The rise of online influence: Part II

In the second part of our series on online influence, we round up the three best tools for measuring social media influence; along with a look at their advocates and sceptics.

In my last post I paraphrased Brian Solis and Vocus in defining an online influencer as someone who has online reach and someone who produces quality, relevant content. These are three of the top tools used in social media marketing to identify them:

1) Klout: markets itself as ‘The Standard for Influence’ and combines what it calls True Reach, Amplification Probability and Network Influence to generate an overall Klout Score from 1-100 (100 being the highest and most influential) of a social media user.


Advocate: Michael Cohn offers a nice summary of precisely what Klout measures and why it’s so important to the success of a business.

Sceptic: Steve Farnsworth’s ‘Problem with Klout’ infographic demonstrates how, on the basis of the Klout algorithm, an automated Twitter user with zero engagement can still gain a high influence score.

What we say: An influencer’s network size and quality are both measured, in part, on the basis of retweets. But a good joke, or a cute animal video could become massively retweeted, can that be considered relevant and high quality content that will ultimately change anyone’s behaviour? Unlikely. Plus, if a non-human entity can be considered highly influential, it certainly casts doubt on the reliability of the tool.

2) PeerIndex: uses an algorithm to identify, rank, and score the authority of online influencers and is considered similar to, although less widely adopted, than Klout. According to PeerIndex itself, the tool “addresses the fact that merely being popular (or having gamed the system) doesn’t indicate authority”. It therefore promises to “build up your authority finger print on a category-by-category level using eight benchmark topics.”

Advocate: Andrew Bruce Smith demonstrates how he was able to use PeerIndex’s group function to make a highly popular list of UK Social Media Power Players; he also answers to sceptics with the point that “people had a similar attitude towards statistics based language translation in the 1990s.”

Sceptic: Mark Ralph recently called PeerIndex – along with Klout – the “Emperor’s New Clothes” of social media “appealing to our vanity but leaving us naked.”

What we say: It’s good for drawing in multiple social platforms and getting a broader view, but Twitter still seems to trump the other platforms – if you’re not considered influential on Twitter, you’re just not considered influential.

3) Tweet.Grader: a Twitter-specific tool measuring ‘power and reach’ across the social platform, grading influencers with a score between 1-100 (100 being the most influential). There’s is also a hashtag search function.

Advocate: Omar Kattan recommends it as a very useful tool for tracking the influence of your own business on Twitter, but also for identifying key influencers within your followers.

Sceptic: Steve Allan accuses Tweet.Grader and its ilk of “using fuzzy maths” and “trying to make a buck by rating you and selling that information to marketing companies”.

What we say: In short, even the best of today’s influencer measurement tools, has as many sceptics as advocates. The algorithms are getting better by the day, but they aren’t perfect. While a combination of measurement tools will give good insight into online reach, there’s still no substitute for good old-fashioned research as a means of measuring quality. As a social media agency, we find the best way of identifying the relevancy – and value – of an influencer to our clients, is to take a look for ourselves and ask, are they worth following?

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