There’s a bigger problem than finding a tool for measuring social branding efforts or determining the influence of key players within a community. It’s the fact that you need to find 20 tools.
Okay, an exaggeration perhaps. But there’s a point to make here. Because while most of the industry is feverishly searching for the holy grail of social effectiveness and influence measurement, they’re missing the fact that a single source of data or using a single analysis tool is not nearly enough.
Any direct marketer will tell you that the only thing worse than a single source of data or a single model for guiding a marketing program is having no data at all. Why are they so critical? Simply because another thing that all direct marketers know is data lies.
People exaggerate on surveys. People cheat on their taxes. People change titles and fake addresses. And people most definitely game social measurement systems.
There was a recent post by Erik Deckers at ProBlogService.com that actually listed three ways to increase your score on the social influence site, Klout.com. The funny thing to me was that none of the three ways mentioned had anything to do with actually raising your influence. They simply suggested things like reducing your follower count to only those people who interact with you on a regular basis.
And did you know that if you run a Twitter chat, your rating on most services will go through the roof? It’s not because a whole bunch of people “like” you. Itʼs because a standard practice is to tell participants to, “@-reply me so that you don’t spam your followers with the chat.” Except when you do this, you direct hundreds if not thousands of tweets “@” the person running the chat over the course of an hour. It creates instant “influence” as far as many of the measurement tools are concerned.
For their part, none of the companies offering tools to measure sentiment, influence and social effectiveness are claiming to have the problem completely figured out. They would be foolish to do so, because as Edward O’Meara of MediaHound recently told me, some of these tools are offering 60% accuracy at best.
However, that doesn’t stop these services from quietly accepting the money of desperate marketers looking for an easy way out. Millions of marketing dollars can sometimes hinge on a single social influence measurement tool. And that’s where my real issue lies.
Please understand that services like Klout or tools like Radian6 can play an important part in giving us clues as to who an influencer is. But when we rely upon these service exclusively, we do ourselves a huge disservice. We need to cast the net wider and overlay our results to find commonalities in the data. This is the only way we can assure ourselves that we are getting any kind of accurate indicators.
Further, if we assume that any of these tools, even as an aggregate, are giving us the entire picture of influence we are fooling ourselves. At best these tools are only giving us clues. Finding the real influencers within a community takes the hard work of actually joining that community and conducting primary research on the actual interactions. Because many times you’ll find that the true influencer may not even be online or may not be ranking via the influence tools because of a philosophical aversion to participating on the common social platforms.
Now you may be skeptical, but I’ll tell you that Campfire has over ten years of experience building successful campaigns that drive action within fan communities, and we can say reliably that there are no shortcuts. If you want to find and ignite influence within a community, the most consistently effective way is to become part of that community. Because if most computer tools are only delivering 60% accuracy, that’s a little too close to a crap shoot for my tastes.
So definitely use the tools. Explore everything at your disposal to hear the conversations surrounding your online efforts. Just don’t get too attached to those tools. They may not be showing you everything you think. And they are a poor substitute for first-hand interaction with your targeted community.