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Can tools measure influence?

03.29.2014
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With 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.

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