Online Social Influence: A Review of Klout and PeerIndex

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There’s a movement that is currently happening online, a movement towards a single metric that captures an individual’s online influence.

How influential are you? What actions do you drive? Who do you impact?

These are just some of the questions that people are asking as services like Twitter and Facebook have largely changed the way people interact with each other.

To measure the changing nature of influence, companies like Klout and PeerIndex have developed services that provide a single metric as an indication of influence.

These services might prove useful to marketers and businesses who are recruiting influential individuals to tap into their own social networks and a brand’s awareness, products, or services.

The web has already seen this happen with Klout. Klout made huge headlines in 2010 when both Peter Shankman and the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas decided to offer VIP access to guests based on their Klout Scores.

Since I find the debate around online influence interesting, I decided to do a side by side comparison of both services.

How do both services calculate influence?

I’ll begin with Klout since it is older and more well-known.

Klout measures influence on a scale of 1 to 100, with a higher number correlating to a higher sphere of influence.

Klout claims to use 35 variables from Facebook and Twitter to measure concepts such as True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score.

True Reach is “the size of your engaged audience”. That means all your friends and followers, and to its credit, Klout does eliminate inactive and spam accounts.

Amplification Probability is pretty straightforward as well – it is the “likelihood that your content will be acted upon,” whether that be a retweet, a comment, or a like.

And finally Network Score is “the influence level of your engaged audience.” So you are more likely to have a higher network score if Britney Spears follows you than if I follow you.

PeerIndex on the other hand, goes about measuring influence, or as PeerIndex calls is, “online authority”, a little differently.

Like Klout, there are three major items that make up your PeerIndex score.

The first is called your Authority Score. PeerIndex chooses up to 8 benchmark topics that you have authority on, and then calculates your score relative to other people in your network.

Your Resonance Score measures how much your opinion on a topic may resonate within a community. This is highly correlated to comments, likes, and retweets as well.

Next is your Audience Score, which is not a measure of how many followers or readers you have, but rather the number of people who listen to you and are receptive to what you are saying. If you have 1000 followers, but only 5 actually retweet what you have to say, you’ll have a lower audience score.

Finally there are two lesser scores called you Activity Score and your Realness Score. Your activity score is simply a measure of how active you are on social networks, and realness determines whether you are a human or a robot.

Scores are normalized to be out from 1-100, with higher scores meaning a higher degree of influence.

What Social Networks do they measure?

Before, people could be influential on the web, but Twitter really took the idea of influence to another level.

Not only were celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher or Justin Bieber able to amass millions of followers, but everyday people were able to gain significant followings and actually become influential. A clever line can be retweeted by thousands, and a movement can start with a simple hashtag.

Therefore it’s no surprise that Klout initially focused on Twitter as the sole measure of online influence.

This line taken from the About page on the website says it all:

“The Klout score is highly correlated to clicks, comments and retweets.”

In 2011 however, Klout offers Facebook and Linkedin integration (beta).

PeerIndex on the other hand offers a more robust selection of social networks to integrate. The obvious ones are there, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, but PeerIndex also includes blogs which Klout does not.

Neither service includes lesser used social networks, such as MySpace or Friendster.

Which service is a better measure of online influence?

Like so many others, I initially was intrigued by Klout. When I first began using it, I was only able to sign up my Twitter account, and Facebook was still in beta.

The first score I got was around 30 something. Since then it has fluctuated and is now around 17.

My score dropped so low because I don’t really interact with that many people on Twitter.  I just tweet articles. So as a result, my score suffered.

My PeerIndex score however is higher, at 48. Why is there such a large discrepancy? I believe my higher score is a result of PeerIndex including Linkedin and blogs into my influence score. I’m much more active on Linkedin and I blog regularly, so I was not surprised by my higher score.

My issue with Klout is that it doesn’t tell the whole story (neither does PeerIndex but it does a much better job). There are a lot of bloggers out there who probably aren’t active on Twitter or Facebook (like Seth Godin) and their Klout scores suffer as a result.

PeerIndex also does something interesting that Klout does not: it also mentions what topics you are talking about.

That’s huge. So if I have a PeerIndex score of 75 and my most talked about topics are Social Media and Digital Marketing, then it would be fairly easy to identify me as an expert in those fields.

Conclusion

I believe that PeerIndex offers a better indicator of online social influence than does Klout. There main reason is that Klout leaves out a few networks where many individuals exercise online influence.

That being said, both Klout and PeerIndex have a long way to go before the services can be reliable indicators of influence. In my later posts, I’ll be discussing better ways that Klout and PeerIndex can measure online influence.

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The Rise of the New Influential

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In this age of the internet, anyone can achieve celebrity-type status on the web. The playing field is leveling; no longer do individuals with enormous wealth and fame act as the gatekeepers to power – the common man is increasingly grabbing a bigger chunk of the influence pie.

What we are seeing is the rise of the New Influential.

I made up that term but I believe that it accurately describes what this blog will be all about. I am interested in studying how the concept of influence has changed as a result of social media.

Since this space is still being defined, there is much to talk about.

“Influence” according to the dictionary is defined as thus:

the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others

The basic idea of influence remains the same, but the tools, methods and perspectives we apply to obtain and keep influence have changed dramatically.

As social media begins to mature, many believe that the New Influential will be increasingly defined by a number. There are a number of startup companies that are built around measuring your online influence across social networks and then assigning you a score.

Two companies set to be huge players in this space are Klout, and PeerIndex, who are both clamoring to become the definitive service for online influence assessment. Klout recently made headlines by partnering with the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas. People with high Klout scores were eligible to receive perks typically reserved for traditional influencers.

A slightly different but similar service comes in the form of Empire Avenue, where users can buy, sell, and trade “shares” of online personas, and the stock price is directly correlated to a user’s activity and authority across social networks.

Klout’s partnership with the Palms raises many interesting questions. Although the web is considered to be The Great Equalizer, history tells us power is ultimately concentrated in the hands of a few. It will be interesting to see if a new social caste system will be created, which is especially interesting given that the gap in inequality world-wide is increasing.

Will these scores operate similar to credit scores? Just as a poor credit score dictates how much credit one can get, will a low Social Influence Score dictate my place in society? Will having a low credit score determine where my children can go to school, or what jobs I can get in the future?

How will the government handle the rise of the New Influential? Will we see more governments crackdown on social media as platform for protest like Egypt is doing?

Also, how would a service like Twitter affect the messages of Martin Luther King or Gandhi? Who are the Martin Luther King’s and Gandhi’s of today, and how are they using their new-found influence to drive social change?

Finally, is the argument concerning influence vs. popularity a valid one? Do influence and popularity mean the same thing? Is Britney Spears more influential because she has over 1 million followers on Twitter? Or is John Doe, the marketing expert more influential because his tweets have a 50% chance of being retweeted by his 200 followers, with whom he interacts frequently?

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring online influence. I’m excited to see what is in store.

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