Measuring influence is an enigma and one of today’s hot topics. Unfortunately, not even the experts can agree on what or how to measure or even exactly what “it” is. To the consternation of many, you simply cannot measure social influence like you would ROI on ad campaign (i.e. reach) or in the stock market (i.e. profit). So the multi-million-dollar question is how do we measure influence on social media? Unfortunately, no one universal standard exists yet. This is why the Social Media Lab is a hosting a Symposium and Workshop on Measuring Influence on Social Media here at Dalhousie University over the next two days. We have gathered experts from a wide variety of disciplines who are using different methods and theories to approach these questions. The symposium portion of the event today will be streamed live at http://socialmedialab.ca/?page_id=6573
The remainder of the post will briefly give you an overview of the three companies currently vying for dominance as the standard in measuring online influence – Klout, Kred, and Peer Index.
Let’s begin with Klout. Currently, they are the leader in measuring online influence; receiving at least 50 times more hits than its closest competitor Peer Index. Klout scores are also the most widely integrated into other platforms including SalesForce, CoTweet, and Hooutsuite. Klout measures influence on three main parameters: (1) True Reach (people who act on content you create); (2) Amplification (how far does your content spread); and (3) Network (how many top influencers dig your content).
Klout’s precise scoring mechanisms have been a bit of a black box – one of its very controversial aspects – until August 2012 when the company made a bold move towards transparency. That is not to say that the Klout scoring algorithm is now an open book. Among many of the changes, the Klout algorithm now relies on 400 distinct signals, with more weight given to activities and interactions on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, and Wikipedia and less emphasis on Twitter, The exact weighting of all these signals is still unknown.
One of the big criticisms of ‘Old Klout’ was that prominent politicians, journalists, etc had a much lower Klout score than celebrities such as Justin Beiber, who previously maintained a 100 Klout score – the only person ever to do so. With the overhaul, Obama now has a 99, and Beiber has fallen to a 92 – the equilibrium seems to have shifted a bit more towards ‘reality’.
Klout is also known for allowing brands to give “Klout Perks” to its top influencers, some of whom are probably your next-door neighbors. For instance, last year some lucky top influencers received free Virgin Atlantic free flights as a “Klout Perk”, simply for achieving a high enough Klout score. Although Klout users are able to give fellow influencers the +K (i.e. an online thumbs up), it has no effect on their Klout score. Klout has also recently jumped on the brand page bandwagon. In April, Klout launched their brand pages with their first partner, Red Bull, which showcases the brand’s top influencers and activity.
Peer Index is limited in the social media tools it measures – unlike Kred or Klout – to mainly Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It perhaps takes the most holistic approach, and tries to measure the extent to which people rely on your opinions and recommendations segmented around their signature benchmark topics. Peer Index’s scoring methodology includes three main components: audience, topic, and activity. According to their website, each component is measured relative to others in each topic. The audience portion, aka the reach metric, consists on how well your audience “listens” to you. The authority portion measures how much people trust your posts on both benchmark topics and in general. Lastly, the activity score measures how much interest your posts in the topic community generates. Interestingly, you can get dinged for being both too active and too inactive!
Kred, the new kid on the block, is carving its niche in transparency and real time monitoring. Unlike Klout and Peer Index, Kred provides users with a breakdown of how they accumulated their Kred points. Kred, however, monitors the least amount of services – only Facebook and Twitter. Their scoring methodology is broken down into two main metrics: influence and outreach. Influence basically measures how often people act on content you generate while outreach measures your generosity as you re-tweet, reply, and mention others. Influence is measured on a scale from 1-1000 and outreach on a 1-10 scale. For the outreach metric, a baseline amount of points is published for each level, i.e. you need at least 5,314 points to reach five out of ten. As with all three services, the scores are normalized, which means they change as others increase or decrease their Kred points. Uniquely, Kred also allows users to upload their offline accomplishments to boost their Kred score.
Although neither the newer Kred or Peer Index are marred by as much controversy as Klout, all three raise similar personal data collection and privacy concerns, some more than others, and each company seems to be trying to address these concerns in some way. This hot topic is not likely to go away anytime soon!
Written by Ashley Greene with contribution from Anatoliy Gruzd and Philip Mai. Graphics by Jennifer Yurchak.
 Klout is currently the leader in the measuring online influence game.