The #socialstudent list that appears each week on Behind the Spin is a great way to get students more involved online, in a proactive way. We believe it encourages students to take social media more seriously, realise it is an incredibly useful tool that could land you a job, or at the very least a tool that should be managed carefully as it will affect your reputation. There is one problem though. The list is powered by influencer measurement tools ‘Peerindex’ and ‘Klout’ – and these have a habit of being slightly inaccurate.
Klout and Peerindex both work in a similar way. They both analyse a person’s Twitter account, looking at how many people they follow and how many they are followed by, the number of tweets they make, retweets, mentions and favourited tweets they receive and the number of clicks their links receive. They are powered by algorithms and the one thing this lacks is human understanding.
This lack of human interaction results in accounts that spam messages, but receive high volumes of retweets or lots of followers, will receive high scores of influence. The algorithm decides the account is influential as it generates interactions and is well regarded by the high number of followers, but in reality it may just be @big_ben_clock, which tweets only the word ‘bong’, has over 100k followers and a Klout score of 68.
The argument against social media influence scores is a strong one. Attaching a number to a Twitter account offers no context and is completely flawed by not realising the person’s offline influence that can give them online authority, despite being too active on Twitter. But I do have this to say: haters gonna hate.
Sure, using Klout and Peerindex may not be the best tool around, and yes I am very aware of the fury at the services in the blogosphere at the moment (although it does seem somewhat of a bandwagon and a little perspective could help). But let’s look at what the #socialstudent list achieves:
- Encourages students to take social media more seriously. It is still new to all of us and the best way to learn is to dive right in.
- Provides a quality list for the PR industry on who is up and coming. Sure, there may be some people not on the list, or some geniuses that just do not like Twitter. But it is quite likely that the people at the top of the list are social media savvy and good at their own PR and therefore at least worth looking into.
- Gives PR students something to show to prospective employees. We often forget that university is actually hard work and gaining the relevant experience can be difficult. If a student is able to say they were in the top ten of the #socialstudent list it could go a long way.
- Helps Behind the Spin keep connected with PR students nationwide. As our origins are with Leeds Met it comes as no surprise that many articles are from Leeds Met students. The #socialstudent list helps engage with students all over the country and highlights the opportunity writing for Behind the Spin gives.
I dislike Klout and Peerindex. Both have said I am influential in areas I am not. Both have listed me as influential as MDs of major PR companies when I could only wish I was. But what they do offer is a quick glimpse at who may be influential. To take these measurement services without an entire tablespoon of salt is ridiculous, which makes me wonder why there is such fury about them – were all these angry bloggers unaware the services were flawed until just now? I think not. What I do think is that we need to focus on the positives, not the negatives, and use the services in a smart, productive way.
If you are a decision maker at a PR company and come across our #socialstudent list, then don’t automatically hire the person in the #1 spot, or dismiss the list altogether for using such measurements – instead look into the top 10, maybe even the top 20. Once you’ve done your homework you’ll soon find that we were right about some of them – they are influential, they are smart and you want them working in your agency.
To answer the question posed in the title of this article. No, Behind the Spin is not wrong to use Klout and Peerindex for the #socialstudent listing. As argued above it achieves a purpose, but we do welcome all suggestion on how it can be improved, so if you have any thoughts, please feel free to comment below.