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Finding influencers is more than just comparing their Klout score

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: 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
  • I understand the reluctance to rely upon social influence platforms like Klout and PeerIndex which neither have any significant social community attached to their measurement of influence, however, I think you are missing an important distinction which sets Empire Avenue apart from Klout and PeerInex…Community!

    In addition to the analytics and bean counting, the folks at Empire Avenue have created a platform which encourages social interaction and the formation of multiple communities surrounding geographical areas, niches, special interests, political interests or personal communities of any members choosing (if they have become an active participant and attained a minimal qualifying threshold).

    Beyond the measurement of social influence, the design of Empire Avenue encourages participation and engagement on other social platforms to grow on Empire Avenue.

  • The truth is certainly in the community. Klout and PeerIndex provide strategic numbers and attempt to show influence and areas of expertise. However, you are correct, they could average higher numbers for a bot or even celebrities like our favorite Justin Beiber. Empire Avenue, thats a different ball game. The numbers you see are in direct relation to a person’s social activity within the communities connected to the site: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook Pages, blogs and the internal Empire Avenue communities.

    If I had to choose one of the three “influence” gages you mentioned, it would be Empire Avenue. The statistics are updated daily. The charts show me where the data came from and where the impact made a difference in “likes,” retweets, blog activity, comments etc. Klout, well, I have no insight to how they determine the value points. PeerIndex refreshes on login and gives a slightly better indication what it looks at for reaching the number.

    Social influence is the new determining factor for some people, but it certainly doesn’t measure everything within context. I agree thee services should be used within reason and no business person in their right mind should make decisions from a stack of numbers.

  • Benjamin Hale

    I agree with Dr. Capps. EmpireAvenue is not a “rating” service intended to be used strictly as a tool, but it provides a “gamification” element to social networking itself. See http://www.gamification.com/ for a great video on the subject. It’s obvious that the web is going to go into a third cycle that will involve the gamification of the web. Web1 (97-04) built the net platform, web2 (04-11) built the social network system onto that web platform, and now the next cycle is looking to be the implementation of a game/interactive/mutual-incentive systems into the social network systems that were built on the web system. 

    Ten years ago, search engines were very rough and didn’t always produce practical results, but without those old rough drafts of the Googles and such that we have now being constantly revised, we’d not have the modern, more practical (although still not always perfect) search engines. I don’t think anyone with any real sense is using Empire Avenue, or even strictly utility indexes like Klout and Peerindex, with the intention of it being entirely or even usually representative of their overall effect. But these utilities and indexes are actually useful to some extent, and we’re better with them than without them. If anything they add a game element to it. Odds are that if you can get a very high score on the indexes, you’ll have to be producing meaningful and most likely original content. 

    Just because you can get a high score by using bots doesn’t mean that is what most people are going to do. Most of us already know that is pointless and we’re going to figure out how to do it the right way. My brother once said that people who take shortcuts just cut their own wrists, and I think anyone with any sense knows this. God bless Tom Foremski, I just honestly I just think he is not giving us enough credit. The social media marketing and seo communities aren’t just mindless automotons who think that a higher number on a computer screen means we are reaching a better audience. We already know that and I think he’s stating the obvious – preaching to the choir so to speak, with all due respect to Mr. Foremski – he might be a great guy and the most intelligent man on the planet earth for all I know, but I disagree with his point on this particular issue.
    I mean, we have to use something to measure how we’re doing. No one factor determines anything. Even Google itself uses over 200 factors to determine search engine rankings, and this is implying that we just log on to our computers, look at our Klout score, and then take the shortcuts to just get it up. The truth is, its just a very insignificant factor in the grand scheme of things, and not always useful for every situation, or practical for referencing progress. But it can be useful and a factor. And Empire avenue is certainly not klout. There is a huge difference between a full-scale social network and a utility. That’s like comparing Facebook to dropbox or something. Just because you can upload files to FB and DB in some similar way, doesn’t make them similar in any realistic way.