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social capital

Social Capital Death Match: Brands vs. People

There is no doubt that brands are investing big time in social media based on some articles of late.  Here are just a few of the articles which have gotten me thinking about the influence of companies/brands in social.

The other interesting thing I keep getting a bunch of questions on is, what is the right set of metrics to track in social media.  So with the recent emergence of social capital scoring as the topic du jour, I was thinking maybe this could be a good metric, at least for better understanding context.    These new social capital scoring providers however, have loftier goals beyond relative context, from Klout’s website:

The Klout Score is the measurement of your overall online influence. The scores range from 1 to 100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence. Klout uses over 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score.

These new providers are competing for mind share about who’s number is best or what is the best way to even approach social influence.  Since there are multiple providers out there, I decided to look at multiple providers to get a balanced view into social capital for this post, but I really only found 2 which would work.

The main two in the marketplace are Peer Index and Klout, but there are others I guess like Twitter Grader which seems to have a simplistic view of rankings, since all the twitter accounts I analyzed for this piece had a score of 100 which didn’t really help much.   Another source I tried to include was PostRank, but not all the sources analyzed had blogs, so I had to throw that one aside as well.

Net-Net, these emerging social capital scoring sites promise to potentially be the FICO of social, which is certainly intriguing and they are gaining more visibility and in some folks minds credibility, but not in all, as you can see based on the titles of the articles below:

So with all this investment  by companies in social media and the potential to get paid more, then this social capital must be worth something, right?  In fact, it just might be a way for companies and brands to manage their online properties and identities to achieve better results, right?

Markets and Buyers are Changing

No matter what markets you service, the same old stuff isn’t working anymore and there is this really hyped up thing called social media, but what is the best approach for you, your products and your company?  While to many of us in the trenches, it is obvious that marketing is changing it would be hard to see that based on the brands and the brand centric approaches many companies are taking with social.

Where it used to be enough to be a “traditional marketer” who knows “pretty things” and how to position brands – things now require a more pointed approach which targets buyers and leverages domain expertise/product familiarity to quickly achieve results in the market.   If this is something you doubt, check out April’s pitch from Amsterdam – (Marketing is Dead).  If the trend of moving away from big brand approaches is happening, how is this impacting social and how should companies adjust their approach?

So I’ve did a little more digging around and found some compelling research that most people don’t read most of your tweets and how can this impact brands and products trying to break through the noise.  So I decided it’s time for some research/an experiment.   So seeing these three trends: social investment, movement away from brand marketing and the assertion that most tweets just echo out in the ether, I decided to synthesize these trends into something interesting and see what lessons might be gleaned.

Brands vs. People: Social Influence

So I first started with the 5 top retail brands who used Twitter on Black Friday and 5 people who I have actually broken bread with or discussed something with and they needed to also “influence” me in some way.  I could have easily picked 5 “rock stars” or social media ninjas and rigged it, but I thought it was important to put a constraint that they be in my network and that I personally have engaged with these folks IRL.  So the experiment is to look at both of these groups and compare both their Klout scores and their Peer Index scores to see based on some magical influence math who has more social capital – Brands or People in social media.

By using both Peer Index and Klout, I believe I have addressed some of the hub bub on the interwebs with the math concerns specifically, how Klout can’t detect robots well and Peer Index uses a “real” metric, which I assume addresses in some way tweet velocity, @ replies and conversations.  The other item is that Peer Index scores for some are radically different, so I used averages across both services for both the brands and the people.

Social Capital Death Match: Brands vs. People.

Conclusions and Questions

As with all data, once you frame it and dig in you typically have more questions than answers on the first cut.  So the conclusions I have are actually more in the form of questions, than conclusions:

  1. Should there be Two Algorithms – one for businesses and one for people? Think FICO vs. Dun & Bradstreet.
  2. Are people becoming more relevant for brands and companies, much in the way products and product marketing are increasingly more relevant to buyers?
  3. Is being real, just really knowing the buyers and the market segment and being able to engage in meaningful discussions and the sharing relevant information with the buyers in the segment?
  4. Can a single algorithm really measure an intangible?
  5. If there isn’t a single metric, will “camps” develop around what score to trust?
  6. Could there soon be such as thing as a “Klout Coach” to help people and companies to increase their capital?

not to get all cliche and stuff, but maybe a brand’s best asset is their people when it comes to social.

