Can tools measure influence?

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influencer-advocate-modelWith the rise of blogging and social networking, there is a growing desire for brands to find and engage with influential people in their marketplace.  As this desire has grown, so too have the number of tools aiming to provide organizations with a handy list of who those people are, and often just how influential they are.

What probably began with Klout has spawned a number of tools and websites offering to help you understand the players in your field.  I’ve been trying out a couple of them this week to see how effective they are.

Buzzoole Finder

The first tool is the Finder search engine by Buzzoole.  Buzzoole are an Italian company offering what they believe is the first Influence Engine Optimization (IEO) platform.  The aim is twofold.  They want to help brands to position themselves as thought leaders in their field, whilst at the same time allowing them to engage with potential brand ambassadors.

The interface is a simple one in that you run a search query and are returned a sample of some influencers in your field.  You’re initially fed five potential influencers, with the option then to compile a more substantial report on the market.

I ran a couple of queries to begin with on open innovation and moocs.  The open innovation query initially returned some respectable names, such as Stefan Lindegaard and Braden Kelley, alongside a more dubious one in the very infrequent Twitter user Gary Hamel.  A very influential man without doubt, but a rather infrequent user of Twitter.

After a few hours a more substantial report is generated.  The pdf report provides you much greater depth and throws up a decent list of names.  Each name comes with a good half dozen or so stats, including the traditional followers/following, number of tweets and the general growth of the account.

The interesting part is arguably some of the more unique stats however.  For instance, the lover stat shows the users who follow the leading influencer in the identified topic at the top of the list.

One quibble with the tool is that it does focus primarily on Twitter as a means of measuring influence.  For instance, few would argue that Henry Chesborough is the most influential figure in the open innovation world, yet he came some way down the league table of influencers.

If you’re looking at finding interesting people on Twitter then the service is indeed a fine one, but it does have a bit of a blindspot where writing is concerned, as it doesn’t take into account any books the people have written, their print presence, maybe even their speaking frequency.

Twtrland

Twtrland is another tool with a similar focus on Twitter, albeit with the ability to pull in data from other social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram.  Their own influencer hunting service is somewhat simpler, providing just three metrics to gauge people against: amplification, reach and relevance.

The front end may not be as comprehensive, but many of the names returned for my search on open innovation were similar to those from the earlier search on Buzzoole, and as with Buzzoole you can filter your results by country, gender and various other demographic style characteristics.

I suppose the thing with any of these tools is how useful they are at discovering people you’re not already familiar with.  If you’re active in your industry then it’s quite possible that you’ll know most of the main players already.  As an active member of the community, you’re also likely to have both Twitter information at hand as well as fields such as blogging, writing, academia, speaking and so on.

I suspect therefore that these kind of tools will primarily be used by agencies looking for a quick insight into a particular field so that they can do work on behalf of a client looking to ‘engage’ with influential people online.

Of course, that isn’t something that either Twtrland or Buzzoole can do much about, and in the task they’re designed for, they do a decent job at highlighting some of the key thinkers in a particular field.  Well worth checking out if you’re in need of a leg up in your environmental analysis of an industry.

16 thoughts on “Can tools measure influence?

  1. Interesting – I'd not heard of either of these tools. What happened to Klout and PeerIndex…and HootSuite (or is that not actually the same thing). I've not heard the term IEO either – is this just a term they've coined or does it refer to a genuine and measurable notion for something?

    This is definitely a post I would like to see expanded on. Actually, it's an area I'd like to see expanded on. Without a good proxy or metric (or at least useful ones) it is difficult for an organisation to predict and control, benchmark or report on their impact. Presumably 'influence' is the true impact measure for the industry, and trite listings of hits, unique visitors, time people hang about on pages is, as with what we try to get at in education, fairly irrelevant?

    Or do you see it differently, Adi? Or others.

    • Hi Jonathan. To be entirely honest, I'm far from an authority on content marketing. For that I'd have to defer to guys like Michael Brenner or Michael Brito, who both tend to focus on this kind of thing.

      As a relative outsider to the niche however, there don't appear to be huge differences between the Klouts and PeerIndex's of the world and the two tools mention in the post.

      There remains a significant challenge for the industry in that they are currently largely only able to measure what is measurable, which in social media terms tends to be followers etc. They're relying upon that being a good proxy for other forms of influence that isn't as easy to measure (or not by these tools anyway), such as academic influence, industrial influence, publishing influence and so on.

      I mean if you did a search for musicians, or something equally contentious, the results are likely to be far less relevant. Justin Beiber might be regarded as very influential to his followers, but Velvet Underground perhaps more so to those wishing to start a band of their own.

