Lots of people in PR and marketing are enamored by services such as Klout, PeerIndex, and Empire Avenue, which seek to provide a quick assessment on any person’s online influence.
Influence is an important thing online. Marketers are interested in which influencers will help their campaigns. Online influence is the new celebrity endorsement. Using these online influencers to endorse campaigns ensures reach for the brand and campaign, so marketers believe.
If you want to know the top influencers in a specific niche market, services such as Klout, PeerIndex and Empire Avenue will provide you with a simple number for each person, which you can use to rank the influencers.
Their goal is to provide information to publicists and marketers to help them target the right people in their markets.
But it seems to me that there’s a big problem with this approach. If you, as a publicist or marketer, need to consult these services, this probably shows that you are clueless about who is important in the very markets that you are selling into.
Surely, you already know a lot about your markets. Why would you not know who is important?
Surely, you are in them, an active participant in the communities that represent your markets.
Surely, people know you, and you know them… you know who’s who.
Rule 1: You have to be in your communities to know them.
Rule 2: Repeat rule 1.
Rule 3: There is only rule 1.
Klout et al, have no clue, beyond counting Tweets, reTweets, and applying an algorithm to people’s online activities, about the context and the meaning of what they collect. They will provide you with a single number that refers to a person’s influence within a specific sector.
But that number tells you nothing about the context of that assessment: it tells you nothing about what the hot topics are; what the major issues are in those sectors; and nothing about the culture and how to behave in those communities.
Klout, PeerIndex, Empire Avenue, and the others, provide shortcuts without insights.
These services could rank bots higher than actual people, which provides no help for the marketers in the long run.
That said, these services do have a place and a purpose. Use them sparingly and carefully; and get involved in your online communities. You will learn so much more about what’s what, and who’s who.
Finding influencers is more than just comparing their Klout score.
Author | Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley
Tom Foremski is a former Financial Times journalist and the Founder and Publisher of Silicon Valley Watcher, which is an online news site reporting on the business of Silicon Valley and the culture of disruption. More