If 2011 will be remembered for the irruption of Google+ onto the social media center stage, it could also be rightly defined as the year when online influence measuring came of age. Klout and its close competitors Kred and Peer Index have been busy rewriting the rules of the game at a speedy pace, and – despite their more or less obvious imperfections – there is no way back with respect to the step forward they represent and their long-term, profound implications for online reputation and personal branding.
Klout came under sustained fire this year as a result of the upgrade and tweaking of their algorithm that meant that many of us lost ‘influence points’ in the process. And at times that translated into harsh criticism of the online influence concept itself, a concept that – to be sure – needs refining and possibly redefining given the tremendous difficulty of producing accurate and hence trustworthy analytics and metrics of a multi-channel online and social media presence. This is especially true for individuals with great offline influence whose online equivalent may seem unjustifiably low when under the lens of one of these apps (I don’t believe for a second that I am as influential as Dan Schawbel even if our Klout scores are currently the same). Far from remaining idle, the creative teams behind Klout and the new kids of the block gave answer to this and other challenges by incorporating features that have added complexity but also a new reliability to the mix.
Before we venture into assessing the usefulness and unique characteristics of each tool, it is necessary to limit and circumscribe the reach of these apps to the online medium: they were simply not created to assess the offline influence of a person or brand and it is therefore unfair to criticize them for not doing something they were never meant to do in the first place (even when as of late some have taken steps to include certain offline elements in their scores). I believe that most fair-minded analysts and users will be ready to admit that we are better off today than in the pre-Klout era when number of followers, RTs and updates were at best the only metrics at our disposal. The level of sophistication displayed by the three apps I’ll be considering here stands for a quantum leap and the dawning of a new golden era in the measuring of influence.
Klout has been of the first and perhaps most noteworthy online influence measuring tools. Apart from the fact that its algorithm has stood the test of time and that it integrates more social networks in its mix than any other tool at present, its popularity has been greatly aided by the two key features it shares with the geolocalization social network Foursquare: its ‘game’ feel (with colorful badges and perks) together with its ‘social’ elements (Klout allows us to build a community of ‘influencers’ and ‘influenced’, create new Twitter-style lists, and endorse with ‘K+’ influencers who deal with topics such as personal branding, internet marketing or careers – to cite only a few of a seemingly unending list. A praiseworthy bonus for personal branding lovers is the famous ‘Klout style‘, showing the kind of interaction and engagement of each Klout user and ranging from ‘broadcaster’ to ‘pundit’ and including ‘celebrity’, ‘thought leader’ and ‘specialist’. Even if this was Klout’s only feature, it would make the application worthy of our attention.
Those with a more geeky streak and who value analytics and metrics over play will feel at home with Peer Index, the British answer to Klout. Peer Index was recently in the news when it was announced that it would integrate with the Twitter app SocialBro, proof of the growing popularity of online influence measurers with social media and more specifically Twitter apps. Do not be misled by numbers: even when the Peer Index score goes from 0 to 100, a figure above 50 would mean that you are in the top 10 percentile and a figure above 90 in top the 0.1%. Factors taken into account in the Peer Index algorithm include Authority, Resonance, Audience, Activity and a filter to ensure that we are not spammers or a bot. Recently the Peer Index CEO asserted that his tool was not just able to detect how influential a person was, but also how engaged they were on certain topics and announced that Peer Index would integrate with Hootsuite and Tweetdeck competitors MarketMeSuite. Bear in mind that at present Peer Index (unlike Klout) focuses exclusively on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
I was lucky enough to be one of the first European beta-testers of Kred, another online influence measuring trailblazer that stands out thanks to the unique transparency of its algorithm and the fact that we don’t get a score for a change but a dual mutually-reinforcing metric of Influence and Outreach – both including factors such as RTs, Twitter DMs, G+1, follows, etc. I said that Kred was the most transparent and with reason: the app lists every single online interaction considered and the ‘points’ it has generated. Kred is also innovative in that it allows us to add offline influence to its algorithm by contacting the PeopleBrowsr team that created the app and telling them of our achievements in fields like sports, academia, etc.
There is no question that the path to trustworthy influence metrics and analytics is long and arduous, but we must take courage from the fact that a few are already leading the way with creative, practical and even fun solutions that go well beyond statistics like fans or followers. And we are already witnessing the impact of online influence measuring tools on personal branding, with online résumés beginning to include Klout and similar scores. The integration of Klout, Kred y Peer Index with other social media tools will undoubtedly accelerate this trend and I venture to say it will not be long before it will simply become impractical to use Twitter without reference to an influence score. I encourage you all to test and familiarize yourselves with these apps, knowing that in doing so you will be taking steps in the right direction. And stay put for 2012: with fierce competition and more talent being put to good use, the best is yet to come in online influence.
Oscar Del Santo is a lecturer, consultant, key speaker, blogger and populariser of online reputation and inbound marketing in Spain. He has been extensively featured in the Spanish and Latin American media and is a regular contributor to several TV programs. Included in the ‘Top 70 Spanish Tweeters’ and ‘Best Marketing Tweeters in Spanish’ lists (@OscarDS), he is the author of ‘Reputacion Online para Tod@s’.