a global industry leading brand, has a large number of followers at almost 8K, but TweetLevel reveals its influence to be only average with a score of 50.7.  But Manx school girl @BeckiiCruel has a similar influence score, 43.8, although her follower numbers are significantly lower at about 1,500.  Perhaps even more interesting is the profile for astrologer @RobertCurry who boasts almost 68k followers, but whose influence score is only 50.

So which of these three tweeps is more ‘important’?  According to TweetLevel, they are all just about equal.