One thing that every social media consulting client asks me about is how to find out who the "Influencers" are in their particular industry. My answer, of course, is that every consumer who is active on social media could potentially be an influencer, and thus truly "accurate" measurement is impossible. Think about it: Someone with 10 followers could tweet something out that gets ReTweeted by someone with 100 followers, and 1 of those 100 followers is someone who works for an industry publication, who then breaks the story to the public, and so on. I think you get the picture.
That being said, while the debate goes on as to who an "Influencer" really is, there is no doubt that some people in social media really do seem to have influence on different topics more than other people. Some have built a following, or even a community, by blogging, sharing, talking about, or engaging others in discussions on various topics. And if they often talk about your industry and are seemingly able to influence others into some action on or off social media, there you have someone that may be considered an influencer.
Because it is apparent that some are more seemingly influential than others on any given subject depending on a number of factors, I have my own unique algorithm for determining influencers based on looking at a number of different metrics and factors. There is no one singular definitive way to calculate "influence," but there are some metrics that we can use to help in our determination of influence. Up until now, the most famous of these measurement tools has undoubtedly been Klout, who you may remember from that free trip I won to Toronto as part of the Virgin America #VXToronto campaign. For those looking for other sources of social media metrics measurement, you'll be happy to know that there is now a similar metric that can be studied that also offers analysis similar to but different from Klout: PeerIndex.
PeerIndex has apparently been around since 2009 and have already been partnering with the likes of SuperFeedr and Topsy (my 2nd favorite Twitter search engine after Chirrps . Perhaps I haven't heard of them because I am based in California while PeerIndex is apparently based in the United Kingdom. By the way, credit for introducing me to PeerIndex goes out to yet someone else I met in Twitterville, Gail Gardner (@GrowMap).
If you're reading this far into this blog post, you owe it to yourself to go to PeerIndex and claim your profile. When you do so, the process is similar to what you do with Klout by giving it the keys to the kingdom to both your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Interesting thing is that PeerIndex already integrates LinkedIn into their score as well, which I haven't seen yet from Klout.
Once your account is ready to go, here is what the screen looks like, and below that a comparable one from Klout:
While both systems are creating a final score of "influence," in my case with Klout being 70 and PeerIndex at 66, you begin to see the different types of data, beyond this score, that each application provides. Specifically, in comparing the two dashboards, we notice the differences in information provided in each of the following areas:
- Is This Twitter Profile Real or a Bot? PeerIndex provides a "realness" number, 100 being real, 0 being a bot.
- How Does This Person Use Social Media? Klout provides a classification that labels each person as "Networker," "Thought Leader," and so on, which may provide some clues as to how this person uses social media.
- What Topics Does This Person Talk About? Both Klout and PeerIndex provide you with a list of top 5 topics that a profile is talking about. PeerIndex, though, allows each user to decide which 5 topics of maybe 10 or 15 topics that they often speak about to be listed on their public profile.
- How Influential is This Person in a Top Topic? Klout used to be able to allow you to search for influencers by topic. PeerIndex will not only show a metric of influence for each of the top 5 topics of conversation, but you can also select the "LIST" link and see the top influencers by the PeerIndex metric for that category, or any category for that matter. Pretty cool.
- What Categories of Content Does This Person Talk a Lot, or a Little About? While Klout gives you little more information than those Top 5 Topics, PeerIndex has created a framework of content divided into 8 categories which they call a "Topic Fingerprint." These categories are: Arts/Media/Entertainment, Technology/Internet, Science/Environment, Health/Medical, Leisure/Lifestyle, Sports, News/Politics/Society, and Finance/Business/Economics. This is particularly useful information in scenarios where your company is looking for those who have an interest in various combinations of these categories.
- What are This Person's Top Sources of Information? PeerIndex actually looks at your shared links and list the top 5 websites from who you are sharing information. This metric in itself can give way to fascinating research if you are trying to determine influential sources of content in your industry.
- Who Influenced, and is Influenced by, This Person? This is where Klout shines by helping create a Social Influence Graph for each profile. While PeerIndex listed friends, I didn't see it as authoritative information as the Klout data is here.
You will see a definite trend here in that PeerIndex seems to be doing more analysis of the content of conversation while Klout is looking more at the context surrounding the conversation. Both provide invaluable data to us in different ways.
I won't get into the details of how Klout calculates its metric using a formula looking at True Reach, Amplification & Network while PeerIndex looks at Activity, Audience & Authority. There can be no singular "correct" metric here. That's why, when trying to do analysis on who might be more influential in social media than others on certain topics, any additional tool, and thus additional metric, is a welcome addition to the toolbox of us social media marketers. If you haven't claimed your profile on PeerIndex yet, you definitely should, as the more profiles that get authorized for them to pull data from, the better their metrics should become over time.
I know that I opened up a potential Pandora's Box about why scores like Klout are or aren't important, and even questions about whether "Influencers" really exist or not. If every consumer can be an influencer, or even if social influencers do exist, is it unfair for companies to give them special attention? Regardless of the debate, as someone who represents social media consulting clients looking to increase their brand awareness through social media, influencer outreach is, and will continue to be, a hot topic of discussion and activity for brands. It wouldn't surprise me if another Klout or PeerIndex service arises over the next few months to meet this increasing demand.
Now it's your turn: What do YOU think about the topic of social media influence measurement and tools like Klout and PeerIndex?