Measuring social influence online is becoming a more sophisticated, refined and granular process. While the much-maligned early leader in the market, Klout, has scooped up a lot of headlines over the past few years, there's a better approach. And it doesn't involve a humble-brag-centered public score.
One of the best reputation-measurement tools that I use is Topsy. Ever since Google failed to renew its deal with Twitter to include real-time tweets in its search results, I've looked for a way to track who's tweeting and sharing my stories. (Hey, I'm a journalist. I'm vain.)
Twitter reveals less information than I want, and Klout is obssessed with giving you a score, not detailed tracking of what's actually happening, so I kept looking. A while ago, I stumbled on Topsy.
If you produce content, and want to track who shares it, this tool is for you. Topsy gauges influence by measuring the support and attention an individual gets, according to Jamie de Guerre, Topsy's vice president of products. Topsy's algorithm tracks topics, sentiment, geo-locations and conversations throughout public social networks.
If your content is frequently retweeted and followed by other influential people, you gain influence, explained de Guerre. What might be a curiosity for the average person on Facebook is potentially significant data for businesses.
"Influence scores are then used to surface the most important results and to show customers the influencers for their brand or topic," said de Guerre.
Unlike Klout, Topsy doesn't rely on a single "score" to define social media influence - a model that many observers view as finicky and less than scientific. Instead, it uses an internal ranking based on how and by whom your content is shared. That ranking determines whether or not you're designated as "influential."
Unlike Klout, which allows, and practically encourages users to game the system by offering them the ability to bestow +1s for what the site considers influential topics, Topsy doesn't let users explicitly vote on someone's influence.
But perhaps Topsy's biggest selling point is what it doesn't do: the service doesn't reveal user scores. That simple, easy to read score - Klout's calling card and biggest selling point - is also its biggest weakness. Obsessing over that number can quicly become addictive - and separated from geniune social influence.
Other social ranking sites - like Kred and PROskore - also use variations on that Klout model. Kred claims to focus on ranking influence based on "trust and generosity." The words sound rosy, but it's hard to tell how much to trust them.
PROskore, on the other hand, says it measure scores based on a person's "professional reputation." The site describes that as business relationships and even popularity. Yup. No matter what field you're in, you never left high school. Life is still a popularity contest.
Or several different popularity contests. WIth all these competing social media influence scores, it's impossible to know which one is the definitive value. That's why I stay away from these score-ranking sites and put my trust in Topsy.