      • Adi – thanks again for this post!

        I agree, it is definitely a challenge. We are aiming at providing deep insights on the entity level, that evolve around multiple objective metrics, such as average number of retweets per tweets generated, replies, conversations and much more. Our Influencer Search Engine taps into 200 million such profiles classified into 60,000 topics, letting you search for people into Music: http://twtrland.com/skills/Music Fashion http://twtrland.com/skills/Fashion etc.

    • Hi, we at Buzzoole wanted to chime in. We’re the first Influencer Engine Optimization platform in Italy, we work with social media activities and analyze users’ influence on one another. As you said, it is hard to identify and to measure the impact of an organization’s reputation on the internet and the public opinion, but it’s easy to modify this reputation leveraging on other users’ credibility and influence. I agree that just the hits or how long someone roams around on a page isn’t very relevant for businesses, which is why we aim to put more value on posts that influencers make, articles that are written on the product/services and the conversations that surround the brand in question that comes from these posts and blogs. We focus more on the value of a post rather than a click.

    • First, thanks for this great review Adi.

      Hi Jonathan. Twtrland visualizes social footprints based on content people share. We've formed a proprietary database that provides the deepest cross platform entity-level information, and have made this data visual, simple, and searchable.

      Try out our profiles – look up anyone at all (e.g. http://twtrland.com/profile/adigaskell) and see if the metrics we provide prove objective and help you. Would love to hear what you think.

      Cheers
      Guy
      Founder at Twtrland

  2. Ahhh, the topic of influence marketing is certainly a controversial one… I use Klout every now and then, and find it useful to track or find other influencers according to specific topics. I had not heard of these two tools, though, but the limitations you mention are what makes this whole field of "influence" such a difficult concept to measure. I mean, I am familiar with Gary Hamel, read his books during my MBA and certainly should be considered an authority in terms of "innovation" theory, so just because he doesn't tweet that should rule him out?

    A couple of years ago, Obama scored lower than Justin Bieber on Klout, so many people mocked that platform. Since then, Klout went from considering 100 variables, social media outlets and other inputs, to 400 variables, including mentions in Wikipedia and offline publications as well. Obama scores higher than Bieber now, so it all sound good, right? But if you want to influence 14 year-old girls, or perhaps musically-oriented youth, is Bieber not more influential? OK, enough about him, but you see my point. Influence is highly subjective, and will vary by topic and by targeted audience as well.

    I will look into these two tools, they seem interesting. Thanks for the heads-up!

    • It is a challenge for sure. Maybe it's best just to accept the inherent limitations of tools such as this and regard them purely as a means of finding those with a degree of influence on the social media part of the web.

    • Hi Frederic, I appreciate that comment. You’re pretty spot on, we’re definitely experiencing some challenges at Buzzoole regarding the definition of the literal terms through which users can define their search with the aim to obtain useful results.
      Our software Finder is constantly undergoing improvements because our intent is to find those influencers that are more practical to engage and contact for brands and, from a certain point of view, that are valuable to them. Therefore, as a brand that wants to create buzz about a new product, would you contact Justin Bieber (present as result on some of our queries) or a user with “just” 6k followers and offer him/her something in exchange of a review/post? We definitely agree that just because a user may be a celebrity or has a million followers, it doesn’t mean they’re more influential, it really does depend on the topic in question.

  3. Thanks for the new tools, Adi. I always love them and the shinier they are the better for me to play with:) I'd heard of twtrland but hadn't heard of buzoole finder. The whole subject of influencer marketing is so new that it will take tool companies a while to feed in the proper metrics once they get feedback from people and hopefully listen in to posts such as yours.
    There are many things lacking for now, but I think that the term "influencer" itself, has been coined recently to mean one who exerts influence on social media (including blogs) and is capable of influencing others positively towards your brand. So there itself lies the flaw. That's why you have blog promotion tools such as Triberr trying to cash in on this trend. Which is good for Triberr, after all the work they've done for bloggers but there you have it in a nutshell. It's a far cry from the meaning of "influencer" a couple of decades ago. If you're not on social media, you don't count, period.

  4. For a very narrow subset of people I'm sure they're great. In the real world though I suspect they're not at all.

    • Hey Andrew, I can see how you could be led to believe that. At the moment there are some barriers with Finder, but as we grow and improve we’re looking to include other social aspects of people’s online persona that lends to their online influence. It is definitely a useful tool for anyone looking to find influencers within a certain community of people.

      • An example of things that would be good to include (that are findable online I should think) are areas such as academic profile (peer reviews etc.) plus their relative status on various online communities (that aren't social networks). I'm thinking areas such as online forums, review sites and so on.

        Paul

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