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Influence Measurement Tools: A Big Topic (Announcement & Request for Help!)

Influence Measurement Tools: Much Drama, Little Information

The Influence Measurement Tools Drama: Holy Grail, Sheer Evil or Just a Game?

I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.   Or rather, more than I can finish without a little encouragement from you, and the pressure that I’ll create for myself by announcing that I’m actually doing this.

So, I’m announcing The Realtime Report’s Guide to Online Influence Measurement Tools — a guide for brands, agencies, developers and anyone interested in understanding the rapidly evolving, innovative, controversial and potentially very disruptive field of influence measurement.

Online influence measurement goes way beyond Klout and the current raging debate about scores, algorithms, perks and privacy issues.  There are at least five companies that measure your influence and assign you a score.  Each has a different methodology, uses different data sources and publishes different information about you.

In addition to these single-score tools, there are a set of very sophisticated tools that identify influencers across a given set of topics, find audiences specific to keywords, and  even measure opinions.  The analytics that are possible with these tools are pretty mind-blowing.

So right now,  I’m down the rabbit-hole doing research and collecting information.  What started as an idea for a simple blog post became a plan for a series of blog posts as I started mapping out the breadth of the material to cover.  Now I’m thinking it may even become an e-book, or a downloadable guide of some kind.  I mean, who wants to look at comparison charts in a blog template?

Here’s what I plan to cover.  Don’t get mad if I end up leaving some of this out, and please let me know in the comments if I’m missing anything important!

  1. Single-score influence measurement tools:  Klout, PeerIndex, TweetLevel, PeekYou, and Kred
    • how the profiles are created
    • how the scores are created
    • what else the tool measures
    • what data the tool displays about users publicly
    • follow the money:  what’s the business model
    • API and the key developer partners
    • privacy issues
    • key use cases for each platform
  2. A few fun comparisons of an influence profile for the same users  (I’m thinking Mark Zuckerberg might be good for one of the subjects, since he doesn’t believe in privacy…)
  3. Contextual influence measurement tools:  Traackr, Appinions, and SpotInfluence 
    • data sources and methodologies
    • screen shots & key features available to paid users
    • how brands can use these tools to define and target audiences
    • key customers
    • developer information
    • what’s in the pipeline:  many of these tools have plans for new features that will take this game to a whole new level
  4. Brands and Best Practices in Measuring and Identifying Influencers
    • If you’re in PR or marketing, what can you do with the free tools?  What are some best practices for how to incorporate them in your tool set?
    • What’s the justification for spending $500+ on a more sophisticated paid tool?
  5. Users and Influence Measurement
    • These tools are here to stay.  Is there a value in them to the user — or should you try and opt out of every tool you can find (we’ll have links)?
    • Is it a game?  Or a meaningful metric?  What’s really being measured?
    • We’re going from indexing online content, to indexing people.  What about the privacy issues?

Ok — see why I need some encouragement?

If I’m going to tackle this big of a project, I want to make sure that I’m doing something you’ll actually find useful (stop me before I spend much more time on this!), and that I’m not leaving out anything important.

So please comment & let me know what you think:  what do you want to know?  what are the big issues that need to get addressed?  and what am I leaving out?

  • http://freetraffictip.com/ Tinu

    Can’t wait to see this. Here’s what I’m missing:”what do you want to know?”

    Who is behind those tracking influence and what are their REAL motives, beyond their marketing tagline.

    “what are the big issues that need to get addressed?

    Why is the tracking of influence usually the tracking of popularity? Most consumers don’t know the difference and you’d think popularity would be just as brag-worthy in their eyes. Is influence in the pile because that’s how they keep business interested?

    “and what am I leaving out?”

    The accepted ideology behind measuring influence – why these tools are thought to be useful in the first place. I think it would be a good yardstick for helping to determine effectiveness. IE – do any of these tools measure up to the task brands are interested in completing that made us all think the idea of influence was important to start with?

    • http://therealtimereport.com/ tonia_ries

      thanks, @Tinu – these are great questions. The more I’ve read about influence over the last few weeks, the more I’ve realized that very few people really understand it. The issues you bring up are key — popularity vs influence? are these tools really working?

      As far as understanding who the people are behind this … could there be a *trust* issue here? :-)

      I’m curious: how do you define influence? and have you ever used these tools in a business context?

      • http://freetraffictip.com/ Tinu

        Hi Lady.

        Part of the problem is that influence has gone from a well defined word applied to a new technology to an industry buzzword whose meaning has been usurped by the quest to meld the idea to make certain metrics pass as return on investment.

        I’d define influence as the ability to affect a desired change in others through the sharing of our thoughts, our actions and discourse. As such, popularity is a type of influence, but it’s only one time and it’s the weakest type.

        Klout and PeerIndex I’ve used, but not in a business context. I’m more apt to use Google, watch the effects of someone’s actions, etc to measure influence. I’m supposed to be trying Traackr soon too, shonali burke swears by it. And that’s an example of influence. I listen to her because my experience evaluating her experience shows me that she knows what she’s talking about. Because of her, and the fact that I respect her opinion, I’m going to try a tool, and if it suits my needs and I like it, I’ll buy it.