Value Networks: Placing a personal or corporate brand

So I did a little work on understanding who is in my network on Twitter and what I found is that some members are more aligned to what I want to do and others are not. Essentially some relationships are more valuable for me than others. I currently use auto-follow capabilities and it continues to change the shape and scope of my network, not always in the positive but it makes for easier management. At this point, where I used to have to manually follow folks I now have to manually stop following. Not sure which is better, but with just a little more data and a little more context it might be easier to automate or to even manage manually. I’d fully manage Twitter manually if I have information to deliver higher value relationships on average.

Hit or Miss

Today with the available information on a profile there isn’t a whole lot of information to decision from. Right now from a manual perspective, I can look at how many followers and how many they follow, which to me is now an interesting metric I’m going to use as part of my manual unfollow process, but the only influence indicator is follower count. There is currently no set of information to know how folks appreciate being in a given network or their social capital. Ultimately trust and value become additional network dimensions which happen over time, but there could be information display to improve decision making.

So what could be exposed which might encourage following certain folks over others? I know there is grader, but grader is raw numbers and it effectively favors the “old” folks on the platform and personalities, who may not be adding the value today, which they used to add to a nascent platform. “Old” being those that showed up early on the platform, since network size appears to have some relationship to date registered on Twitter, no data, just an observation. According to Grader’s site here are some of the attributes:

  • The number of followers you have – (I suspect it is the biggest weight)
  • The power of this network of followers – (MAGIC?)
  • The pace of your updates – (second biggest attribute?)
  • The completeness of your profile
  • …a few others

Developing a Network Brand

What you do, how you react and how others engage ultimately is what develops a network. So what would give someone a view into these attributes which may indicate “trust” and “value” without having to follow them back and wait and see? How the network reacts to a given user is what might help. More visibility to how a given user is engaged or the perceived value of those which were/are in a user/brands network. I guess you can do this through the use of a couple of tools – Grader, and a couple of others, but that takes a bunch of time.

Essentially each of us are building a brand community and your actions plus your network’s reactions are what helps develop a brand. So it might be good to have a feature from Twitter which will help, not so sure it is an existing API capability today or a reasonable extension for the future. Such an influence/noise metrics could be as follows:

It even stays with the “slim” UI capabilities which appears to a Twitter core value. Since Twitter, social networks and social media in general are quickly becoming a key channel to drive access, visibility and participation for corporate brands and personal brands. With this reality being at the right place and developing trust is imperative. This type of feature would help with social media placement, promotion and brand development. Of course a standard would be cool, but I know that’s not possible, so I’ll move on. This will ultimately provide a better way to find/participate in high value networks, discussions and channels for brands. So what would be the benefits for folks with this type feature on Twitter or any other platform?

  • Participate in high quality networks for areas of interest
  • Develop important relationships with folks like you
  • Provide you access to folks that can help with ideas and content and build your brand.
  • Help prioritize where you place your brand online since there isn’t infinite resource or capacity in this economy.

I know there is the obvious question to ask – wouldn’t groups help manage most of these? Not really, only helps indicate affinity, not necessarily value. So in the end, this type of a capability would provide additional metrics which enables folks to understand where to participate from a network perspective. Social media needs more metricsmetrics for business, users and brands.

The metrics could also be used for a given user to improve how he or she interacts with folks to ensure they are delivering value to their followers, I guess this knife cuts both ways. I guess these types of metrics would also be valuable for the development ecosystem too – another life that cuts both ways.

Oh if we could automate trust. I guess we can’t. Oh if we had a way to better understand social capital and how to effectively place a social brand. Now that’s a possibility.