Facebook users spend upwards of 12.7 percent of their time on the site, according to a comScore study. Of course, wherever consumers live, businesses are sure to go. But to what end?
Chief marketing officers surveyed by BazaarVoice and the CMO Club were likely to say their business engaged in at least three forms of social media. But nearly 35 percent of all CMOs didn’t know if their Facebook presence yielded any return on investment.
“If you’re a company who’s spending employee dollars, spending employee time, paying agencies, if you’re actively engaged [online] and it’s costing your business money, it’s irresponsible not to measure some aspect of that time spent and of that money spent,” says Eric Peterson, founder of Twitalyzer, a Twitter analytics start-up based in Portland.
Quantitatively measuring a brand’s online influence is a relatively new idea, but it may be one of the most important developments in online marketing since Google AdWords. Understanding how your company interacts with its online community, and knowing which tools are effective in the ultra-specific world of the Internet, is crucial for driving your brand’s overall success.
Several young and creative companies have stepped up to the plate with unique ideas for various influence metrics. Many of them function similarly, at least at first: After plugging in your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles, sophisticated algorithms compute your company’s data and visualize the results in pie graphs, scatter plots, flow charts, or even a simple two- or three-digit number. Some sites even offer specific recommendations on optimal hours to engage your clientele. You’d be surprised at how many ways your data can be interpreted.
We spoke with founders of four of the top companies that measure online influence—Klout, PeerIndex, Twitalyzer, and Crowdbooster—about precisely how their services measure online influence, and how you can best employ them.
Measure Your Brand’s Online Influence: Klout
“Going back historically, every broadcast medium has been measured,” notes Joe Fernandez, founder and CEO of Klout, a social-media analytics start-up based in San Francisco. “Television is measured, radio is measured, newspaper is measured… People are now broadcasters. We all have the ability to have an impact on our network, so our ability and our desire to understand that, and the need and the market for that, is why Klout exists.”
Today, millions and millions of individuals and companies link Klout into their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts to measure social influence.
Klout measures more than 35 different variables grouped into three basic areas: True Reach, the size of the engaged audience; Amplification, the likelihood content will be acted upon by others; and Network, the influence level of the engaged audience. Your company’s True Reach, Amplication, and Network combine to create the overall Klout score, which is a number 1 to 100.
"[Klout] is far from perfect," admits Fernandez. "What we're doing is infinitely complex. Every day, our score gets better, the quality of our analytics we're doing gets more accurate… You never hit an endpoint here. It's always a living, breathing system."
OK, so you have a score. What does it mean? If your online presence achieves a score above a certain threshold, you are deemed “influential,” and basically eligible to enjoy the fruits of being an influential person. Klout connects influential members and brands together, so those with high Klout scores may receive a slew of luxurious benefits.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, after tweeting about a trip to Las Vegas, 25-year-old PR account executive Katie Miller was invited to a lavish party for influential individuals in the Upper West Side in Manhattan. She was singled out by the party's sponsors—the Venetian and Palazzo hotels in Las Vegas—due to her high Klout score.
“We have people who are getting jobs because of their Klout score,” says Fernandez. “We have hotels in Vegas that use the Klout score to upgrade rooms, so there’s real value. Klout does actually have real impact on people’s lives.”