As we wrote about earlier this week, Klout has reworked its algorithms, and your scores have changed. Some have gone up, some down. Despite claiming more transparency with their algorithms, they are still mostly opaque and mysterious. As one of our readers commented, "Klout just pulled a Netflix, taking trust off the table."
So while they tinker with their code, you might want to explore other alternatives that can help you measure your social media effectiveness. We have come up with 17 different services, some free, some fairly expensive. I have tried most of them and will give you my impressions so you can have a head start with your own explorations.
Before I run through the services, let's discuss eight different issues with social media metrics and how the ideal metric should be constructed.
- There is no single number that can really be universally useful. It isn't like wining the World Series, where you have to score more runs by the end of the game. There are a variety of actions that you want to examine, and you can win in one area and be off elsewhere. My impression is that we place too much emphasis on the final number without really understanding the reasons for its calculation, as the recent changes in Klout have shown.
- You are also measuring two grossly different activities: giving and taking. This is more than just what you post and what you consume, and there are many subtleties to both. Just because you have tons of followers and friends doesn't mean that you listen to any of them, nor they listen to you. And some of us, such as myself, are more givers (in that we are focused on outbound actions) than takers (collecting information from our networks). Or vice versa. The ideal social media metric should understand both directions and make appropriate adjustments.
- How transparent is their algorithm, really? By that I mean can you understand how they get the results that you see, and does the scoring make sense to you? Of course, one issue is having something so transparent that the service can be easily gamed or fooled.
- Can you examine any time-series? Klout has time series data but doesn't label its axes very well, which can be very annoying. The others don't have as much here as I would like. Sometimes you can understand the algorithms better if you can see how they track you over time.
- How much does the service care if your content is original vs. copied? If you most of your Tweets are retweeted content, is that as good as someone who comes up with original thoughts? The ideal metric should take this into account, and most of them have focused in this area, generally because it is easier to measure than some other things.
- How many different social networks should be scanned to derive your total score, and how should they be weighed? Klout has done a decent job of expanding their sources beyond Facebook and Twitter, but some of the other services haven't gotten much beyond these two networks yet. Obviously, the wider the reach the better the view into how you are interacting across many networks.
- Does the tool provide qualitative suggestions in addition to just scores? The ideal metric should provide insight and suggestions for how to improve your engagement and increase your value to your chosen community. Some of them have overly general suggestions that don't really tell you what you really need to do to improve your use of social media.
- Does your audience really, really like you? Often called sentiment analysis, it isn't enough just to retweet your bon mots but approve of your point of view. There are tools that are beginning to measure this too.
So what alternatives to Klout are out there, and are any of them any better at capturing what you should be doing better for your social media activities?
- Twitter Score gives you a single score (I got a 2 out of 10, which seems somewhat low).
- TwitterGrader is another service that gives you a single simple score. I don't think the score is very meaningful: I got 97.5 out of 100, and I know I am not that good.
- Tweetlevel was built by the Edelman PR firm and it gives some good explanations of its assessments and recommendations, although they could be more fine-grained. It tries to provide historical information but there is no way to manipulate the charts timelines.
- Tweetreach shows who retweeted you and some summary stats, and is useful to search across trending topic areas and not just specific Twitter accounts.
- TeraMetric Optimizer for Twitter. This gives you qualitative recommendations on what and how to Tweet. It costs $99/month and has a free trial but requires your credit card info up front.
Facebook-only metricsBooshaka looks at top contributors to your Facebook page
Google-owned metricsGoogle has been buying up lots of companies this year, and there are probably others that I missed that are in this space. Here are two important ones:
- SocialGrapple has paid accounts starting at $6 a month and going up to $125 a month and is used for really deep dives into Twitter.
- Postrank. We have written extensively about them here, which is used to analyze RSS feeds.
Multiple site focus
- PeerIndex is probably the closest competitor to Klout and examines three areas: Activity, Authority, and Audience. They cover multiple sites but are slow to update their scores and don't have much in the way of time-series data.
- Proliphiq which we wrote about earlier in the month has a wide array of measurements and explanations, trending hot topics and more.
- Twitalyzer shows Klout and Peerindex values and costs $5 a month.
- How Sociable is more a general search tool across many sites, and it isn't very accurate since it doesn't tie the search to a particular Twitter username.
- Empire Avenue has lots of games and points for various activities, but underneath all this frilly stuff is some interesting analysis of multiple social network sites.
Sentiment Analysis tools
- We wrote about Viralheat's sentiment analysis for Facebook and Twitter here.
- mBlast mPact can monitor multiple networks and provide some sentiment analysis.
- Kred.ly is still in limited beta but offers some promise in terms of looking at sentiment for Twitter initially.
- Traackr is another sentiment analyzer and at $500 a month is one of the more expensive tools in this list.
Really, all of these tools are somewhat flawed, and we are just beginning to see some consolidation and improvements, such as what Klout is trying to do. And certainly, Google will help here, as they have purchased two companies this year alone in this space. If any of these tools can help improve your social media methods and increase your influence, then stick with what works and what will motivate you to become a better participant in this genre.