Finding value in social benchmarking sites

There is value to be had from services like Klout and PeerIndex, but users believe that value is limited, according to a survey this week.

I asked those in my Facebook community, “Do you find value in influence benchmarking tools like Klout and PeerIndex,” and the responses proved interesting.

Sites such as Klout, PeerIndex and TweetLevel provide social media analytics that measure users’ influence across their social network. These services look at various metrics such as the size of a network, the content created and how people interact with that content to come with a ‘score’ to depict influence.

Nineteen Facebook friends took part in my survey, and the vast majority (13) confirmed that they did find value in such information, but that value is limited.

Joseph Thornley, CEO of Thornley Fallis and 76design, said “Until these tools can detect the context in which interactions occur, they will continue to be more properly considered measures of popularity rather than influence. By context, I mean the subject matter around which people engage.”

It’s a good point. I’d add that for many users, these tools offer only a broad sketch of influence because they depend on having good, complete information to give an accurate score. So someone might be somewhat quiet on Twitter but very active on travel forums and blogs. Can Klout measure this person’s true influence and the value of his good opinion for tour operators and accommodation providers?

Only one one respondent declared influence tools outright valuable. Five said they have no value at all. Consultant Rebecca Happy said, “No, they are inaccurate. They are very delayed in their updating of info…sometimes by two years!”

Determining online influence is a challenge being worked on by some of the industry’s smartest people. I’m not sure if they can come with the definitive standard for influence because of these issues of context and access. In addition, the social Internet is constantly changing with new tools and trends emerging all the time, so it would be a constant game of catch up.

But Klout, PeerIndex and the others do actually provide an ‘objective’ snapshop as a bit of a benchmark, so therefore do offer some value, at least.

Sherrilynne Starkie is a consultant at PDMS. For almost 18 years, Sherrilynne has been advising blue-chip organisations on both sides of the pond, covering Britain, Canada and the United States. For three years, Sherrilynne was the Tech Talk columnist for the Isle of Man newspapers. She serves on the steering committee for Isle of Man Women in Business, is on the Executive Council for the Isle of Man Junior Chamber of Commerce. In the past she was on the management committee for the Isle of Man British Computer Society and the marketing committee of Junior Achievement.