A few weeks back I met with Klout’s Joe Fernandez. I went in to the session skeptical and walked out respecting what the Klout team has achieved and where the company is trying to go.
That being said, I still harbor more than a few concerns.
This week I had a similar experience with the senior guys at Portland-based Twitalyzer, another social analytics startup which is also involved with measuring influence.
On the surface of it, these two companies sounded like competitors. By investigating I found them to be on different trajectories and in fact are business partners.
Klout is trying to be the Nielsen of online influence. They are giving a number to every person and brans on social networks. They use over 30 metrics to determine the Klout scores of millions of entities. They do this for free and then make their money by white labeling and through deals with very big companies.
For example, most recently, Klout helped Disney Studios determine influential tweeters to preview their new smash flick, Tangled.
Twitalyzer, also looks at over 30 metrics. They also assign a number to people and brands, but in my conversation with Eric Peterson and Jeff Katz, they emphasized thatthose numbers were not the essence of what they are about. They are a paid-for service designed for organizations of fewer than 1000 employees. A home-office guy can subscribe for as little as $5 a month and their sweet spot is $30.
They provide an aggregate of metrics including Google Analytics and Klout as well as others. Then their customers can look at these various factors and tweak them toward their respective business relevance. They can also update them obsessively if they so choose–or are in the middle of a critical launch.
You also can tweak to find people by sub category, by geographic are and so on.
This sounds so good to me that I intend to sign up.
The company just launched it’s Twitalyzer 4.0 and switched from a mostly free to a mostly paid service. The two guys seemed to be buoyed by the fact they had signed up 100s of new customers in the three days since they pulled the trigger.
I found them to be transparent, passionate, humble and smart–just as I had found Joe Fernandez. I believe that Twitalyzer is among the small handful of social media companies leading an ever-increasing pack of players and I found myself rooting for their success.
But there are issues and it is difficult for me not to personalize them. I imagine this will be the same for a good many of my friends. Let me explain.
I have a Twitalyzer score that toggles between 13.1 and 13.2%. I am personally influence a lot in social analytics by KD Paine [see my recent interview]. Her score is a paltry 5%.
Compare that with Michael Jackson who is at 57% despite the fact that he is dead. KD, at least is categorized as a “reporter,” while I am relegated to being a “social butterfly.”
I could dismiss these numbers and the company posting them as lame. I’m pretty sure that even if Michael were still alive more people would trust KD on social analytics than Michael.
But I am also a member of a burgeoning classification of people known as social media consultants. Until recently prospective clients used Google, our blog sites and maybe wikipedia to research us. More recently Twitter followers and Facebook friends have come into play–whether we like it or not. Most recently–perhaps the last two months, Klout and Twitalyzer scores have come into play.
I have low confidence that many people will like to contract someone whose score is 13.1%. I expressed these and other concerns to Jeff and Eric.
It was as if we changed seats and saw Twitalyzer from opposite sides of the prism. I ended up better understanding and respecting what they were succeeding to to and they got to understand one of my reasons to be concerned with comparative influence rankings.
Their demonstration of the service’s granularity helped to ease my concern. When you slice it right, KD and I score quite well in our categories of relevance where Michael and Ashton Kutcher don’t play.
They made it clear that they did not intend for their product to be used in the ways I described and I think I made clear that at least a few people are using it in precisely that way.
In this light, I think part of the problem is identical with Klout’s. They are both young, tech-driven and are pioneering new ground. They are both doing a far better job with technology, it seems to me, than they are with telling their stories.
And that is a fixable problem.