        @tonia_ries

        You’ve inspired me to write more on this topic. Hopefully I have the time later today. :)

        • http://www.WaxingUnLyrical.com Shonali

          @Tinu@tonia_ries The reason I love traackr is because it doesn’t claim to be what it’s not. It gives you a way to identify a targeted population based on what you’re trying to achieve, and the topics they are talking about. I think pierreloic calls it a “people discovery” tool (and he did a terrific guest post on my blog recently on why social “scores” are a dangerous concept). But then you have to do the work.

          And I think that’s one of the dangers with trying to identify “influencers,” that people think if they blast them with an email pitch or news release, it’ll get them what they want (and often they don’t bother to identify what their outcomes should be, but that’s a whole other story). In that respect, I wouldn’t even call Traackr a “measurement” tool, but what people calls it; a way to identify the people you need to reach. But you still need to do your leg work before, during, and after that.

        • http://therealtimereport.com/ tonia_ries

          Hi @Shonali – you bring up some great points. I had initially thought I could compare all of these tools in one grid — but tools like traackr are simply in a whole different category. I saw the post from pierreloic on your blog & recommend it to anyone interested in this topic: http://www.waxingunlyrical.com/2011/11/21/why-a-social-credit-score-is-an-empty-and-dangerous-notion/.

          You are dead right that ultimately the value of a tool must be measured by the business outcome you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to identify an audience? prioritize individual levels of engagement? understand them to better target content? measure the buzz around your brand? All of these are different goals & might require a different tool or strategy.

          The other thing I’ve learned so far is that some agencies and brands see a value in using both types of tools — a Klout or PeerIndex for a fast-glance look at a group of influencers you’ve already identified in some other way; a Traackr for a deeper understanding of how conversations are flowing and to uncover hidden influencers… what do you think of that approach?

          cc @Tinu

        • http://therealtimereport.com/ tonia_ries

          that’s an excellent example of influence, @Tinu !

  • kamichat

    Hey Tonia;

    For the paid tools we need to add in cost as well. I’m wondering how I can help you with this.

    Kami

    • kamichat

      Also, the difference between use for reach or use for targeting, different needs.

      • http://therealtimereport.com/ tonia_ries

        @kamichat definitely. I’d like to be able to identify the range of use cases & what a user / buyer would need to look at for each …

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  • lorraineappinions

    Hey Tonia-

    This sounds great, and I’m definitely interested to read your thoughts on the topic. As you know, Appinions is a great tool, as it not only lets you know who the biggest influencers are regarding your company/marketplace, but also lets you compare these influencers against competitors, seeing who’s talking about them but not you, and what they’re saying.

    Lorraine

    Appinions, Marketing Coordinator

    • http://therealtimereport.com/ tonia_ries

      @lorraineappinions Thanks, Lorraine – and yes, from what I’ve seen, Appinions has a lot of powerful features. I spoke to your CEO Larry Levy last Friday, and will reach out if I have more questions!

  • http://tedweismann.com/ TedWeismann

    Tonia – Incredibly ambitious, but worth endeavor. Kudos to you in advance!

    This may be difficult to do, but it also would be worth comparing what’s in it for brands for each of these tools. What’s the return for marketers that pay for a Perk, especially if there is a flaw in how the services associate topics to people are so far off base (e.g. Klout has me influential about Jersey Shore even though I’ve never watched the show and surely haven’t even typed the words on Twitter, and I don’t see @AnneWeiskopf tweeting about Judge Judy, like, ever).

    Also, you may want to be sure to cover the opt-in/opt-out options for each (although you may be planning to cover this as part of privacy).

    • http://therealtimereport.com/ tonia_ries

      @TedWeismann@AnneWeiskopf thanks, Ted – and yes, I’d love to hear from any brands who have experience with Perks!

  • blogbrevity

    Hi Tonia! I would definitely be interested in your analysis. However, I do know how much work is involved!! I am doing my own experiment. I have disconnected from all the “influence” metrics two days ago, and am tracking my community’s view of my influence on some metrics I created for myself. Will let you know how it goes!

    Thanks!

    Angela Dunn

    @blogbrevity

    • http://therealtimereport.com/ tonia_ries

      @blogbrevity sounds interesting – very interested in hearing how this goes. Keep me posted, Angela!

  • CopyByTom

    @tonia_ries Hi! How’s going? Tom :)

  • cselland

    Tonia – glad to hear that you are taking this on, there is so much confusion in and around this topic. There aren’t any ‘right’ answers but plenty of opinions.

    I’d be happy to speak with you at any time about some of my and our thoughts on the topic since Influencer identification and engagement is a big part of what we do at Terametric. Please feel free to contact me anytime – chrisselland at terametric dot com.

    We have a 100% free Influencer identification tool (http://www.terametric.com/Influencer) that we’d love you to take a look at!

    • http://therealtimereport.com/ tonia_ries

      @cselland thanks for stopping by, Chris. Are you talking about the Inbox Influencer tool on your site? (the link you left didn’t work)

      • cselland

        @tonia_ries@cselland I am – sorry about the link – my fault, try https://terametric.com/signup/influencer

        • http://therealtimereport.com/ tonia_ries

          @cselland got it – and done. I’ll let you know if I have questions!

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  • larry levy

    Tonia – We’re really looking forward to this. Too much snake oil out there! The industry needs a balanced view of the tools and capabilities mapped to specific use cases.

    Regards

    Larry

    • http://therealtimereport.com/ MarissaMcN

      Larry – Tonia is away until January, but she’ll be back at work on influence measurement when she returns – stay tuned! @larry levy

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