Be Aware Of Social Media Ranking List Flaws

Yet another “influential people in the media” list was being passed around by Australians on social media a few weeks ago, which prompts me to warn you that these lists should be taken with a large grain of salt.

comparative Klout scores

What social media monitoring tools reveal is the tip of an iceberg. It can be interesting data but a lot more is hidden in the ocean depths.

Many commercial as well as free services claim to accurately measure how “influential” a person is on various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus etc. However regardless of their actual influence, people who have a relatively established account, generate a lot of updates, follow lots of people to get reciprocal follow backs etc are far more likely to be highly ranked than a person who really is influential but isn’t so “noisy” about it.

1st Layer – Public

The first and most visible layer of public status updates can be captured and analysed by various social media monitoring tools to some extent.

However what the sales reps don’t tell you is they only see the top level publicly visible layer of communications between people on social media and of that, usually only for a brief slice of time.

Users of social media monitoring tools have to understand that the data they’re analysing only reflects part of a person’s interests, personality and beliefs. Twitter selves may be carefully crafted, with far less nuance and detailed than the full gamut of a person’s actual personality and beliefs.

Another issue is that activity doesn’t equal influence, it could just mean that a person is garrulous on social media and never shuts up.

A great example of inaccurate social media influence measurement is twitter account @common_squirrel which has quite a high Klout score of 63, even though it’s comments are just a loop of “run run run”, “dig dig dig dig” etc. Another example is a joke account @DeathStarPR which has a higher ranking than the Prime Minister of Australia and the Leader of the Opposition.

2nd Layer – Private Messaging

The second layer is private social media messaging such as Twitter Direct Messaging and Facebook chat which are not available for monitoring tools to analyse. These conversations are usually far more frank and open than public comments made via social media.

3rd Layer – IRL (In Real Life)

The third and most important layer is known as “in real life” (IRL).

For those users of Twitter or other social media who make the effort, online discussions can turn into regular IRL discussions, friendships and business partnerships. This layer is totally invisible to social media monitoring tools and yet it contains the most important information.

The Catch 22 about lists of influential people in your industry ranked by the “score” given to them by the currently popular social media monitoring tool, is that while they’re only partially accurate at best, some people in the PR and Marketing industry are using these lists to decide who gets invited to events or gets access to information/not.

So even though these lists are flawed it does pay to be ranked well on them because if you work in the media or entertainment industry some of the decision makers you deal will use these lists as a key datapoint to make decisions.

Just don’t take your score too seriously, I’m sure you’re more influential in real life than a squirrel or fictional character from Star Wars.


5 comments on “Be Aware Of Social Media Ranking List Flaws

  1. Sam Abraham on said:

    Funny post but very true. No one really knows how the algorithms assign an influencer score.

  2. Edward on said:

    I consider the value of these lists to be the same as those “What is your website worth” sites. They take the very basic information which is publicly available, and make it count for the entire worth of the site. The real value from websites and social media accounts comes from what you can’t see a lot of the time. But they are still fun!

  3. J. J. Kelly on said:

    As dumb as this sounds, I am still learning the ‘social media’ aspect despite working in the online world for almost a year now. Thanks for the insight. I did not have much of an understanding on the algorithms but now have a better grasp. Good tips.

  4. geek on said:

    Interesting ideas about the layers. I have never though about it that way

  5. Carrie on said:

    I always consider online ranking a fun thing to read, although they are not accurate for the most parts. I think this post offers some insider tips of how ranking system works and how algorithms rank “influential people”. Thank you for sharing this post!

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