If you have a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account, get ready to have rating points assigned to your online presence. There’s yet another way to keep score in this world and the newest yardstick is your social media reach. The rating system resembles a credit score or Google page ranking and it assesses your social media power and influence. Three companies, Klout, Peer Index and Twitter Grader, will analyze and determine who the heavy hitters are.
Who are the movers and shakers, experts and taste makers, across a range of topics and specialties within a certain geolocation? Marketing departments want to know. While authors, celebrities, politicians and athletes have traditionally been capable of influencing opinions on a large scale, social media have given a powerful voice to ordinary citizens and a new league of authorities has emerged.
The rating companies measure your Facebook (Klout), LinkedIn (Klout, coming soon) and Twitter (all three) friends, connections and tweets on their respective algorithms. According to analysts at Hewlett Packard who tried to crack the codes, a large network of contacts and friends is not the primary value of the influencer score.
Peer Index focuses on topic resonance (how much interest you generate within your area of expertise), subject authority (perceived credibility and trust) and activity (how much content you generate within your topic) in its ranking recipe. If you’re looking to game the system (you wouldn’t try that, would you?), it is beneficial to become well known for a particular topic and avoid being a generalist.
In other words, go narrow and deep. Boost your influencer score (and online brand) by demonstrating knowledge and expertise, trustworthiness and credibility and enthusiasm and passion for your preferred subject.
Furthermore, demonstrate your ability to influence those in your network with calls to action and recommendations that engage and inspire followers and friends and cause them to spread the word about your choices and opinions. Did you get out the vote for Obama or persuade people to join the revolution in Cairo? If so, then you are an influential social media darling.
Surprisingly, blogs, newsletters and YouTube are not in the ratings mix at this time, but tweets and online profiles most definitely are. The rankings of your connections and friends also factor impact your score, as do the rankings of those who retweet you.
It’s possible to sign yourself up for free and learn your Twitter rating on Peer Index http://peerindex.net or Twitter Grader http://twitter.grader.com and your Facebook score on Klout http://klout.com. The latter recently announced a deal to rank LinkedIn profiles (I wonder if activity on the Answers Forum will be in the algorithm?).
So what’s in it for high scorers? Thousands of companies have already signed on to buy data and big influencers are positioned to receive all manner of promotional goodies. As reported in The New York Times on June 26, 2011, Audi will begin to offer special promotions to Facebook users based on their Klout scores.
Last year, Virgin America selected highly rated Facebook influencers in Toronto and rewarded them with free round-trip flights to Los Angeles or San Francisco. The Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas used Klout scores to choose Facebook influencers and give them either free room upgrades or free admission to Cirque du Soleil.
Nevertheless, a corrective is in order. While it is apparent that social media influencers exist and in certain circumstances they are able to impact the actions and opinions of others, they do not necessarily live up to the hype. Duncan Watts, author of “Everything is Obvious Once You Know the Answer” (2011), asserts that the “influencers” do not always obtain impact through their expertise, persuasiveness, popularity or reputation.
Watts used computer simulations to model how information is likely to disperse through social media and found that the spread of an idea or story depends upon “a critical mass of easily influenced people, who in turn influence other easy-to-influence people.” When this critical mass exists, “even an average individual is capable of triggering a large cascade.”
Well, so much for algorithms. However, it may be fun to sign up and get your influencer score anyway. You might somehow manage to get a high rating, perhaps because you’re connected to other high influencers, and get some promotional comps as a result. But then again, being connected to the right people has always been how to get the goodies, with or without social media influence!
Thanks for reading,