The recent spat between Peoplebrowsr and Twitter raised the profile of one area of the social tech scene that is sometimes ignored – social scoring. Peoplebrowsr own Kred a social analytics company which offers social analytics and scoring to individuals and companies. Klout is another famous example of this and there are also Adobe Social Analytics, TrackSocial, SproutSocial, Kontagent and many others in this space. You might even remember BackType, who were famously acquired by Twitter in July 2011.
The unholy combination of social graphs, big data, nosql and massively parallel algorithms sounds like a winning hand in recruitment bullshit bingo but these paradigms/technologies form the core of this industry where the interactions and relationships between interconnected entities (people and companies to you and me) are parsed and analysed.
If you are a brand, then these companies offer real insight into your presence in the social media. If you are a person, then you probably don’t give a monkeys. Yes yes I know that having a Klout score of over 50 gets you into the Singapore Air lounge at SFO but lets be honest, if you are the sort of person that can take advantage of that benefit you are highly likely to have access to lounges anyway so hardly a deal clincher.
There are two sayings to keep in mind here.
The first one is Lord Kelvin’s, “if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” Simply put, if social media has an impact on your top line then yes you should be investing in it. The likes of customer analytics and Real User Testing has seen companies make huge gains in their business by providing accurate empirical evidence for their decisions and social analytics provides an insight into the out-of-band interactions your customers have with each other concerning you and your business. A sizeable caveat here is that the algorithms are still very subjective and whatever value is ascribed to these interactions may vary massively between different social scorers. For example, what is the relative value of a Facebook like versus a Twitter mention? Can this ever be an invariant or more likely does this change for each individual? This pinch of salt may or may not be a deal breaker on how you see social analytics, especially when you consider the long list of social networks to base scoring on: facebook, twitter, google+, foursquare, linkedIn, instagram, pinterest et al and that’s not even considering regional ones like sina weibo, mixi or orkut.
The second is “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”. For social analytics data is king and many people do not realise the value of their social interactions and will readily give them up for almost nothing in return. Instead people are data points for paying customers – the companies and brands that have the most to gain from analysing and monetising their social media performance.
The long and short of it is that this is an important area but one that is very much still evolving. To do this sort of analysis justice you would want to be able to restrict your scoring to specific areas and them be able to claim statistically significant differences between your actions and the co-incidental actions of others that may impact your measurements. Many claim to be objective but do so on a foundation of subjective assertions which can skew the reported values and as long as both people and companies are aware of this social scoring is a very useful tool in modern business but of dubious value to an individual.